Shelves are quickly becoming empty again. Picture: supplied
Shelves are quickly becoming empty again. Picture: supplied

Return to panic buying exposes how stupid we really are

I don't want to brag or anything, but I was the OG panic buyer.

Two weeks before the World Health Organisation characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic, I printed off a list from a doomsday prepper website and hit the shelves of my local supermarket at midnight on an ordinary Thursday.

This was late February and I felt like a genuine loser. I loaded my trolley with all the essential stuff - toilet paper, hand sanitiser, bottled water, dried pasta and hospital grade disinfectant - but then I went off script. Cream of mushroom soup. Tinned peaches in syrup. Four bean mix. Dried pears. Pringles. Dissolvable Vitamin-C. Torch batteries.

If you would've seen me in that moment, you would've assumed I was prepping for the world's worst camping trip.

My family thought I was overreacting, but when coronavirus mania swept the country like the One Direction of pandemics, I felt vindicated.

Toilet paper is once again being hoarded in Sydney after coronavirus cases spike in Victoria. Picture: supplied
Toilet paper is once again being hoarded in Sydney after coronavirus cases spike in Victoria. Picture: supplied

I sat back in my ivory tower stacked high with two-ply and smugly laughed as the rest of Australia set a world record pace for panic.

Whipped up by the media and some terrifying projections, we were signalled out by researchers for the "incredible speed and scale" of our national implosion.

We set retail and Google records. We took day trips to country towns to buy mince. We had punch-ons in Aisle 12. Aussie Aussie Aussie. Oi oi vey!

We panic bought at such a rate that supermarket chains decided to introduce two item limits on rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes, UHT milk and flour (for the sourdough bread you never baked).

The supermarket became a barometer of our slow return to normality. The curve was flattened, nature was healing, and the restrictions began to lift. The shelves were stocked with rice in all its varietals - arborio, jasmine, long grain and artisanal black - and if you scanned a QR code, entered your personal details and ordered a $17 plate of arancini, you too could drink a pint at the pub just like the olden days.

 

But just as I was beginning to get used to socially distant restaurant experiences and stress-free shopping, Victoria now finds itself teetering on the edge of a second wave. The disappointed dad face has returned for Premier Daniel Andrews and supermarkets have reimposed the two item limit in response to "significantly elevated demand" once again.

In other words, panic buying is back baby. And it's triggering my COVID anxiety in a way that hasn't happened since the first month of isolation when everyone was binge watching Tiger King and disinfecting their mail.

Victoria, please. Don't do this. As the pioneer of panic buying, I understand the urge to put extra packs of pasta and three-star mince into your trolley "just in case".

But unless there's a new strain of coronavirus that causes irritable bowel syndrome and insatiable cravings for orecchiette bolognese, put the 24-pack of Sorbent back on the shelves and just walk away.

How can I know this for certain? Because I lived through the first wave of the COVID pandemic, and I've still got a garage full of creamed corn, lentils and tinned beans, that's how.

Darren Levin is a columnist for RendezView.com.au

Originally published as Return to panic buying exposes how stupid we really are



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