Do you think that in these hot, boring and troubled times it could be nice to cool off in your own garden pool?
Maybe a chic in-ground version with lots of lush landscaping? A simple and cheap above ground pool? Maybe one of those inflatables big enough for the whole family, or even a plastic kiddy pool so you can at least soak your toes?
You and everyone else.
Here’s another unexpected side effect of the coronavirus crisis that continues to turn the world upside down: We don’t go on summer vacation or go to public swimming pools as we did before. Children are at home and everyone is restless. And garden pools have become a precious commodity.
A pool in Chile is considered to be the largest pool in the world. Wouldn’t that be nice now?
“The phone rang when COVID hit,” said Robyn Walton at the family-run Tampa Pool, an above-ground plumber. “They’ll say, ‘We’re home, my kids are going crazy, I need something they can do. They can’t go to the park, they can’t play with their friends. You’re going crazy, I’m going crazy. ‘”
During normal rush hours, they could plan and finish the job in weeks.
“I’m just booking in October,” said Walton, even though she managed to get a pool ready in time for a children’s birthday party.
“It was insane,” said Jim Carr, owner of Mr. Pools Inc., a 55-year-old Pinellas Park company that operates above-ground and underground pools.
“The problem is that we can’t get any more inventory from the manufacturer,” he said. “The manufacturer cannot get more because of the coronavirus.” Nowadays, he’s even getting calls from vendors around the country trying to buy pools to bring back to Pennsylvania, Chicago, and North Carolina.
“It hasn’t been that busy since 2006, right before the crunch hit,” said Carr.
One pool company reported to the national Pool & Hot Tub Alliance that at the beginning of summer, instead of the 150 calls normally made weekly at this time of year, 750 calls were being made per week.
The COVID-19 crisis has likely affected the manufacturing capabilities of some companies, according to Allianz, followed by a surge in demand.
“Very unprecedented times,” said Sabeena Hickman, President and CEO of Allianz. “Very high demand. There are some challenges in the supply chain. You can’t keep up with the demand. “
In a typical year, an underground pool lasts eight to 12 weeks.
“Our members say they booked something for the next year,” said Hickman.
Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau warns that “as trustworthy companies run out of inventory, consumers are more likely to turn to suspicious websites” to find pools above ground.
Some tips to avoid scammers:
- Beware of prices that seem too good to be true.
- Confirm a company’s physical address.
- You can find trustworthy companies at BBB.org.
And here’s an interesting business twist: a company called Swimply lists pools that can be rented in Airbnb-style private homes, also known as “pool sharing.” On site, the website shows pools from Brooksville to Carrollwood to Belleaire Beach with prices between 30 and 60 US dollars per hour.
Pulling pools in coronavirus-era isn’t just a Tampa Bay thing. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a man who set up an 18-foot pool on the side of the road in a prime parking lot in front of a Manhattan apartment building. Other New Yorkers have put pools on rooftops and balconies.
In Pittsburgh, the Swiderski family went with a storage tank pool – one made from large containers that previously supplied horses, cattle and other cattle with drinking water.
“It’s a really big deal on Pinterest,” said Julie Swiderski, an assistant principal. The family was tired of being at home and was dying to have a pool. They found their tank in a Tractor Supply Co.
Pittsburgh’s Ross Swiderski relaxes in the cattle irrigation station that was converted into a pool for the family during the pandemic.
“We have two daughters – we actually all four fit in there,” she said. “We use it a lot … even if it’s only afternoon and I’m sitting on my side reading for work, I put my feet in it.”
When it came to finding pools, local consumers were on the hunt and some reported success online. A poll of Tampa Walmart stores this week found that plastic kiddy pools are available.
Kiddie Pools at Walmart this week.
In St. Petersburg, during the spring break, Megan McGee looked for an above-ground pool to use with her two children and her fiancé.
She hit five or six of the big stores with no luck. Once someone told her what day they had deliveries – “Something like this undercover meet us in the back and you will have one,” she said. Finally met her at Big Lots.
She was initially dubious about an above-ground pool. Now it’s a bit of a silver lining for what the past few months have done.
“There were a couple of nights when we’d sit on our floats in the pool at the end of the day and really don’t do anything,” she said. “We sit on our floats in cold water and it’s beautiful.”
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