Hoarding: Toilet Paper, Gas, Gummy Bears. What’s Next?

Photo by Amit Lahav on Unsplash

I threw the gummy bears in there just to make sure that you were paying attention, but hoarding products is real! As someone who is fascinated by consumer behavior, this purchasing phenomenon is very curious to me. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the race to fill up our tanks is currently on, and I mean on, right now. The gas stations are all out, plastic bags hang depressingly on the pumps, and people are burning what little gas they have left driving around and hoping they can find someplace to fill up (and get to all of the places that they need to without running out).

It seems like we’ve all been transformed into opportunistic hawks searching for any sign of life at the stations we drive past. And who can forget last year when toilet paper was more valuable than gold causing fights and drama in grocery store aisles everywhere. I also flash back to my Florida days when the tiniest hint of bad weather sent people scurrying to the stores to stock up on as much water as they could carry (and anything else they could get their little hands on, too).

Underneath it all, however, we have to ask ourselves what’s amplifying these actions. Do we think that the zombie apocalypse is approaching? Are we just plain selfish? Probably neither. It has more to do with the fact that hoarding makes us feel safe and secure. It eases our anxiety about the fact that we may run out of something that we need, and reduces our risk of doing so.

Additionally, when faced with challenges, people like to do something about it, and take an action, instead of waiting to become victims. Hoarding gives us that control (we feel organized and prepared).

The good news about hoarding is that it is usually temporary and people adjust back to their normal buying patterns after a few weeks so don’t panic.

We can try to thwart this type of behavior by talking people out of over buying, or limiting supplies at stores (remember only two rolls of paper towels per customer, please!). Although annoying, this anxious behavior doesn’t last. And, hopefully, there will never be a shortage of gummy bears, because can you imagine all the disgruntled toddlers that there would be out there?

Charlene Walters is a business and branding mentor, entrepreneurship coach, corporate trainer, and the author of Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur.

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