7th April 2020

What’s the deal with panic buying?

Over the last couple of days, we’ve been hearing the term being thrown around constantly. What is panic buying anyway? Panic buying is a group behaviour in which customers buy a product in irregular amounts, usually in anticipation of a disaster. This causes both a shortage in the product and an inflated price.

With the stress of COVID-19, we’ve all heard the stories of people rushing into grocery shops, cleaning toilet paper and food from the shelves.

Let’s take a step back.

Theoretically, this behaviour sort of makes sense. After all, these new circumstances mean that we have to adapt our behaviours. So what? Problem is, everyone is thinking the exact same thing!

The shortages of food and other products are caused by adding just ‘a few’ extra things into our shopping carts, overwhelming stores and creating havoc amongst customers. While the ‘few’ things you put into your cart may seem unimportant, the increased demand and desperation drives others to buy more than you and so on.

I’m sure most of us have seen those photos of empty shelves and videos of people fighting over food. This coverage of (usually smaller supermarkets) generates panic, convincing us there is a problem with the supply of food. People start buying more, and even worse, travelling to other stores to buy their groceries.

Panic buying stems for our own uncertainty and anxiety of the situation we face. We feel we need to prepare for a situation that, most times, we don’t understand well enough. You might think panic buying will make you feel better, but it does the opposite! As you fuel your panic, you may grow to be more anxious and continue on habits that are destructive to both you and your community.

It becomes a bigger problem when shoppers begin to hoard medical essentials that would be better used by health professionals who need them. Doctors and nurses on the front line are far more exposed to COVID-19 than most of us. With consumers buying N95 masks that, let’s be honest, will mostly go unused, most hospitals are facing dire shortages that could have extremely negative consequences. Healthcare workers would lessen, their families would be at risk, and many patients wouldn’t have the access to the care they deserve.

Don’t forget that panic buying also largely affects low-resource communities that are already unfairly targeted by day-to-day issues, such as transportation and income.

If I leave you with one thing amidst this pandemic, remember this:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

During this pandemic, I hope we can survive together so Indonesia can flourish.

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