- Panic buying disrupts supply chains.
- Panic buying makes emergency supplies more expensive.
- Panic buying makes it harder for others to keep healthy, raising your risk of contracting illness.
Purchasing more goods than you need is an understandable reaction to a crisis, but panic buying has a negative impact on people's lives and disrupts supply chains.
As customers hit the stores en mass to hoard essentials like canned food and hand sanitizer, the stores are overwhelmed. Many grocery stores and pharmacies are completely out of stock of some items. This causes supply chain disruptions and leaves some people who need these items empty-handed.
When people begin to panic buy, other people get swept up in the panic and worry about not getting enough supplies themselves. Products considered essential like food and toilet paper are especially prone to becoming hoarded. People may stockpile in order to regain a sense of control during a period of perceived helplessness, such as a public health emergency.
Stockpiling Creates Shortages
However, stockpiling reduces supply and creates shortages. This makes it hard for others to get these items. Stockpiling can also increase prices, making it harder for people to afford these items.
Not everyone has the resources to stockpile large amounts of goods at a time. People who are low-income may not be able to spend large sums on emergency supplies all at once and depend on being able to buy supplies throughout the pandemic. If everything is bought up all at once, those who were not able to buy a few week's supplies at once will be left with nothing. Price increases due to stockpiling will also make it more difficult for low-income households to afford emergency supplies.
Everyone Needs Hygiene Supplies
During a pandemic, it is important that everyone has access to hygiene and cleaning supplies. No matter how much soap you have, you won't be safe from illness if your neighbor isn't able to get any. If you deprive others of hygiene essentials, you will be surrounded by people who may be carrying illness due to their inability to access hygiene essentials like soap.
Panic buying unnecessary items means they will not be available for people who really need them. For example, when Covid-19 was first announced, many people rushed to buy face masks. Most people do not need a face mask for going about their daily life: handwashing is more effective at preventing spread. However, the panic buying of facemasks caused them to be harder to find and more expensive. This means people who are immunocompromised who need face masks will not be able to access them. This could also lead to a shortage of face masks for health care workers, who are often exposed to illness as part of their daily work. It would be dangerous to be treated by a sick health care worker.
At this time, there is not a need to stockpile. If you anticipate being sick, it is wise to have the bare minimum food for 14 days and basic medicines. Only get the essentials you would need if quarantined. You do not need to prepare for doomsday. There is no need to buy multiple packages of toilet paper or whole crates of cleaning supplies.
Remember, Covid-19 is passed from person to person, and you want to leave enough supplies for your fellow human beings to be healthy, too.