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Editorial: The Motivation of Panic Buying

Editorial 14 Mar, 2020 Follow News

Mexico City Empty Shelves in a Supermarket

To catch a glimpse of scenes of people stocking up on grocery supplies, especially toilet paper, up until a few days ago we needed to access the internet or watch cable television. But alas, that’s become a reality here in the Cayman Islands.

As word broke that there was a suspected local case of COVID-19 and then when it was confirmed, those scenes intensified as local supermarkets faced a rush akin to when a hurricane is barrelling towards us.

In an earlier editorial, we called for calm, cool heads to prevail but panic buying appears to have fully taken root in our Islands despite authorities and businesses insisting that regular supply of most items will remain intact. That’s because panic is highly contagious, especially when situations like what we are experiencing are in flux.

Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and author of the book “The Psychology of Pandemics”, points out that panic buying gives people a sense of control, especially in times where they have very little control over a larger situation: “Under circumstances like these, people feel the need to do something that’s proportionate to what they perceive is the level of the crisis.”

On the other hand, much of the advice of medical experts seems to be simple. “Surely, just washing my hands, maintaining good hygiene and employing social distancing can’t be all that’s required?” we’re likely to ask.

Another motivator is regret. We see others stocking up and we fear we will miss our opportunity to get supplies, so rational thinkers among us end up joining the fray. Now, we all are in panic buying mode and the stores can hardly keep up with the rush, so shelves are empty, and we feel validated about our decision.

At Caymanian Times, we hope that in the midst of the rush on supermarkets, those among us with the greatest need are not left wanting at a time when their vulnerabilities are most exposed.


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