Think finding eggs was hard? Try buying a snowblower

a snowblower
There are no snowblowers out on the floor of Ron’s Rent-It Center. Employee Jack Roberts poses with a snowblower that a customer brought in for repairs. (Sabine Poux/KDLL)

It’s not a nightclub. But Ron’s Rent-It Center, in Kenai, still wants to see your ID.

Jack Roberts works behind the front desk at Ron’s, selling outdoor equipment like snowblowers — which have become quite the hot commodity this year, due to a wintery mix of heavy snow and supply chain issues.

Roberts said snowblowers have become so popular that Ron’s has had to make a waitlist of people who want one. That’s what the IDs are for, to make sure no one cuts the line.

“When we did get them and put them out on the floor, they were already pre-sold. So we put the person’s name and phone number on each snowblower,” he said. “And customers would try to bribe us to sell it to them, instead of the person who had already bought it. We had people say — ‘Hey, I’ll give you an extra 1,000 bucks if you sell it to me.’”

Small snowblowers cost around $2,700, and go for as much as $4,200.

But nowadays, Roberts said, they’re worth their weight in gold.

“Especially a few months ago, when we got dumped on,” he said.

Back in October, a month after Roberts started at Ron’s, the Kenai Peninsula was pummeled by storms that stacked snow piles sky-high.

“The snowplows couldn’t even keep up, really,” Roberts said. “When people would get their driveways plowed, they ran out of room for the snow. A plow can only do so much, after that.”

Snowblowers, on the other hand, will throw snow 50 feet away into a neighbor’s yard.

Roberts said as soon as the snow started, there were customers banging down their door for blowers. It was enough that they were seeing long-time Alaskans come in, who had never dealt with that much snow, to buy snowblowers for the very first time.

And there was a sense of urgency. When snow sets and gets harder, it’s more difficult to blow away.

But they didn’t have any snowblowers in from Honda, yet. The shipment they had ordered was delayed, due to supply chain issues.

“Shipping was slow,” he said. “But people were going crazy because they couldn’t buy a snowblower.”

So Roberts got really used to being the bad guy and telling people no — over, and over, and over.

When all was said and done, the store got about half the snowblowers they wanted — 50 instead of 100, over four shipments.

Roberts said the customers who didn’t get blowers this year are now on a growing waiting list for next year, though he said they probably already have more people on the list than they’ll have snowblowers, even months out.

Still, he said as much as people try, he won’t budge on bribes.

“I wouldn’t do that. I can’t be bought,” he said, laughing.

And he said as a backup, it’s best to just kick it old school — pay a neighborhood kid with a snow shovel to clear your driveway out.

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