If you weren’t buying direct from the mills before the pandemic you probably won’t be able to now. Most paper vendors are not taking new customers, and mills are only allocating so much to each vendor.
I have experienced the same shortages as everyone else, but I feel like I have been luckier because we use a much smaller paper vendor, instead of relying on the big dog that everyone else in the country uses. Still, sometimes I have to call around, I have 2 local vendors I use and a handful of online vendors I reach out to…usually can make something work, even if not exactly what the customer wants. I do think our small time paper vendor works hard to keep us stocked, i do not think they are untruthful or “holding us by the short hairs. “
I also get the impression that we have been getting more work because customers are being turned away or given extraordinary turnaround times by our competitors, our volume has been unusually high (we are not at all a large printer…typically big non variable stuff got sent out…we’ve only got one digital press and one person running it on one shift).