OPINION: No surprise in big run to stores

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

Got milk? How about bread?
It’s bitterly cold outside, so bundle up on your way to the grocery store. And stock up on those “essentials.”
What is it about a snow or ice storm that triggers our brains to immediately drive to the nearest grocery store to stock up on milk and bread?
Is there some rule that requires the public to lose its collective mind and make that mad dash to the store?
But it’s like watching a NASCAR wreck – you just can’t help looking at the crash.
And last week, when the weather forecasts accurately predicted the region would get its fair share of snow, sleet and ice, it was no big surprise to see people race to the stores.
They started their usual it’s-getting-cold-I-better-buy-milk-and-bread run early, and sure enough, stores’ shelves got hit hard.
First to go were the bread and milk. And ground beef wasn’t far behind.
Many stores looked like picked-over Soviet-era shops behind the Iron Curtain. A mashed loaf of bread here and there. Big holes in the dairy counter where the milk should have been. And no meat.
Like Pavlov’s dog, we’ve been conditioned to run to the store when the temps fall and the forecast calls for ice and snow.
But grocery store owners aren’t exactly jumping for joy when they hear the forecasts. They really would prefer that shoppers avoid panicking.
A rush of customers that empties store shelves means other customers aren’t left with much. The panic buying also means extra stress on cashiers and stockers, who have to deal with a Black Friday-like shopping frenzy.
And suppliers can’t always keep up with the orders. One store owner I talked to said he had to make several calls to suppliers and he still couldn’t order everything he wanted because other stores were buying heavily, too.
Milk and bread makers aren’t cashing in, either. This one-time run isn’t sustainable and merely cuts into sales later on.
Some people suggest the reason for the panic buying comes from our need to have the basics. And among the basic food items are milk and bread. We go to the store at least once a week to buy the stuff, and if we think there’s a danger to the supply, we rush out to get it before someone else does.
That thought is repeated in hundreds, thousands, millions of other people, and so the rush to the stores ensues.
But why buy perishable items if you think you’re going to be stuck inside for a few days?
People who build emergency shelters stock their shelves with non-perishable items. They certainly don’t stock up on milk and bread.
Think of the thousands of items you can choose from that won’t expire as quickly as bread and milk. Soup, for example. Or Spam. That stuff keeps forever.
Or even better, peanut butter. OK, you have to have bread with that … and what goes better with PB&J than milk?
Maybe I better go get some bread and milk after all.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.