Panic-buying during the relatively mild coronavirus outbreak is a sobering litmus test

The Skinny | No 24. Bulk buying in the time of the coronavirus

Nappies for a lifetime?
Nappies for a lifetime?

What are we skinning? Bulk buying in the time of the coronavirus.

Why are we skinning it? Because it puts forward a heady brew of misinformation-enabled mass hysteria and consumer panic, while also serving as a poignant reminder of the fragile state of island-nations in times of crisis.

Wow. That’s the most convincing answer to my standard second question so far. Thank you. You must have tons more. Fire away.

So you’re saying that anyone who takes consumer-based precautions in the wake of the coronavirus is stupid? No, but we should really look at why they’re doing it. Who’s driving them to assume that they will need to stock up sooner rather than later? Or that they need to stock up at all?

Well, to be honest I do find them stupid, and also quite selfish. What happens when they have bought all the toilet paper that I need, ‘for nothing’? Your comment speaks to a need for a calmer centralised information delivery system that’s not fuelled by hysteria and a desperate need for clicks.

Yes, yes. ‘The media’ does play its part in this whole mess. But what about social media? What about education? Valid points, but they speak to a long-term solution. The main issues here are knee-jerk ones.

In which direction are these knees being jerked? In two. On the one hand, you have the (admittedly overblown) reaction of those who chose to panic-buy en masse, based on half-baked information and fears about the extent of the coronavirus and the quarantine measures it would necessitate. On the other hand, you had the equally immediate condemnation and ridicule dished out towards these people by a good chunk of social media users and other commentators.

Wouldn’t the best long-term solution simply be to just wait and see what happens, while remaining vigilant without going to extremes? Yes, but the human mind tends to go into strange places when faced with the prospect of a literal viral pandemic at its doorstep.

Actually, spending some time in quarantine may just be the best way for us all to chill out enough to get rational about all this. I agree, but only if the quarantine also includes a mandatory moratorium on all internet usage.

Do say: “Panic-buying during the relatively mild coronavirus outbreak should serve as a sobering litmus test for our society. We need to look at the factors that drive these people to take such measures.”

Don’t say: “Why use coronavirus as an excuse to go on a wild shopping spree that could potentially deprive others of essential resources? Grab that trolley and go hoarding just for the naked sake of it, and never look back!”

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