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COVID-19 Panic Buying: What Have We Learned?

Empty shelves in a supermarket

COVID-19 Panic Buying: What Have We Learned?

If you’ve been inside a grocery store in the last three months, you’ve probably seen your fair share of empty shelves, long lines, and shopping carts full of toilet paper. When the coronavirus pandemic became prevalent, Americans flocked to their local stores, frenzied at the thought of imminent lockdowns and a Contagion-like future.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen panic buying in the States. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey decimated the oil-rich Houston coast, temporarily stalling the supply of gas and diesel in Texas and surrounding states. Once drivers caught wind of the mere possibility of a gas crisis, they swarmed to gas stations in droves. This created an artificial gas shortage characterized by empty pumps, long lines of cars at the few stations with fuel, and a public mentality that exacerbated the problem.

The American supply system isn’t exactly set up to handle crisis well, especially when that crisis is made worse by a panicked public. With that in mind, you’d think Americans are catching onto the panic buying phenomena and taking proactive steps to curb the behavior –– and if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

In a recent study of over 3,000 respondents, American consumers revealed just how little they’ve learned from their weeks in quarantine, grocery trip excursions, and toilet paper stockpiling.

Here’s what they found:

  • Before the pandemic became prevalent across the country, 72% did not have enough supplies to last 3 days (as recommended by the Department of Homeland Security).
  • During the pandemic, 66% still did not have enough supplies to last 3 days.

By themselves, these numbers may be a bit arbitrary. But consider what this means for the herd mentality of American shoppers. The fact that 2 in 3 Americans don’t have enough food, medicine, and household products to last even 3 days during a pandemic is incredibly alarming, especially when considering that venturing out to replenish supplies puts you at risk of exposure to the virus.

It’s important to have enough supplies on hand to last as long as possible, especially right now. When shopping, consider the shelf life of products, how quickly your household will deplete them, and if you’ll actually use them at all (those 152 rolls of toilet paper in your cart definitely won’t be used). If you’re concerned about racking up costs by buying more than normal, be sure to look for coupons, bulk discounts, or consider splitting the cost with a family member or neighbor.

Stay home, stay safe, and stay healthy.

Featured Image: Supplied by the author

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