by Wilma Wei
Never in a million years could I have imagined that I would be walking through my local grocery store with the bread and frozen food aisle empty and the toilet paper, hand sanitizer, milk, canned goods, and other essentials gone. As COVID-19 spreads globally, everyone is affected – employers lay off workers, restaurants close off access, and grocery stores are experiencing shortages in the supply chain. As panic buying continues, it’s gotten to the point where my local stores – Trader Joes, Safeway, Lucky, etc. – have started rationing out toilet paper and hand sanitizer to one package per family.
After the shelter-in-place order, hysteria seized the country. Hysteria-buying starts quite simply: as quarantine leads to the closing of restaurants, it’s logical to think that there could also be a shortage in the supply chain. For example, with toilet paper, “if the price of a roll of toilet paper is tripled, that’s seen as a more scarce commodity to acquire, which can lead to anxiety,” according to the BBC. People create their own shortages through panic, and a cycle is created when one customer spots another hoarding the toilet paper in their cart, leading to the illusory thought that toilet paper will run out soon.
In addition to the pressure of other people, panic buying occurs because it gives us a temporary sense of control over ourselves and our lives. COVID-19 has put the entire world off balance, and when our lives seem upended and we’re doing all we can to prevent the virus from spreading through social distancing and proper hygiene, the daily counts of infected people increasing by thousands each day provides no comfort. The root of panic buying stems from the issue of COVID-19 being massive and uncontrollable and people finding a sense of control over their own lives by stocking up on what they can.
However, hysteria-buying groceries continually creates issues in communities; so many essential products are now out of stock, and those who truly need toilet paper, frozen food, and other supplies no longer have access. Panic buying impacts those who no longer have jobs more heavily – with less income and a struggle to find supplies, communities have to learn to spread supplies instead of hoarding. We have to understand that this is a truly terrifying crisis for everyone – it’s okay to be scared and uncertain about the future. Despite the panic and fear, we have to remember to support others, care for those who are most at risk, check in with those who may be struggling with isolation, and above all, keep each other and ourselves safe and healthy.
(Sources: TIME, New York Times, BBC, Washington Post)