It wasn’t that long ago people posted pictures of empty grocery shelves and shopping carts full of toilet paper. Shutdowns, shelter, quarantine – and the fear of foregoing basic needs should fear become a reality – trigger alarms, as evidenced by empty shelves in grocery stores.
Consumers across the country are starting to stock up again, according to an article in USA Today. A Boston Globe article reporting results from a survey found that 60% of respondents do so.
As in the spring, some stores are suffering from product shortages, even in states like Vermont, where COVID infection numbers are low. A CNN article said there has been a shortage of paper towels since the COVID-19 panic began. They also noted that disinfectants such as those that contain bleach will be hard to come by as we enter the next year.
Panic and overbought prevailed during the first wave of COVID. But after the coronavirus appeared to be under control and the associated shutdowns subsided, the most important things popped up again – and stayed on the shelves. However, when another wave of COVID-19 arrives, which is compounded by the uncertainty about the upcoming federal elections, various deliveries are again offered in grocery stores.
And again the grocery stores react. Austin, Texas stores have started capping items hoarded during the first wave in preparation for another. After going through the first wave in the spring, businesses found they could plan better for the fall and beyond. Retailers have focused on improving their online ordering and home delivery systems, according to Gary Huddleston, a food industry advisor with the Texas Retailers Association.
Not just food
The Boston Globe reported on the results of the Sports and Leisure Research Group’s survey. Of the 60% who hoard, 56% said they did because they were concerned about the current coronavirus resurgence. 24% said they were hoarding because of the chaos associated with anti-racism protests and; 20% said they were concerned about the unrest surrounding the election.
And when these issues don’t concern enough, 61% of respondents say they are concerned that the US may be on the verge of civil war. Tensions between presidential candidates have been uncomfortable so far, but the added fear of COVID-19 has brought stress and worry to all-time highs. For example: postal ballot papers. Some see them as necessary to avoid further infection, while others question their legitimacy. According to a YouGov poll, 47% of the 1,999 registered voters polled believe the election will not be fair or honest.
Americans not only fill up with food, they also buy weapons. There has been an increase in gun sales, according to the Boston Globe. “If I had to make a chart of sales, it would only go up in a straight line,” arms dealer Tom Weitbrecht said in the article. “The pandemic started everything, but all other circumstances continued.”
It’s not uncommon for people to feel they need essentials on hand – according to correspondence in Psychiatry Research, this is typical panic behavior during a disaster or crisis. This behavior goes back to ancient times.
Panic buying can help a person feel more in control in situations that are far from predictable and orderly. It can also help create a sense of security knowing that supplies are safe and within reach in case they are needed. “A perceived feeling of losing control of the environment can be responsible [hoarding]”Wrote the authors from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the US and the UK.” During a time of crisis, people in general like to control things and this brings them some aspect of security. “
This behavior can also come from some primitive part of the brain that pushes people to focus on survival – which could push aside any rational thinking, such as knowing that the food supply chain is still flowing, albeit possibly more slowly than it is Normally times.
The authors also noted that sometimes this behavior is due to government suspicion and that the government may not be able to supply the necessities. This could be made worse by news and social media reports. Since the 24 hour news cycle provides constant information, some news is more sensational than others, causing more people to panic and react.
“In conclusion, fear of scarcity and loss of control of the environment, insecurity (which could arise from fear), social learning, exacerbation of anxiety and the basic primitive human response are the main contributors to the phenomenon Are panic buying. ” Authors concluded.
The take away
Hoarding may make some people feel better about the current situation, but it also makes it harder for others to get what they need. So when shopping, try not to overdo your purchases. As we saw in the first wave, stores can replenish their shelves and you will likely find what you need when you need it.
Additional coverage from Ryan Canha.