What is “panic buying” that currently bothers consumers?

Panic-driven purchases have recently returned. Emily Mayer, researcher at IRI, and Fanny Parise, anthropologist, shed light on the question.

The cicada has sung / All summer, / Was very robbed / When the north wind came.”: the time for songs is over, make way for provisions! commonly called thepanic buyingliterally panic buying, a specific consumer behavior that is currently rampant on the shelves of supermarkets and hypermarkets.

Concerns about the availability of sunflower oil and rapeseed due to the war in Ukraine have prompted some consumers to purchase these products. Overall, oil prices rose nearly 10% in April, according to IRI. However, there are solutions. And according to IRI expert Emily Mayer, the supply of sunflower oil is sufficient until October.

So how to explain this unconscious fear of lack materialized by the “panic buying

Different types of behavior

For a better understanding it is necessary to go back to the sources. The god Pan is the god of the wilderness. It is of this mythological origin that the adjective “panic“: this emotional state would be driven by”invisible and mysterious forces of natureaccording to the CNRTL dictionary.

It is precisely this behavior that we see among consumers who are currently running to the store for the precious sesame, sunflower and now canola oil.

These consumers, however, are far from completely irrational, as Fanny Parise points out. According to the anthropologist, there are different logics of actors and the working class, which has few other choices, follows perfectly justified strategies: you have to buy before prices start to rise. This overconsumption can be explained: every individual sees consumption as a safe haven, as in the 20th century it was synonymous with wealth, Fanny Parise said.

“People see this logistical crisis as a crisis of modernity. †

Fanny Parise

Furthermore, the emotion in the face of this crisis is in the face of change, which creates a sense of lack. The fear is that of seeing the end of a routine, precious and stable in this period when periods of crisis follow.

The anthropologist also notes that the “panic buyingpoints to a Manichaean tendency to want to categorize individuals as good or evil: on the one hand, irrational individuals throwing themselves on bottles of oil and on the other, “the spoiled children“, to use the eponymous title Fanny Parise. This term denounces moralizing individuals in his work, “without class consciousness criticizing the consumer society while allowing the system to continue

More and more repetitive

The supply chain disruptions caused by atypical mass purchases are like a holdover from the first incarceration in March 2020 with a return of a form of rationing called “quota», about elementary products. † I had a colleague, mother of four, who couldn’t even get enough yogurt for her family during the first lockdown.testifies Emily Mayer, who called the “ panic buying” like a “collective punishmentIn the endthis echo to thepanic buyingof March 2020 seems to predict the cyclical nature of this phenomenon.

This behavior should become a structural element of our society in our society of plenty, emphasizes Fanny Parise. Especially since the vagaries of the weather, according to Emily Mayer, that are becoming more frequent, amplify an inflation that is still cyclical today, but could become generalized. And with it the risk of shortages and a tendency to “panic buyingaccording to Emily Mayer, would become more and more repetitive.

Perhaps we still have to dance, as our good La Fontaine suggests, to make the rain fall? However, oil is unlikely to fall from the sky…

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