Breaking down Bloomberg’s brand new economic indicator: the jar lid
How to brew an economic crisis out of a traditional gastronomical phenomenon.
A new article concerning Turkish people’s yearly home canning period and its rather predictable outcomes was recently published by Bloomberg.
The article revolves around a simple household item, the jar lid. You know, that little metallic disc-like thing we use to form an air-tight seal for our mason jars. That lid.
The unfortunate thing here is that the lid, which tends to be quite a benign object unless it gets stuck, is painted as the main indicator of an economic catastrophe. (Hint: It’s not.)
So, we set out to prove a point: The worst possible thing a jar lid can single-handedly indicate in everyday life would be the impossibility to reach some delicious hazelnut cocoa spread, and the need for stronger arms, or a knife.
Let us deconstruct this sad piece of journalistic mishap together.
First things first, the title of the article.
“Istanbul's Hottest Item Gives Glimpse of What Lira Crash Wrought”
So apparently, the lira has crashed, and there is an item that demonstrates this. Not just any item, but the hottest item of Istanbul!
We are talking about Istanbul here, the same metropolis which has been the capital of civilization itself for a thousand years. The very Istanbul that happens to be a global center of culture, art, trade, and tourism. This item, whatever it might be, has to be of equal proportions, right?
Istanbul’s hottest item…
Is it like, the end-product of an unprecedented physics experiment? Or perhaps a breakthrough tech gadget manufactured solely for spoiled kids as another reason to pester their unfortunate parents? We might as well be talking about a raunchier thing here, fitting late-2010’s to a T?
Not at all, the answer is -wait for it- the jar lid!
Clearly, the editorial team of Bloomberg was pretty unhappy with this headline as we were, for they went ahead and quickly changed it to an arguably better “What Disappearing Jam Jar Lids Say About Turkey's Economy.”
The truth of the matter is, this tells about Turkey’s people and their traditions,
not about its economy.
The writer begins the article by informing the reader that he has found a display full of mason jars with absent lids outside a grocery store, and goes on to state that this is a “curious” circumstance. Then, he asserts that lids are getting hard to find in Turkey, and that fills people with the urge to steal them.
All right, apparently there is a shortage of mason jar lids in Istanbul.
Let me reiterate, a shortage of jar lids.
Is this mid-70s America by any chance?
We have no idea if any nation in the world has experienced a shortage of jar lids in the 21st century, but Turkey clearly hasn’t. There is no shortage of jar lids in Istanbul. This would be as outrageous as it sounds.
A simple search in Google Shopping for “kavanoz kapağı,” which is Turkish for “jar lids,” yields the following results:
Clearly, the item is readily available online, for prices as low as TRY 0.55 each.
The photo of lidless mason jars shows how some people are quick to take advantage of an unsupervised display outside a grocery store, not impending economic doom.
Apparently, there are shoplifters in the neighborhood. People do this all the time in self-checkout.
Want to know what would be even more outrageous than a shortage of jar lids? A shortage of jar lids that pushes people to thievery.
If there are enough jar lids lying around outside a supermarket for people to steal, wouldn’t that mean there is no shortage of jar lids at all?
One might argue the following: jar lids are getting difficult to find, thus, their prices increase, and this results in people to try and steal them. (Refer to the screenshot above.)
But no, the article is clear in its wording: “Lids are becoming so hard to find that some feel the urge to steal them outright.”
This weird reasoning is an extremely good example of the false cause fallacy
, where a person presumes “that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.”
Do you know what else that photo with seemingly “disappearing lids” an example of? The anecdotal fallacy
, where one uses “a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a sound argument or compelling evidence.”
And in the end, there is one logical fallacy to summarize the entirety of this article, the Texas sharpshooter
. The writer cherry-picks data to support a particular conclusion, ignoring those that are not in line with it. Twisting and turning the facts to come up with patterns suiting a certain argument.
The reality is much simpler and much less sinister.
In the fall, Turkish people traditionally do home canning. In Turkey, the vast majority of people believe eating fruits and vegetables “in season” brings great health benefits.
Moreover, for the greater part of the population, home canning comes with nostalgic memories attached to it. As a process with significant cultural impact, many people fondly remember home canning from their childhood and keep on the tradition as adults.
This year, people have been extra vocal about home canning on social media, with many users posting photos of canned jams, tomato paste, and pickles with tags such as “my grandma’s recipe” and “mom’s specialty.”
Thus, home canning isn’t simply about stocking up for “a time of higher food prices” as the article asserts but instead is a full-blown cultural phenomenon.
Now let’s address the nonsensical notion of “an unprecedented shortage of lids” in Istanbul.
Most of the time, people tend to reuse the glass jars but discard the metal lids, due to health concerns, i.e. botulism.
Thus, a deficit of jar lids is almost guaranteed.
Although it’s true that there have been local shortages of jar lids in Istanbul and Kocaeli alike, this has a much simpler explanation: the shortsightedness of small retailers and packaging manufacturers.
Fueled by social media and overall health concerns, the nation-wide interest in home canning has been on the rise over the past few years. Combined with the dropping prices of fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers, this caused a spike in canning, both on the domestic and industrial level.
Clearly, certain manufacturers and shop owners weren’t prepared for such an increase in demand and were caught off-guard with inadequate stock.
This, by no means, is something new for the country. Whenever a social media craze hits Turkey, the very item pertaining to the trend tends to go out of stock rapidly. The same happened in the past with fidget spinners of all things.
In conclusion: (TL;DR)
Turkish people love home canning fruits and veggies in season.
Both Turkish people and canned food manufacturers love taking advantage of low prices of produce.
Social media further promotes home canning, which has already been on the rise for the past few years.
Both packaging manufacturers and small retailers are caught off-guard by such an increase in demand.
Local shortages of glass jar lids ensue, which aren’t nearly on "crisis" levels.
The lids have always been readily available online through the whole thing.
Onwards to the fun part:
The writer of the article finds (or creates?) a display of lidless jars outside a grocery store in an Istanbul neighborhood.
Taking photos, he refuses to come to the simple conclusion that there exist shoplifters.
He decides to twist and turn said footage to indicate an economic crisis instead.
Not stopping there, he pens an entire -logically fallacious- article based on it.
Just to manipulate readers into believing Turkey is on the brink of economic doom.
We all desire "news we can count on" and "stories backed by data."
But thankfully, in the absence of such content, we all have our common sense to rely on.