Rolling in the aisles: Panic-purchases bring out the interesting

We have a five-kilo sack of jasmine rice in the pantry. Not because we’re panicking or anything, that’s just how we shop.

Woolworths is rationing toilet paper to four packs per customer and also plans to limit purchases of hand sanitiser.Credit:Rhett Wyman

We also have a five-kilo sack of red rice. My wife bought that by mistake a while back. It will come in handy now that supermarkets have added rice to their customer bag limits.

The restrictions come after Australians cleared the country’s shelves of toilet paper this week in panic-buying triggered by coronavirus fear.

There were reportedly ugly scenes at otherwise sedate locations such as Woolworths in Parramatta, where police were called after a man pulled a knife in a fight over loo rolls.

The Germans have a word for this, of course: hamsterkauf, which means “panic hoarding”. We can now add an Australian bolt-on to the portmanteau: toilettenpapierhamsterkauf. Right now, Australians have a much worse case of this than we do of the actual virus.

And Germans are no more immune to the panic than the virus: Der Spiegel reports shoppers have cleared Aldi shelves of tinned goods, pasta, disinfectant – and toilet paper.

You can tell a lot about a people by the way they shop, especially during a crisis.

Right now, Americans will be buying up assault rifles, bump stocks and cases of ammunition.

Italians are no doubt clearing their supermarkets of coffee.

In Australia, people are hoarding toilet paper. I have been struggling to understand why. It’s not like we import it: we make it all here, and by Friday, toilet paper factories in outer Sydney and Millicent in South Australia were running at full tilt to get supermarkets restocked.

A couple of weeks back I read that it might be worth (gradually) stocking up on non-perishable food by buying a bit more with your weekly groceries: the odd extra tin of tomatoes and chickpeas, a few more packets of spaghetti. I thought it could be a reasonable move. Carting toilet-paper away by the trolley-load didn’t occur to me.

With the coronavirus emergency coming hot on the heels of the bushfire summer, I guess something had to give in the national psyche.

The collective nervous breakdown has reached the highest levels of society, with the Federal Government responding to the crisis the only way it knows how: sealing the borders and threatening to put people in detention (OK, the border thing has worked. So far).

State governments, meanwhile, have their hands out for more hospital money (also not a bad idea).

And the NT News is making a joke of the whole thing, printing extra blank pages inside an edition for Territorians to hang on a nail in their outdoor dunnies. I’m surprised they couldn’t figure out a way to put it on the front page: a toilet-paper wrap, maybe.

We have six rolls of toilet paper left at the time of writing – three in the bathroom and three in the cupboard. Someone must have done a shop before the panic-buying set in. I don’t know how long six rolls will last. I guess we can use shorter pieces.

My son has 50 rolls in his share house: not because they are panicking, but because they subscribe to that toilet paper delivery service with the millennial-joke name.

I also have one small bottle of hand sanitiser. I bought it at the chemist last week, when there were still eight small bottles on the shelf. I wish I’d bought them all now: they would have come in handy when the loo paper runs out.

When that happens, the hoarders will be laughing. The Germans have a word for that, too: they call it schadenfreude.

Matt Holden is a Melbourne writer.

Source: Read Full Article