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Moralising Hoarding, Panic Buying and Coronavirus

Hoarding as moral aberration and ethical breach: the term has recently become the subject of scorn in coronavirus chatter. In terms of mental disorders, it is “characterized by persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions”, though the Coronavirus Hoarder is a breed that adds urgent bulk acquisition to the shopping equation. If you part with it, take advantage of making a buck along the way.

Hoarding products in times of crisis is condemned by those in power as unpatriotic, against the community and just plain rude. The empty supermarket shelf is considered the devilish outcome of this. Yet, shelves still remain empty, at least for periods of time. Despite limits imposed on purchases, the hoarder remains active, fearing the pandemic apocalypse, the lockdown, self-isolation and total quarantine.

The central motivation is fear, but it has worthy fuel. Do not trust the government; question the authorities. They, after all, were late to the party. With COVID-19 being enshrouded in garments of misinformation, or at the very least elements of incomplete information, the tendency is further accentuated.

The pieties against bulk buying are accumulating, inversely proportionate to diminishing opportunities to purchase. Writing for the Danbury, Connecticut-based News-Times, Chris Powell acknowledges that households should stock up on the necessaries, but only for a few days. To hoard “for worse than that is antisocial and generates fear. If serious shortages develop, will people consider themselves Americans, all in it together, sharing as necessary and helping their government as it tries its best, or will patriotism and civic duty dissolve into every man for himself?”

The reaction from authorities has ranged from the imposition of regulations to hectoring unprincipled shopping. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has gone so far as to regard panic buying as unpatriotic, a slight against his understanding of the Australian character. “On bulk purchasing of supplies: Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it.” Such behaviour was nether “sensible” nor “helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis.”

Image from

Interestingly enough, such scolding attitudes have done little to stem the craze. As Morrison should himself be most familiar with, any snark directed against voters tends to bite back. He, after all, was the beneficiary of an election victory in which his opponents were termed smug types prone to woke obsessions, preachy about the environment and condescending to those pro-mining “Quiet Australians”. Now, Morrison demands “Australia’s common sense cooperation with … very clear advisory positions. Stop doing it. It’s un-Australian and must stop.” Australians, quiet or otherwise, are panicked and not taking much notice.

Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud has also taken to the stage of publicity to condemn bulk shopping practices, calling such shoppers parasites. “I appreciate people are worried about Covid-19,” he wrote in Guardian Australia, “but those fighting in the aisles are more in danger of catching the disease by their actions than we ever are of running out of food.” Farmers were the noble ones, going about their business of supplying food, in contrast to those “frantic shoppers”. The decision by supermarkets to restrict purchases on certain products, change shopping hours and suspend online grocery orders, had been sensible.

In Canada, the panic has been sufficiently gripping to cause concern. The pattern is familiar: a spate of rushed purchases, the emptying of shelves, and the constant warning by those supposedly in the know that all is well in the supply chain. A survey conducted by Dalhousie University and Angus Reid between March 13 and 15 found that 71 per cent of Canadians were concerned about COVID-19, with 41 per cent purchasing additional groceries and supplies as a direct response. Then come the voices of authority, attempting to appease and reassure. Marc Fontin, president of the Retail Council of Canada in Quebec, claimed that “Canadians do not need to panic”. Over the weekend, stores would be “back to almost normal.”

This has not been enough. The panic-driven purchaser and diligent hoarder loom like troubling spectres. Policies have been introduced by specific drug wholesalers such as McKesson. Andrew Forgione, a spokesperson for the company, spoke about the taking of “proactive steps to support responsible ordering, including temporarily adjusting daily customer ordering for some medications and certain daily essentials.” Canadian consumer or retailers, he explained, had little reason to “mass order products.” But order, they do.

Some hoarders have even become accidental, and reviled celebrities. A Tennessee man, Amazon seller Matt Colvin, went so far as to acquire 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer. The intention was not so much to hoard as make a killing online, selling the items at marked up prices. The intention might have been seen as distinctly American, even patriotic: take advantage of adverse conditions, plan ahead and make money from it. “I’ve been buying and selling things for 10 years now,” he told the New York Times. “There’s been hot product after hot product. But the thing is, there’s always another one on the shelf.”

The interest of the Tennessee attorney general’s office was piqued. An investigation was commenced into possible price gouging. As this took place, Colvin had a change of heart, wishing to donate the supplies. Prosecutors, however, are intent on proceeding with the action.

More militant operations have been recorded in other countries in an effort to rein back the dedicated hoarder. In Maharashtra’s Jalna city, police and officials of the Food and Drug Administration conducted a joint operation against a shop owner Hastimal Bamb for allegedly hoarding 18,900 masks and possessing 730 bottles of fake hand sanitisers.

Across the border, similar stories have surfaced. In Karachi’s Baloch Colony a certain shopkeeper by the name of Zaheer was arrested during the week for hoarding sanitisers then, according to a police statement, selling “them for more than triple the actual price.”

Talk about community, toughing matters out, enduring together, provide salve for the bruised soul. It does not stop greed, nor does it stem opportunity. Responding to pandemics, as to conflict, brings its chances for profiteers and the desperate. No political potentate, whatever the measure, can stem it entirely. The coronavirus hoarder is here to stay – at least for the near future.

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  1. Pingback: Moralising Hoarding, Panic Buying and Coronavirus #auspol – News Oz

  2. New England Cocky

    HOARDING by Littleproud … “Farmers were the noble ones” ….. does that include ‘stealing” MDB reserved for environmental flows water during a drought to grow a bumper cotton crop in NW NSW while jeopardising the financial viability of agricultural enterprises in the southern MDB and simultaneously being responsible for the biggest fish kill in living memory?

    You can trust a Nazianal$ politician about as far as you can drop-kick the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

  3. Gwen

    If only people put as much time into seeking facts as hoarding toilet paper we could put this BS behind us.
    What do I mean by that?

    Trigger Warning
    Only independent thinkers need proceed to check these out:
    Kevin Galalae Xmas 2019 message (which relates to his work identifing the involvement of the WHO and UN in a covert depopulation program that includes vaccines it their deadly arsenal)

    A six page summary of his work:
    Shai Danon talk with Magda Taylor on her down to earth study of the History of Vaxines Science
    Del Bigtree Corona Virus: The Hidden Danger Revealed (28feb20)

    The above leaves me with one question, ‘Why hasn’t the WHO been shut down for crimes against humanity?”

  4. TuffGuy

    The imposition of buying limits on bog roll and other essentials was never going to work anyway. All those serious survival types have to do is go into the store and buy the limit of whatever, take the goods out to the car, come back inside the store and buy the limit again, etc, etc. The problem is that the initial hoarders who stripped the shelves have created a snowball effect with everyone else. I mean, given the current situation, do you really want to wait until you are down to your last bog roll before going out to get more? Only to find out you can’t get any? Pauline Hanson can stand there and tell us all day we can use a hose, have a shower or use gum leaves but nobody really wants to have to do that, not even Pauline. So now we have the rest of the population out there hunting for “top up” supplies. Not because they are hoarders, but because they don’t want to use the hose, shower or gum leaves.
    Anyway I was very happy to see the likes of Facebook, eBay, GumTree etc shutting down sales of said essentials on their platforms to stop those profiteering survival types. Just like that American guy stuck with 17,000 bottles of sanny.

  5. Yes Minister

    As others have noted, it is likely that much of the motivation for panic buying / hoarding is the utter contempt most Australians have for the political rabble, especially the lying nasties / SCUMMO / potatohead debacle. Years ago I took steps to insulate myself from the antics of psychopathic f#ckwits, consequently I was well prepared for the present kerfuffle. Whilst I can’t recall a government in living memory in which I had confidence, the present bottom-feeding bloodsucking parasitic grubs must surely take the cake for ineptitude. SCUMMO, potatohead, conman et al couldn’t lie straight in bed, consequently its no wonder that so many folk feel the need to do what they think is necessary to protect members of their own family. Rather than demonize panic buyers, it would be far better to have a vote of no confidence in politics generally. Maybe perchance if we hadn’t elected total scum, we might have some confidence that our servants had some interest in welfare of the people rather than themselves and their grubby cohorts.

  6. Sammy

    They are probably already putting number of deaths vs opinion polls on a coloured spreadsheet. If Scumo and his cohort, could actually stop view people with contempt and thinking he is better than them that would be a great start.

    Gwen, are you sure you are in the right place? Agree with you about climate change and over population but the rest sounds like something from David Icke

  7. Kerri

    Surely the hoarding and price gouging are just “the free market” operating???
    As for Dutton’s coming after hoarders, how will he police this??
    I would be classed as a hoarder by the quantities in my house.
    The truth is I hate shopping and have shopped in bulk all my life.
    There are people who ordered toilet paper from Who Gives A Crap and were delivered 48 boxes of 48 rolls thinking they had ordered 48 rolls. It is a frequent occurrence according to my nephew who delivers for Who Gives A Crap.

  8. Aortic

    How about supermarkets don’t put the most jumped on products on the shelf. Have an outlet where store security people accept orders for an agreed amount. The purchaser, required to pay with credit card, has a marker placed against it which would preclude further unlawful buys. If paying by cash, produce some identification which again would preclude further purchases in an illegal period. Just a thought.

  9. Matters Not

    Gwen – just for a scientific reality check:

    As of Jan 22, 2020, 5707 measles cases and 83 measles-related deaths (estimated attack rate of approximately 285 cases per 10 000 population) have been reported. 87% of deaths have been reported as children younger than 5 years, a mortality rate of approximately 25 deaths per 10 000 people in this age group.

    So sad. It’s The Lancet versus utter crap.

  10. paul walter

    It has been strange stuff. Whole rooms stuffed to the gunnels with toilet paper, hand wash, tinned spaghetti and headache pills.
    The film clips of supermarket behaviour resembling that of seagulls near a fish and chips wrapper have both laughable and undignified sad.

    The weirdest sight has come from the USA, where people have formed massive queues to buy guns, for gods sake.

    I think it is passing hard to shoot something you can’t see. Do these people have the same solution for all problems?

    On the other hand, probity asks that you stock up a wee bit in case of lockdowns during periods of high contagion. Not so hard for someone like me to do it gradually in a measured way, but must be frustrating for working couples, single working parents and the like; from hence probably derives the frustrations seen acted out in supermarkets in the biggest cities.

  11. paul walter

    So what happens next?

    This week SA goes into a more intense sort of lock down mode and a social group I am with has been told the rooms have been shut down. People are still not in the mode of acceptance and caution, as the Bondi Beach evictions showed.
    Italy shows how bad it could get, but elsewhere places that looked susceptible have some how avoided the worst consequence of coronavirus spread through taking that little bit of extra care.

    I wonder what mischief the rich and powerful; the rorters, will get up to while everyone is distracted. What will happen in dirt poor countries and are we oiks up for another 2008 financial crash and the suffering that will bring on top of the illness.

    It starts to sink in that people close are vulnerable and now see an outside chance that one or two people, I may have seen for the last time if things turn nasty.

  12. Patagonian

    Small wonder people have been panic buying when you look at the example set by Morrison, Joyce, Taylor, Cash, Robert , Christensen, The Talking Thumb (I forget what his actual name is), McKenzie and all the other grifters, liars, dissemblers and thieves in the LNP and One Neuron. It’s every pig for himself and damn the torpedoes.

    A big fat taxpayer funded handout to QANTAS without any equity requirements, and they immediately stand down 20,000 workers without pay? Why should we be expected to behave any better?

    They have faffed around for months trying to worm their way out of the sportsrots and protect their fictitional surplus from the ravages of the bush fires – which they failed to mitigate when they had the chance.

    They had plenty of warning about COVID-19 and yet did nothing, as so ably expressed by Bill Bowtell:

    “They were warned 12 weeks ago by WHO [the World Health Organization] and others what was coming. They did not accumulate test kits. They did not accumulate the necessary emergency equipment. They did not undertake a public education campaign. They gave no money to science, no money to research, no money to the International Vaccine Institute, no money to WHO. They diligently did not do anything useful.

    For months, Morrison tried ducked dealing with the fires because they were ‘states’ responsibility’. I have no doubt he thought exactly the same thing about dealing with the Coronavirus, but has been smart enough this time around not to open his mouth.

    Now they’re calling hoarders unpatriotic – well how about this for unpatriotic? Apparently the reason we can’t buy hand sanitiser – and may not be able to for some time – is because the two Australian companies who produce the substances used to make it have been flogging it off overseas for considerably more than they make selling it to Australian manufacturers. These products are also heavily used in pathology and shortages will create a very serious situation.

    I bet Scott from Engadine Maccas is ruing the day he bought the Prime Ministership.

  13. Andrew Smith

    Also urban myths or fake news doing the rounds on social media re. busloads of urbanites emptying regional super markets, according to The Guardian:

    ‘Stories about people travelling in buses from cities and descending on small towns and stripping the supermarket shelves are rife on social media – and some mainstream media – but the evidence is scarce.

    Guardian Australia, along with several ABC and regional journalists, have attempted to back up the claims about the organised bus tours of shoppers but all came up empty.’

    My question would be whether genuine but misguided anecdotal or actual leveraging of SM/Facebook aka QLD during last federal election campaign to stir up anxiety.

  14. paul walter

    Interesting comments from Patagonian in particular.

  15. L GH

    Profiteering is not hoarding.

  16. silkworm

    Gwen, you can take your climate science denying agenda and shove it up your a***.

  17. Gwen

    Silkworm, you feel distraught because of material in the Depop-Decarbonization article, correct? Had I posted the excerpt below (as it seems to relate to the current virus, the WHO and their failed vaccines program), would you be upset. If you like blowing a fuse because you disagree with something then that is where you are at, no judgement from my side.
    “In the developed world, adulterated vaccines designed to weaken the immune system serve the depopulation effort by targeting the old and civil servants, which is why annual flu vaccines are routinely administered to the old and forcibly administered, in some western countries, to civil servants. The old pose a burden on the national budgets in western countries where families are no longer extended but nuclear and the burden of caring for the old falls not on their children but on the state, which must provide and fund old age care centers. Secondly, all western countries have reached the fourth and last stage of the demographic transition and the ratio of workers to retirees is too low at three workers for one pensioner to be economically viable. The state hurries the death of the old by pumping them full of toxins under the pretext of flu immunization.”
    The point I’m making is everyone should be aware that any quick-cure vaccine might not be any cure at all. Do your own research.

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