While the citizens of Toronto and surrounding area continue to clean up after the epic ice storm that occurred in December, many businesses have crunched their numbers for 2013. There were some significant losses as a result of the storm – in both lost sales and discarded products. However, there seemed to be three distinct “groups” that emerged from this economic sucker punch; the winners, the losers, and the referees. How cliche, I know – using a sports analogy to illustrate my point – but stay with me here.
The winners – or economic benefactors of the storm – includes a variety of businesses. There are some businesses who were able to add to their (already significant) holiday revenues. In other words, the rich got richer. Many hotels who still had power sprang into action – taking to the “twitter-verse” to promote special “#blackto” discount prices to local area residents who were without power and not wanting to go sleep at the Red Cross warming stations.
Some of the unexpected winners included local business owners. Since many GTA residents didn’t want to venture out onto the icy, debris-filled roads – they shopped locally. Many of the larger malls also fell victim to the mass power outages – like Yorkdale Mall – so even if you made it to the mall, there was no guarantee that you would be able to shop. Local businesses who had power saw a much needed spike in their revenue as a result.
On the other end of the spectrum is the losers – those businesses who did lose power and weren’t able to operate during this lucrative time of year. For some companies, it meant ending the year in the red rather than in the black. Not only did they lose any potential sales – but they lost money on discarding any spoiled produce or paying employee wages. In some cases, businesses had to pay the employees who reported for work and waited for the power to return – while other businesses, such as Toronto Hydro, had to pay for additional staff as well as any holiday or overtime rates.
Any food establishments who served spoiled produce, any hotels who jacked up their prices to get more money out of desperate and cold GTA residents, or any hydro crew members who “appeared to be slacking” were dragged through the hypothetical mud. The moral witch hunt was on – and members of the public participated by pointing their finger at anyone displaying questionable behaviour.
That brings us to the referees – or as I like to think of them, the “moral conduct keepers”. This category holds the whistleblowers – the ones who put businesses, as well as members of the public, back in their place. They remind us to consider others during this time and to help in any way we – even if it’s as simple as turning off your christmas lights to “conserve power” during the outage. Anyone who disobeyed these unwritten rules became the subject of public shaming. This has left some businesses struggling to survive amongst the negative press.
The ice storm certainly impacted our economy, and many of our lives, in a variety of ways. No one seems to have been spared by the force of this weather event. As the clean-up lingers, the long term impacts of this storm have remained to be seen.