Every ethnic kid knows the amused exasperation of watching a parent come home from a shopping trip stocked up with way too many supplies for your household. Value packs of toilet paper, enough rice to last through the apocalypse and mega-sized tubes of toothpaste because they just happened to be on special.
But even ethnic parents have nothing on the panic buying taking place across the country right now in response to the coronavirus. Over the last week, bamboozled shoppers around the world have begun sharing photos on social media of empty shelves at their local supermarkets as people stock up on supplies due to the public health threat. Others have shared funny items that they’re stocking up on as they jump on the panic buying bandwagon.
One commentator tweeted, “My wife has just been out and bought 24 cans of Pedigree Chum, can anybody recommend a good place to buy a dog? #panicbuying”. Another embraced any excuse for some retail therapy saying, “If we’re starting the #panicbuying then I’m going to panic buy shoes.” Others are talking about the possible two week isolation period saying, “Thinking about #panicbuying a lot of books in case I get two weeks off.”
While some are finding humour in it, the reality is that a number of supermarkets in Sydney are seeing products like toilet paper, canned goods, pasta and long life milk fly off the shelves.
It certainly seems like a gross overreaction reminiscent of the panic buying that took place in 1999 during the Y2K hysteria.
In the midst of the panic buying, one commentator asked, “What are your top ten grocery essentials?”
The responses revealed that some surprising items could be missing from shelves. Items like soy milk, avocado, olive oil and lentils were popular. Other more obscure items included pancetta, sardines, corn tortillas and nori. In addition to food items, essential drinks that were mentioned included red wine, water and the all important coffee.
But while Australians bond over the weird and wonderful grocery items we couldn’t live without, it’s important to recognise that there is no need to be panic buying anything. Even our health experts are telling us that we are not at risk unless we have been in contact with a person with COVID-19 or travelled or transited through mainland China, Iran or another country at risk of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
Maybe instead of running to the local supermarket to stock up, Australians can show up to their local Chinese restaurant and help boost the sales of businesses that have seen a decline in trade over the last few months. After all, it will save us all from the horror of having to eat stockpiled tinned food.
Zoe Victoria is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @Zoe__V