The Panic Buying Mindset: Why We Are Stampeding Through the Doors of Supermarkets
The Logic of Hoarding
In these challenging times, when the news about coronavirus is worsening by the day, I wanted to explore the reasons why people are panic buying toilet paper as well as other products, when the virus doesn’t affect our digestive systems. Although there is little logic in hoarding when our supply chain appears to be intact and supermarkets are not planning to close at this time, nevertheless, most of us are witnessing a stampede of people waiting for supermarkets to open and rushing to stockpile as much toilet paper, pasta, and as much of everything else they can get their hands on.
Follow the Leader
As much as we try not to conform to this herd mindset, we are unfortunately preconditioned to follow the crowd, especially in a crisis. When someone starts running the other way, we can’t help but have the urge to follow. When many of us are lost and someone appears to know where they are going, we follow the leader. We might later find out that they had no idea where they were going but their confident leadership influenced us to tag along.
"Right now, people are doing incredibly silly things,” Regina Phelps, a pandemic planner and crisis management expert
This social conformity could relate back to our hunter/gatherer days when we would flee from danger as a group to protect ourselves. Under conditions of panic, we become ‘sheeple’: We copy the behaviour of others, become self-serving, and the desire for self-preservation kicks in.
Fear and Uncertainty
These days, more than ever before, social media is having a negative impact on this herd-like tendency, perpetuating our susceptibility to suggestible behaviour. In the case of buying in bulk during the coronavirus pandemic, however irrational we feel it is to panic buy, we influence each other to do it because of the feelings of fear and uncertainty we are all experiencing, and the need to feel prepared for every eventuality at this difficult time.
Spikes in Demand
Despite advice from experts not to buy in bulk, supplies of almost everything have become low and shelves are empty of key products in every supermarket, causing unpredicted spikes in demand. This in turn affects the supply chain and has a negative impact on the elderly, the vulnerable, and the key workers, who are busy taking care of our needs. Those who are unable to get to the supermarket to stockpile are suffering the most from the spike in demand.
Eight Actions to Help Bring About Positive Change
Here are some positive actions we can all take to avoid getting sucked in to these unhelpful patterns and to make a conscious and concerted effort to conduct ourselves sensibly based on logic and the evidence at hand.
Be sensible. Don’t buy into the fear. Intercept any strong urges we might have to panic buy.
Develop a home relaxation routine to maintain our mental health: meditate, do yoga or Chi Gung, or HIIT.
Plan our meals so we know what we need for the week and buy accordingly.
Take stock, literally, of what we have in our cupboards and fridges and calculate how long these supplies are likely to last.
Remind ourselves that we have enough.
Don’t waste food by buying perishables we are unlikely to use in a hurry.
Remind ourselves that if we are low on something, we can always get some more so long as we don’t buy it in bulk (leaving none for anyone else).
Donate any excess that we don’t need to foodbanks.
Abundance vs. Scarcity
Finally, by engaging with an abundance mindset, demonstrating the belief that there is more than enough for everyone, rather than a scarcity mindset, which upholds the view that there will never be enough to go around, we can work together to shed the fear and anxiety we are all experiencing and move towards a view that there is enough to go around for everyone.
 Jade Scipioni, ‘Coronavirus stockpiling: Don’t waste your money on these items, according to a pandemic planner’, Mar 13 2020, CNBC (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/13/coronavirus-stockpiling-what-not-to-waste-money-on-pandemic-planner.html).
 Jan Godsell, Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy at WMG, University of Warwick, ‘Why we need to stop panic buying’,Newswise.com,18-Mar-2020 (https://www.newswise.com/articles/why-we-need-to-stop-panic-buying-expert-comment).  ‘Disabled people cut off from vital supplies due to panic buying,’ The Guardian, 18 March 2020.