46°F
weather icon Clear

US desk shortage forces workers to get creative about workspaces

NEW YORK — First it was toilet paper. Disinfectant wipes. Beans. Coins. Computers. Now, desks are in short supply because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions of kids logging onto virtual school this fall has parents scrambling to find furniture for them. It’s a small indignity compared with the kids who don’t even have home internet or computers, but it’s a hassle for parents lucky enough to have the space and money to afford desks just the same.

At the same time, some people are realizing they’ll be working from home for the long haul and require new furniture. To find desks, people are scouring stores near and far and even making their own.

Elizabeth Rossmiller, a teacher working from home for the first time, needed to upgrade from her temporary setup: an upside-down laundry basket on a nightstand.

The desk she wanted from Amazon was out of stock. None were available for under $200 at Target or Walmart. Her husband found a floor model at a store 45 minutes away from their home in Gresham, Oregon.

It was smaller and more dinged up than she expected, but “better than a laundry basket!”

Stores respond

Target and Ikea are restocking home office supplies due to high demand. Amazon and Walmart did not respond to requests for comment. But John Furner, who runs Walmart’s U.S. stores, acknowledged low stocks of kid’s desks and laptops in a ABC News interview on Sept. 11.

Online, sales of desks and accessories, such as desk chairs and lamps, were up 283% in August from the year before, according to Rakuten Intelligence, which tracks shopper behavior. Sites that offer used goods show spiking interest: On Facebook Marketplace, interest in desks has doubled in the last month from the month before. But prices aren’t necessarily cheap.

Shaynah Dungan, who needs a desk for when she starts esthetician school in January, said desks similar to the sold-out one she wants from Ikea were overpriced on Amazon and OfferUp, an app where people sell their stuff.

People are figuring out other solutions, sharing advice on turning dressers or book shelves into makeshift desks on Pinterest and Facebook.

Megan Fry, who is starting a new work-from-home customer service job in Indianapolis in October, said she had to go the “DIY route” after visits to Walmart, Ikea and other stores found no desk options under $150. She made her own using a $30 legless tabletop from Ikea placed on top of two short bookcases from Amazon, which cost $42 apiece.

“It’s not as cute or trendy as a bought desk and I wish it had drawers for storage,” said Fry. “But I’m happy it’s clean and has a large surface on top for my monitors and laptop.”

Instead of bookcases, Patrick Brugh went with crates to build a desk for his 6-year-old after he couldn’t find a desk at Ikea or Amazon. The Baltimore university administrator built it in two days, spending about $70 at Home Depot on four crates and a board that he painted in bright blue.

Will the homemade desk make it through the school year?

“There’s goo on the top from his snack,” said Brugh, whose son spends about 40 hours a week on it for virtual classes. “I could not believe in three weeks how much damage he’s done to this desk.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Barrett sworn in as newest Supreme Court justice

Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in on Monday as the latest justice of the United States Supreme Court, the fifth woman to serve on the bench and President Trump’s third appointment.

60K to evacuate after Southern California blaze grows

A fast-moving wildfire has forced evacuations for 60,000 people in Southern California as powerful winds across the state prompted power to be cut to hundreds of thousands to prevent utility equipment from sparking new blazes.

Mike Pence’s top aide tests positive for coronavirus

A spokesman says Vice President Mike Pence will continue with his aggressive campaign schedule after his chief of staff, Marc Short, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday.

Murkowski backs Barrett as confirmation vote looms

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett won crucial backing Saturday when one of the last Republican holdouts against filling the seat during an election season announced support for President Donald Trump’s pick ahead of a confirmation vote expected Monday.

60,000 travelers arrive in Hawaii with pre-travel testing

Hawaii had about 60,000 travelers arrive in the islands in the first week of its pre-travel coronavirus testing program, a state effort to get the tourism-based economy moving again amid the pandemic.

FDA approves remdesivir to treat COVID-19

U.S. regulators on Thursday approved the first drug to treat COVID-19: remdesivir, an antiviral medicine given to hospitalized patients through an IV.

Slain Utah student’s family receives $13.5M settlement

The parents of a University of Utah track athlete who was killed by her ex-boyfriend on campus two years ago reached a $13.5 million settlement Thursday with the university, which acknowledged that it didn’t handle the woman’s case properly.

Fatal shooting causes closure of Interstate 15 in California

A California Highway Patrol officer was wounded and a stolen-car suspect was killed in a gun battle at the end of a pursuit on a highway northeast of Los Angeles on Thursday, authorities said.

Google target in Justice Department antitrust lawsuit

The lawsuit marks the government’s most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago.