Selfish shoppers create supply shortage


Al Wood, left with some of his staff, is experiencing the biggest customer increase as people stock up on survival supplies. Image supplied

Shopkeepers say the fear around Covid-19 is a safety issue as people are revealing “selfish” and violent behaviours toward staff and other shopper. At Mountain Creek on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast last week pharmacy workers were at risk with customers coming into the store telling them they had coronavirus. While across the carpark at Woolworths a checkout worker is alleged to have had paper towel thrown at her head because she would not allow a customer to buy six tins of tomatoes due to the restrictions.

People have not only been stocking up on essential items, including medication, food and toilet paper, but security items such as baseball bats and machetes. This new form of behaviour is emerging at local shopping areas and online – causing a mass shortage in supply and dangerous conditions for shoppers and staff.

Mountain Creek Terry White Chemist pharmacy assistant Janene Hargreaves said people were so fearful and were not sure what was coming next. “It’s disgusting, I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.

Ms Hargreaves said they now mandatory limits on stock and keep particular items behind the counter. But she said people were still being “selfish” and making their purchase, leaving the store and returning minutes later to buy the same items again.

Janene Hargreaves is disgusted at behaviour being observed in the Mountain Creek Terry White Chemist. Image supplied

“We have a lot of children needing Ventolin puffers and we cannot get them,” she said. “This is becoming a serious problem and putting children in a very dangerous position especially with the allergy season at the moment and going into flu season.”

Sunshine Coast Psychology and Perinatal Centre psychologist Jacqui Marquis-Conder said Coronavirus poses a potential threat to feelings of safety and security. “When humans feel threatened their body activates the fight or flight response, resulting in decisions to avoid or take action,” she said. “We have been advised to have enough food and medical supplies on hand to last 14 days.

“Very few of us alive today have lived through a quarantine or rationing situation that is being suggested and as we have very little experience understanding what we might need in such a situation and we want to feel secure and in control. Therefore, our minds are telling us to get as much as we need and for some people this might lead to over doing it with purchases or even in some cases becoming aggressive.”

Survival Supplies Australia owner Al Wood said he has had a massive influx of new customers, with sales increasing by six times his normal trade since January because of the fires, floods and now the Covid-19 crisis. His supplies are preparing his buyers in the event of a nation-wide lockdown and providing items to get them through the tough times without needing to leave the house.

Mr Wood’s online store specialises in survival kits and bushcraft gear and services customers Australia-wide. His emergency long-life food items and security devices aid people through disasters – or a camping trip. He said he has customers stocking up on personal water filtration devices, survival food packs and security items, including alarms, baseball bats and machetes.

LifeStraws are selling out in Australia as people stock up in case of water contamination. Image supplied

“We sold two 40-foot containers worth of US long life food that last for 25 years in a period of three-and-a-half weeks,” he said. “It sold out two weeks ago, so we then moved over to a product that’s made in New Zealand that lasts for three-to-six years and we have been building our own kits that include breakfast, lunch and dinners – although that is expected to sell out next week. Some of our customers have bought six-months-to-a-year’s worth of food, but the majority are on a budget and are buying two or four weeks’ worth as they can justify it at the time.”

He said that his LifeStraw supply was also running very low with about two days’ stock left. LifeStraws are a personal filtration device that purifies liquid from anywhere to be safe to drink in emergency situations. His customers are worried about their water being contaminated and he said these devices help to calm their fears.

While happy that business is booming at the moment he realises it is only short-term as they can no longer acquire any more long-term food and suppliers are tightening up on deliveries from around the world. “Airfreight sits under your feet in a plane so supply chain has halted, and ships are being quarantined all around the world with shipments that can’t go anywhere at the moment,” he said. “At some stage we will no longer have anything of value to help anyone with their Coronavirus challenge, that’s when we will close our doors and wait the duration out like everyone else.”

Ms Hargreaves said she was “embarrassed to be Australian at the moment”, and advised everyone to only purchase what they need and not to panic as their behaviour of bulk-buying items that were not essential to them, could result in the deaths of others. Ms Hargreaves said hand sanitiser was a huge problem as everyone was desperate to buy it after Australians were being reminded to wash their hands a lot more to curve the spread of Covid-19.

“That’s one thing the Government and health authorities are telling everyone is a must and we haven’t had it for about three weeks,” she said. “We just found out from our supplier that they actually have the sanitiser, but they don’t have bottles to put it in, stopping the supply.

“People are quite stressed, you can see it in their face, they are acting out of character. We will still be open even in the case of lockdown – unless one of us get coronavirus. There is no need to panic we will be here.”

Ms Marquis-Conder said the constant exposure to information on screens and in conversations coupled with fictitious “end of the world” movies, provides the perfect conditions for anxiety to build.

She said self-care was a great way to prevent the building stress and anxiety in this unknown event and recommends adequate sleep, eating healthy, regular meals, exercise and drinking plenty of water. “We may not be able to control the spread of Coronavirus but we can take time for ourselves to tune into simple things such as our own breathing,” she said. “We can choose to take action in line with our values and to treat others well instead of taking our stress and anxiety out on them. Follow the advice of health authorities and speak to your GP about a referral to an experienced Psychologist if you are finding it difficult to cope.”

Psychologist Jacqui Marquis-Conder’s five coping strategies to deal with Covid-19 stress

  • Take five minutes each day to practice Mindfulness. You can use a recording or simply close your eyes and focus on your breath as it flows in and out.  Try not to get hooked by particular thoughts and instead just notice them.  This takes practice so don’t be discouraged if you find it difficult – everyone does when they start out.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. This doesn’t need to be too strenuous and remember to follow your health care provider’s advice.
  • Practice Gratitude. You can keep a journal or simply discuss with your family and friends the things you are grateful for in your life. Try to think of five simple things every day.
  • Avoid too much news and social media as it can be overwhelming and overstimulating for the mind and fuels anxious thoughts. Spend time doing pleasant activities alone or with family and friends who are calm and positive.
  • Follow your normal routine for now. Humans like predictability so we will feel better if we follow our normal routines and rhythms.