Kelowna shoppers increasingly frustrated as COVID-19 panic buying makes getting the basics harder - InfoNews

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Kelowna shoppers increasingly frustrated as COVID-19 panic buying makes getting the basics harder

Costco was stripped bare last night.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED
March 14, 2020 - 6:00 PM

Jana Niessen didn’t think much of the run on toilet paper when she read about it last week.

“I didn’t get into the panic buying,” she said. “I just thought, ‘this is a little crazy.’”

Then, this Friday, when she and her sons were down to their last six rolls, she had to go shopping.

“I went to Walmart, Superstore and Save on Foods (in West Kelowna) and I found nothing,” she said.

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This morning she checked her regular spots again and came up empty.

“Then I heard there was some at the grocery store in Peachland and I thought I’d just go there,” she said.

She found what she needed but was told a wall of toilet paper built just the day before had dwindled to a scant supply by the next morning and the staff there believed it would be gone by night’s end.

Costco shelves were emptied this week as panic buying reached a fever pitch.
Costco shelves were emptied this week as panic buying reached a fever pitch.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

“I didn’t jump on the crazy bandwagon, but now that I see how it’s affecting businesses … it’s all a bit nuts,” she said, adding that in her shopping adventures she saw that the Tylenol shelves and bread sections were also stripped.

The same was true across the city.

Costco, in Kelowna, started the day with a robust lineup and traffic didn’t slow down until closing time.

One woman, who asked not to be named, said the bread, meat and canned food sections were stripped bare, making for an unusual shopping experience.

Her cart ended up being filled with the “most random items” simply because of the scarcity of needed supplies.

Despite the lacklustre shopping experience, she did note there was staff on hand with disinfectant wipes for the handles on the carts, which could go some distance to providing a germ barrier.

That said, store patrons were standing shoulder to shoulder in a time when one-metre distance has been recommended.

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While it may seem strange, panic buying in the face of crisis is pretty common, Eric Li, an associate UBC Okanagan professor who studies human and market trends in emergencies, said.

Li said people are motivated by fear for themselves and their loved ones and what they see on social media creates the frenzy. No one needs five packs of toilet paper for the next month but we see people doing that because people follow others, he said, calling it panic buying.

For all that natural fear, however, provincial medical health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry today asked that people reconsider their actions.

“Be calm,” she said. “Be reassured that our supply chains are strong and they are restocking the shelves … we don’t have an issue of not having enough supply.”

The supply is there, she said, asking that people “not hoard and don’t have anxiety provoked shopping.”


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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