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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Tidd

Confessions of a Panic Buyer

Grocery stores have to tried to reassure us that there's enough. Local politicians have tried to reassure us that the grocery stores have reassured them. My neighborhood website has people shouting digitally, "STOP BUYING EVERYTHING AT ONCE."

And I've been over here, not making eye contact because I don't want anyone to know that I was one of the people who bought $400 worth of groceries in one trip.

Now, $400 might not sound like panic buying to you, but I probably would have spent more if there was more to buy. No, I wasn't one of those people who backed my truck up to the entrance of CostCo and drained them of every ounce of paper goods they had in stock. I was, however, one of those people who bought one big package of it weeks ago before the panic really set in. And I was so embarrassed that I did it - that I gave into the slow build of panic at the time - that I didn't even tell anyone and hid the package in the basement.

Yes. I felt shame about my package of toilet paper.

My sister told me that the toilet paper panic buying was because there was a rumor going around that paper goods were made in China and with their outbreak, we would soon be tearing leaves off trees to clean ourselves. But that wasn't why I bought it. A few weeks ago the CDC said to stock up on toilet paper and feminine hygiene products. So, that's what I did.

I Have a Long History of Moderate Hoarding

My tendency to over buy isn't a new thing for me. Even my mom has said, "When you were a little girl and you saw we were down to a half gallon of milk you made me immediately go out and buy more." I've always made sure that we have enough of everything. I'm a pretty good saver when it comes to money. My college roommates will tell you that even at 18, running out of toilet paper was a serious fear of mine. So, I'm not new to moderate hoarding.

I'm sure all of this has been exacerbated by the fact that I'm a single mom with three kids. After my husband died, I felt like I always needed to be super-vigilant and hyper-aware of anything that was going on. I needed to be 10 steps ahead of the next crises because I'm the only one I can really depend on.

It doesn't help that my husband was the calm one in the couple - he was always the one who talked me down from the ledge. He was also like MacGyver in that he could fix anything and probably make a trap out of paper clips and chewing gum to catch dinner if we needed it. I, on the other hand, have no survival skills whatsoever.

Useless Reassurance

I appreciate the news trying to calm us all down and it worked for a little while; I had confidence that our local leaders (not so much the guys way at the top) would tell me the truth about what I needed to do.

But that reassurance was shot to hell when I walked into the grocery store and the shelves were empty. I would imagine most parents looked at that mayhem and immediately thought, "I need to feed my children." The theory of "there's enough for everyone" didn't outweigh the reality of nothing in the meat cases. Again, no U-Haul trucks were used at any point during my shopping expeditions, but did I buy enough to see us through a few weeks?

You betcha.

This seems like a wildly selfish time to me and I feel like I'm falling into that trap. Right now, I actually prefer watching the doom and gloom of the news over reading what people are posting on social media. No one is right - you're panicking too much, you're not panicking enough, everyone's solutions are wrong - and people are ruthless in their interactions.

We've even just fallen into that in our own home. I've always been the parent who cooks and feeds any kid who walks through my door. But when my teenage daughter said that she and her friends wanted to pack a picnic and hike around the mountains, I reminded her that four sandwiches is basically an entirely loaf of bread right now and that each kid needed to bring their own lunch.

She rolled her eyes at me like I was completely overreacting and then stomped off in a huff.

But the parents I've talked to have agreed. If we need to help out a friend or neighbor because they don't have something, that's one thing. But feeding hoards of teenagers (who are supposed to be practicing social distancing anyway) is another. We've all been doing what we can to plan for our the unknown and that doesn't include throwing a sleepover for 10 people. Personally,I would never expect another family to feed my kids right now - I feel like that's my responsibility and not their burden. And I know other parents feel the same.

Facing the Shame of Panic Buying

This situation is so unknown. I feel like right now we're being vilified if we've stocked up on extra supplies...and then being told to stock up on extra supplies. "Don't buy too much...but make sure you have enough Tylenol for your entire family for two weeks should you get sick" (which is an amount of medicine that I would never have on hand during normal times). And I know that there are people out there who have grossly taken advantage of the situation for their own personal gain (that guy who bought all the hand sanitizer should go to jail).

But am I giving someone a dirty look at the grocery store when they buy a bunch of deli ham that I wanted, too? Nope. I have no idea what her situation is and who she's trying to feed. And I can relate to that panicked look in her eye when she sees there's no bread to go with that ham because I bought the last two loaves.

We're all trying to find that delicate balance of being prepared without going insane. I would think that if someone hasn't experienced that "I need to buy 50 rolls or toilet paper" feeling just once during the last few weeks that's more abnormal than the woman buying 4 packs of corned beef because that's all that's left.

Some day we're going to all feel like we're all in this together. Unfortunately, if I'm being realistic, I don't think that day is here yet.


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