Why do people buy noodles and toilet paper like crazy people?

It spreads from country to country: Panic Buying. Last week you could see a lot of pictures of empty supermarket shelves on the internet and small videos were shared of people fighting over toilet paper. Ha ha, funny. But also strongly influenced by the attitude: What a bunch of idiots! But who is the idiot; the one who reacts to changed information, or the one who laughs about it?

“According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” Megginson, 1963

Panic buying, or hoarding, is not a panicky overreaction by egomaniacal morons, as we can often read these days, but a relatively normal reaction to a perceived threat that cannot be easily classified. Since December, the Corona virus has been spreading and, as always with new diseases, it takes a while before you know what you are dealing with and how you should react wisely. There is still no effective treatment or vaccination. The only solution to the problem seems to be “stay at home”. Contact persons of sick people are put in domestic quarantine. Wouldn’t it be much more stupid to not stock up on supplies?

Stealing disinfectants from hospitals and nursing homes, as we have seen in Germany, is a different matter, those people are douches! To put it politely.

In the financial crisis of 2008/09, companies that manufactured products for the home have continued to grow. Above all, the DIY market and convenience food. Because insecure people make themselves comfortable at home (and become more politically conservative, but that’s a topic for another post). The news situation on Corona is ambiguous. Especially for people who cannot follow the interviews of international experts in their mother tongues or judge scientific results themselves by their scientific quality. And no matter how smart people think they are individually: That’s the majority!

The challenge: Reliable information

The majority of the population depends on journalists to translate and classify the information provided by experts. Unfortunately, the credibility of journalists has not exactly reached a peak in recent years. And the way the internet (and human attention) works tempts people to use lurid headlines that often enough postulate the exact opposite of what you learn when you take the trouble to read the article behind it.

The internet – contrary to the omnipresent mantra – does not increase the knowledge of mankind, but the amount of information available. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find one’s way around it, to judge sources and to generate knowledge that has not been manipulated by conspiracy theories or political goals.

Uncertainty through too much information

And then there is the fact that we can observe through the Internet how differently Corona is handled in the countries concerned. China is sealing off an entire region, Italy is sealing itself off completely. South Korea is testing about everyone. The president of the United States considered Corona is hoax before declaring it a national emergency. The UK governments promotes the idea of herd immunity, which refers to a situation where so many people have been infected that the disease can no longer spread. Normally, we reach that by vaccinating enough of the population. And Germany appeals above all to the personal responsibility of the citizens, only slowly turning to stricter measures. And now you, as a citizen, are supposed to decide for yourself how to deal with this.

Emergency Stock
My Emergency Stock

A completely normal reaction is: I don’t know, but as a precaution I buy everything on the emergency council’s preparedness list. Today.

So how about we all hold back a little bit with the condemnation of those who are currently feeling insecure, and make a little more effort to explain the situation and help them to cope with it? Trivialisation is to be avoided, as is scare tactics. Even if we have the feeling that we cannot use reason to stand up to the fear mongerers because they are simply so much louder. No one can stay in panic mode forever, at some point the body is exhausted. And that’s the moment when we can – with understanding and clarity – grate in to pick people up. Because basically, all anyone wants is to feel safe. And do what they themselves think is necessary for that.

The lesson: Prepare yourselves!

The real problem w can see behind the panic buying is, how badly prepared the general public is for crises. And that the expected behaviour of people is rarely taken into account when planning crisis scenarios. But that is also a topic for another post. So, if you are one of those who have just stocked up on supplies: Don’t live off of it for three months now! Keep shopping for everyday needs, buy what you’ve used up and make sure you keep your stock for emergencies. Because no matter how we get through this pandemic: The next crisis will come.

If you want to take the opportunity to deal with your personal precautions, make sure you know your government’s crisis plans and suggestions for households. Crisis plans for the self-employed and entrepreneurs require a little more analysis. Let’s talk about your situation and how I can help you to improve your preparedness strategy!

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