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Panic buying

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Panic buying (alternatively hyphenated as panic-buying; also known as panic purchasing) occurs when consumers buy unusually large amounts of a product in anticipation of, or after, a disaster or perceived disaster, or in anticipation of a large price increase, or shortage.

Panic buying during various health crises is influenced by "(1) individuals' perception of the threat of a health crisis and scarcity of products; (2) fear of the unknown, which is caused by emotional pressure and uncertainty; (3) coping behaviour, which views panic buying as a venue to relieve anxiety and regain control over the crisis; and (4) social psychological factors, which account for the influence of the social network of an individual".[1]

Panic buying is a type of herd behavior.[2] It is of interest in consumer behavior theory, the broad field of economic study dealing with explanations for "collective action such as fads and fashions, stock market movements, runs on nondurable goods, buying sprees, hoarding, and banking panics".[3]

Fishing-rod panic buying in Corpus Christi, Texas, during the COVID-19 pandemic

Panic buying can lead to genuine shortages regardless of whether the risk of a shortage is real or perceived; the latter scenario is an example of self-fulfilling prophecy.[4]


Panic buying occurred before, during, or following:

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

Panic buying became a major international phenomenon between February and March 2020 during the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued in smaller, more localized waves throughout during sporadic lockdowns across the world. Stores around the world were depleted of items such as face masks, food, bottled water, milk, toilet paper,[38] hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, antibacterial wipes and painkillers.[39][40][41][42][43][44] As a result, many retailers rationed the sale of these items.[45]

Online retailers such as eBay and Amazon began to pull certain items listed for sale by third parties such as toilet paper,[46] face masks, pasta, canned vegetables, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes over price gouging concerns.[47][48] As a result, Amazon restricted the sale of these items and others (such as thermometers and ventilators) to healthcare professionals and government agencies.[49] Additionally, panic renting of self-storage units took place during the onset of the pandemic.[50]

The massive buyouts of toilet paper caused bewilderment and confusion from the public. Images of empty shelves of toilet paper were shared on social media in many countries around the world, e.g. Australia, United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. In Australia, two women were charged over a physical altercation over toilet paper at a supermarket.[51] The severity of the panic buying drew criticism; particularly from Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison, calling for Australians to "stop it".[52]

Research on this specific social phenomenon of toilet paper hoarding suggested that social media had played a crucial role in stimulating mass-anxiety and panic.[53] Social media research found that many people posting about toilet paper panic buying were negative, either expressing anger or frustration over the frantic situation. This high amount of negative viral posts could act as an emotional trigger of anxiety and panic, spontaneously spreading fear and fueling psychological reactions in midst of the crisis. It may have triggered a snowball effect in the public, encouraged by the images and videos of empty shelves and people fighting over toilet rolls.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yuen, Kum Fai; Wang, Xueqin; Ma, Fei; Li, Kevin X. (2020-05-18). "The Psychological Causes of Panic Buying Following a Health Crisis". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 17 (10): 3513. doi:10.3390/ijerph17103513. PMC 7277661. PMID 32443427.
  2. ^ Bruce Jones & David Steven, The New Politics of Strategic Resources: Energy and Food Security Challenges in the 21st Century (eds. David Steven, Emily O'Brien & Bruce D. Jone: Brookings Institution Press, 2015), p. 12.
  3. ^ William M. Strahle & E. H. Bonfield. Understanding Consumer Panic: a Sociological Perspective, Advances in Consumer Research, Volume 16, 1989, eds. Thomas K. Srull, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, pp. 567–573.
  4. ^ "Toxic leak threat to Chinese city". The Repository. 2020-03-08.
  5. ^ Faris, Robert (1948). Social Disorganization. The Ronald Press Company. p. 524.
  6. ^ Hardach, Gerd (1981). The First World War, 1914–1918. University of California Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-520-04397-8.
  7. ^ Watters, Mary; Library, Illinois State Historical (1952). Illinois in the Second World War: The production front. Illinois State Historical Library. p. 58. ISBN 9780912154190.
  8. ^ Spaull, Andrew David (1982). Australian Education in the Second World War. University of Queensland Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7022-1644-2.
  9. ^ Jackson, Ashley (2006). The British Empire and the Second World War. A&C Black. p. 505. ISBN 978-1-85285-417-1.
  10. ^ Morgan, Philip (2008). The Fall of Mussolini: Italy, the Italians, and the Second World War. OUP Oxford. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-19-157875-5.
  11. ^ Honigsbaum, Mark (2013). "Regulating the 1918–19 Pandemic: Flu, Stoicism and the Northcliffe Press". Medical History. 57 (2): 165–185. doi:10.1017/mdh.2012.101. ISSN 0025-7273. PMC 3867839. PMID 24070344.
  12. ^ Burden, Lizzy (2020-03-20). "Is panic buying irrational? Here's why it can seem to make economic sense". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  13. ^ Colin Storer, A Short History of the Weimar Republic (I.B. Tauris, 2013), p. 102-03.
  14. ^ Archibald Percival Wavell (1973). Moon, Penderel (ed.). Wavell: The Viceroy's Journal. Oxford University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-19-211723-6.
  15. ^ Alice L. George (2003). Awaiting Armageddon: How Americans Faced the Cuban Missile Crisis. The University of North Carolina Press. p. 78. ISBN 0807828289.
  16. ^ Buder, Emily (2020-03-19). "The Great Toilet-Paper Shortage Scare – The Atlantic". www.theatlantic.com. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  17. ^ Mamdouch G. Salameh, "Oil Crises, Historical Perspective" in Concise Encyclopedia of the History of Energy (ed. Cutler J. Cleveland: Elsevier, 2009), p. 196.
  18. ^ Taylor, Peter (2013). The thirty-six stratagems: A modern-day interpretation of a strategy classic. Infinite Ideas. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-908474-97-1.
  19. ^ Roberts, Kevin (2005). Lovemarks: the future beyond brands. powerHouse Books. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-57687-534-6.
  20. ^ Lohr, Steve (2000-01-01). "Technology and 2000 – Momentous Relief; Computers Prevail in First Hours of '00". New York Times.
  21. ^ "The Millenium Bug threatens food supply systems – developing countries are also vulnerable, FAO warns". Food and Agriculture Organization. 1999-04-19.
  22. ^ "Oil and gold prices spike". money.cnn.com. 2001-09-11.
  23. ^ Ding, Huiling (2014). Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic: Transcultural Communication about SARS. Southern Illinois University Press. pp. 70, 72, 83, 103, 111.
  24. ^ Collins, Nick (2009-08-25). "EU ban on traditional lightbulbs prompts panic buying". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2009-08-28.
  25. ^ "UK fuel blockades tumble". BBC News. 2000-09-14. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  26. ^ "Toxic leak threat to Chinese city". BBC News. 2005-11-23.
  27. ^ Kurtzleben, Danielle (2014-07-01). "Here's why the ammunition shortage went on for years". vox.com.
  28. ^ Clifford, Stephanie (2012-12-22). "Shop Owners Report Rise in Firearm Sales as Buyers Fear Possible New Laws". New York Times.
  29. ^ Brochetto, Marilia; Botelho, Greg (2013-09-12). "Facing shortages, Venezuela takes over toilet paper factory". CNN. Retrieved 2020-03-13.
  30. ^ a b c Lezama Aranguren, Erick (2014-11-09). "La resaca del "dakazo", un año después". El Tiempo. Archived from the original on 2014-11-12. Retrieved 2014-11-12.
  31. ^ "Watch: Looting in Venezuela after government launches attack on 'bourgeois parasites'". EuroNews. 2013-11-12. Retrieved 2014-11-12.
  32. ^ A weekend of panic buying has left many gas stations across the UK dry, CNBC
  33. ^ Delvin, Megan (2021-11-17). "Grocery stores running out of food in BC cities cut off by flooding (PHOTOS)". dailyhive.com. Retrieved 2021-11-17.
  34. ^ "Shoppers panic buy as IKEA shuts stores & factories in Russia". Yahoo Finance. 2022-03-07. Retrieved 2022-03-07.
  35. ^ "Panic-buying up north as taps run dry". The Star. 2023-05-16. Retrieved 2023-05-21.
  36. ^ "China shoppers panic-buying salt after Fukushima Daiichi treated water release | NHK WORLD-JAPAN News". NHK WORLD. Retrieved 2023-08-31.
  37. ^ "In China, Fukushima discharge met with bans, panic buying and wariness". The Business Standard. 2023-08-25. Retrieved 2023-08-31.
  38. ^ What everyone's getting wrong about the toilet paper shortage Medium
  39. ^ "Supermarkets report panic buying over coronavirus fears". Inside Retail. 2020-03-03. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
  40. ^ Sirletti, Sonia; Remondini, Chiara; Lepido, Daniele (2020-02-24). "Virus Outbreak Drives Italians to Panic-Buying of Masks and Food". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2020-02-29.
  41. ^ "The economics of the toilet paper panic—and why more stockpiling is inevitable". Macleans. Retrieved 2020-03-13.
  42. ^ "Virus panic buying prompts toilet paper rationing in Australia". CTVNews. 2020-03-04. Retrieved 2020-03-13.
  43. ^ "Coles and Woolworths further limit toilet paper purchases as supply sells out in an hour". smh.com.au. Sydney Morning Herald. 2020-03-08. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  44. ^ "'It's crazy': Panic buying forces stores to limit purchases of toilet paper and masks". CNN. 2020-03-06. Retrieved 2020-03-13.
  45. ^ Gadher, Dipesh (2020-03-29). "Every ration helps in coronavirus crisis: Tesco puts one-item limit on essentials". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  46. ^ Halliday, Josh (2020-03-16). "eBay urged to clamp down on coronavirus profiteering". The Guardian. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  47. ^ "Coronavirus price gouging: Amazon and eBay failing to tackle rip-off sellers, says Which?". Sky News. 2020-03-25. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  48. ^ Nicas, Jack (2020-03-14). "He Has 17,700 Bottles of Hand Sanitizer and Nowhere to Sell Them". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  49. ^ Palmer, Annie (2020-04-02). "Amazon blocks sale of N95 masks to the public, begins offering supplies to hospitals". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  50. ^ "Transacting in Turbulent Times: The Impact of Coronavirus Across All Segments of the Self-Storage Industry". Inside Self-Storage. 2020-04-02.
  51. ^ "Women charged after toilet paper row at Sydney Woolworths goes viral". www.abc.net.au. 2020-03-08. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  52. ^ "'It's un-Australian, and it must stop': Scott Morrison tells Australians to cease panic buying". SBS News. Retrieved 2020-08-03.
  53. ^ Leung, Janni; Chung, Jack Yiu Chak; Tisdale, Calvert; Chiu, Vivian; Lim, Carmen C. W.; Chan, Gary (January 2021). "Anxiety and Panic Buying Behaviour during COVID-19 Pandemic—A Qualitative Analysis of Toilet Paper Hoarding Contents on Twitter". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 18 (3): 1127. doi:10.3390/ijerph18031127. PMC 7908195. PMID 33514049.