COVID-19 has produced a wave of hysteria. No, this panic is not because of the fear of getting sick or because of overrun hospitals. It is because of the near-constant stripping of shelves of hand sanitizer, toilet paper and other “essential” items during this pandemic— otherwise known as panic buying. Quarantine recommendations from the CDC have caused people to swarm supermarkets like it was Black Friday. Crazed individuals are clearing shelves and hoarding household products.
Panic buying occurs when people buy unusually large amounts of product to stock up on incase of a disaster. However, this hoarding of products leaves people who cannot afford to buy in bulk with nothing.
Paul Mardsen, a consumer psychologist, spoke to CNBC about why people resort to panic buying. He claims it is a form of retail therapy or a way for panic buyers to take back control in a time when almost everything is out of control. The problem with this mindset is that people who are older and cannot wrestle with hysterical 40-year-old women for a bottle of soap, or people who can only afford to buy what they need when they need it will be greeted with empty shelves upon entering a store.
Stores have begun to ration products to help mitigate their empty stockrooms. This, however, does not change the mindset of irrational individuals who feel the need to clear out an entire grocery store for a few weeks of self-quarantine.
Now, not everyone who buys in bulk during this time is misinformed or delusional. Some people, who have large families or run daycares are forced to buy in bulk as a response to these mass purchases. If panic buyers are constantly clearing out aisles, then those who cannot afford to run low on sanitary products are compelled to buy in bulk now, so they don’t run out if things start to get serious.
The initial trend of panic buying causes others to involuntarily partake in the mass consumption of goods so they are not left with the short end of the stick or without toilet paper–hysteria perpetuates hysteria.
Yes, it is important to stay well prepared and buy essential things one may need for a few days of isolation, but no normal person needs five jumbo packages of Charmin Ultra Strong.