It appears we’ve reached a new phase of panic buying. As many begin to stock up on perishable items like meat and frozen meals, some people are finding that they don’t have enough space to store a stockpile of food. Reports of people panic buying items like frozen pizza, fish and chips have all begun popping up on social media. And so people are heading to the stores to buy freezers to store it in.
But first let's recap on how we got to this place:
Phase 1: The case of the disappearing toilet paper
The world watched as Australia’s panic buying began with supermarket shelves cleared of toilet paper. They saw videos of people fighting in the aisles as major supermarket chains placed purchasing limits on products like toilet paper, hand sanitiser, tissues and soap.
Phase 2: Empty supermarket shelves
Then we saw dry goods like pasta, flour, rice and even normally-unloved tinned beans cleared from the shelves. It reached a point where supermarket giant Woolworths made the decision to hold a dedicated shopping hour for the elderly and disabled who were otherwise missing out on essential groceries. But all of this was the warm up for....
Phase 3: Freezer frenzy
Living off beans and rice for weeks on end is a somewhat joyless existance so the logical next step for the serious prepper is buying a whole lot of fresh and frozen food and then freezing it. One Twitter user joked that their “Costco membership is about to pay off”, tweeting a photograph of a freezer they’d bought to keep in the basement. Another shared that they didn’t want to “miss out on panic buying, so...bought a chest freezer and stocked it with essentials.”
However some commentators are questioning the need to buy brand new whitegoods, taking to social media to share their frustration and amusement. One tweeted, “Just got home last night and as expected my parents have started panic buying. They bought a big...freezer.” Another encouraged others not to panic so much saying, “I read people are now panic buying freezers to store all the food they’ve panic bought.”
Head of Online Sales and Services at Bing Lee Electrics, Nav Kumar, said: "We probably have a 100 or 200 per cent increase in freezers on our website traffic."
Mr Kumar told SBS Voices that the buying frenzy began in Sydney last Wednesday and extended to Victoria over the weekend. His team is receiving 800 calls a day and is completely out of stock. Calling the mass buying, "chaos", Kumar doesn't see it ending anytime soon. He predicts that the next item to race out the door will be small fridges.
Retailers like the Good Guys are already warning customers of limited stock.
If you give them a call they're likely to tell you that stock is out not only in your local store, but across the state. Similarly, a quick browse of Harvey Norman's online store tells customers that a number of freezers and fridges are out of stock across the city.
There are no signs of the panic buying phenomenon settling down anytime soon. This is despite comments from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy that panic buying “is really very silly behaviour we’re seeing now...this panic buying is just stupid and I really encourage Australians to take a deep breath and just buy what you need.”
But calls for calm appear to be failing.
We better keep our fingers crossed that our fridges and freezers don't give up the ghost in the meantime.
As of Tuesday afternoon, only people who have recently travelled from overseas or have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and experienced symptoms within 14 days are advised to be tested.
If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor, don’t visit, or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
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Zoe Victoria is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @Zoe__V