ImportYeti lets you see the shipping manifests of any American company

The Verge recently published a piece on the website ImportYeti, which offers a fascinating look at the logistics of American companies via their customs records for sea shipments. Chris Person at The Verge was totally correct that ImportYeti will drain hours of your time (whoops!), but somehow the time doesn’t feel like a waste in the end. Our days are spent more and more online, less and less out in the physical world. It can feel like things as simple as shopping, whether for necessities like soap, diapers, socks or for status items like fancy running shoes, exercise bikes, or expensive beauty products, happen by magic and that marketing, which has always masked reality, has almost completely supplanted it. The way ImportYeti helps organize this commercial import data shows us what’s actually happening behind the scenes; who’s making what with which materials, how the product is moved and to where, and at what scale. In my opinion, no matter what lifestyle moment you are currently living through, taking the time to reverse engineer some of the objects that make up your world is worth an hour or two at the very least.

I have dumped hours and hours into ImportYeti, trying to figure out how the sausage is made by companies across the board, from international behemoths to soothingly branded Instagram startups. It is not a game per se, but it feels spiritually close to playing GeoGuessr. The more time you spend in ImportYeti, the more you begin to pick apart what is normally an opaque web that underpins the economy. Things really start to ramp up when you search by HS and HTS codes, the classification system used to describe products being shipped. Ever want to see a map of all the cork shipments in the US? HS Code 45 is a good place to start. You can get far more granular on your cork-based journey if you dig into headings and subheadings.

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