Panic Shopping: How a normal shopping trip turned into a nightmare.

By 2020-03-13Life
Panic Buying Soap Walmart

Panic Shopping

How a normal shopping trip turned into a nightmare.

I don’t understand panic shopping.  It’s as if everyone realizes at the same time, they’ve run out of toilet paper.  People take panic shopping way too far.  Why buy extreme amounts of toilet paper and bottled water?

It’s nice to have a reasonable amount of these items on hand, but how much are you really going to use?  There’s 80 rolls of toilet paper in a case.  A couple large bottles of sanitizer will last most people months.  Why buy several cases of bottled water when your tap water is safe to drink?

I grew up in Maine where tap water is like spring water.  Then I moved to Los Angeles, where tap water tastes like ass-flavored pool water.  Even though it tastes gross, it won’t poison me.  I got a filter and was all set.

I understand some places have disgusting, or even flammable tap water.  If your tap water isn’t good, you should already have alternatives.  Why wait for the news to remind you that shopping is necessary?   It’s like everyone lives in a constant state of being unprepared.

Weather Panic Shopping

In Maine, every winter, there’s at least one wicked Nor’Eastah – large snowstorm.  People flock to grocery stores for supplies after hearing news reports of a major weather event.  Shelves are bare, empty of essentials.

Winter weather damages power lines.  Electricity can be out for days, or weeks at a time.  You need supplies to survive.  You may be trapped in your house for several days in the winter, without power.  This happens every year in Maine and other northern realms.

Most houses in rural Maine have wood stoves for heat.  The ones who can afford it have a backup power generator that powers the well water pump and refrigerator.

Water from a well needs an electric pump to function: No power, no water, no toilets and no tap.  People need to buy cases of bottled water because there’s nothing else to drink.  Before the likelihood of a power outage, they fill bathtubs and extra buckets with water to flush the toilet.

After the Ice Storm of ’98, most people living in the sticks got generator backups.  During the Ice Storm, many rural areas were without power for weeks.  I was in high school at the time and got a two week snow day immediately following Christmas vacation.  I had fun, but panic shopping was necessary.

Pandemic Panic Shopping

Since news reports of virus infections on the West Coast, people have been lining up outside stores like Costco.  Everyone’s buying unusual amounts of toilet paper and bottled water.  Products like sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, disinfectant wipes and surgical masks are selling out so fast, it’s putting a strain on retailers.

Surgical masks aren’t going to stop a virus.  For that kind of protection, you’ll need a SARS mask.  Regardless, masks are most effective for healthcare workers in direct contact with the sick, not healthy people walking around Walmart.  Want to stay healthy?  Wash your hands well and don’t touch your face.

Since stores are running out of sanitizer, some people are trying to use alcoholic beverages instead.  As Tito’s Homemade Vodka kindly pointed out, vodka is 40% alcohol, sanitizing alcohol is over 60%.  Imagine panic buying booze?

Unnecessary strain

Costco isn’t prepared to handle such a massive influx of random off-season shopping.  My friendly neighborhood Costco always has a line before opening.  On any given day, the line outside Costco starts around 30 minutes before opening.  Panic shoppers are changing that.

It’s like Christmas time, but these shoppers aren’t buying gifts.  Panic shoppers are buying large amounts of products that Costco isn’t prepared to sell en masse.  No one buys that much toilet paper on a random Tuesday in March.  Stores lose stock because of unusual buying patterns created by panic.

Why buy so much toilet paper?  Is there an outbreak of diarrhea I’m not aware of?  If everyone bought a reasonable amount of these products, there wouldn’t be empty shelves.  This panic behavior puts unnecessary strain on retailers.

It’s not like Costco is going to close.  Healthy people can still get there, and sick people should stay home.   Give the store a chance to restock supplies before creating even more of a panic because toilet paper sold out.  This virus has literally scared the shit out of people.  I’m more panicked by the thought of every store selling out of toilet paper.

Yellow Journalism

Yellow journalism is over sensationalizing and exaggerating a news story or withholding certain details of an event for various reasons.  This creates fear, and fear makes money.  People who are afraid will be too scared to turn off the news.  They’re glued to every word, waiting for a big breakthrough.

Cable news is a series 1-5 minute clips with provocative headlines and random factoids delivered by well-groomed talking heads.  If facts were their business, it would be more like: “Dr. Expert says doing this will make you safer, the end.”  Cable news can’t keep viewers like that.  Facts are boring and people don’t watch boring television.

It would be more helpful if the news investigated the source of the infections and gave us important details.  They never mention where exactly people got sick, or what environmental factors may have contributed to their sickness.  Instead, they focus on headlines like “First coronavirus death in America.”  People become panicked and don’t know what to do.  They think buying extra stuff will save them.

Stores aren’t going to close because the news said some random person died.  Roads will still be open.  Costco will have plenty of toilet paper and sanitizer, unless yellow journalism reports on product shortages, making people even more freaked out.

We Need Facts

Cable news is a business.  It costs a lot of money to run these stations.  News is funded by high-priced advertising which needs a lot of viewers to make money.

Provocative headlines attracts people.  When news gets everyone’s attention, audiences grow.  Larger audiences means more money for the company.  Producers craft stories in ways that give little facts and much sensation.  If it bleeds, it leads.

In Maine, when there’s a weather event, WCSH runs “Storm Center” programming, focusing on weather coverage across the state. The sound of their theme song is enough to send my 70 year old mother into a panic. They at least focus on facts and try to help people stay safe in bad weather.

Learn the facts.  Knowledge helps people remain calm and handle situations logically.  Common sense prevents panic.

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