Why do people “panic buy” when they fear a shortage, thus, apparently, making it worse?

The recent fuel “crisis” in the UK is a case in point. On Monday September 28th 2021, Mike Graham, the host of the TalkRadio morning program “The Independent Republic of Mike Graham” has been loudly and frequently snorting with derision and contempt for those who are “panic buying” and who are “making it worse”.


What is ironic is, that Mike himself is creating part of the “panic”. Once you discuss IN PUBLIC a possible shortage of something that people need for every day use you are making them aware of a possible problem in THEIR LIFE. Even if you are poo-pooing the idea of a shortage, it makes no difference.

Why? Because for everyone who hears that “there could not possibly be a shortage” the idea of “shortage” had not been on their minds. Now it is.


Having been advised that the item “fuel shortage” is now in the public domain how is an ordinary motorist supposed to react? First of all – if there is a shortage how long is it going to last? Answer – no way to tell because people are only talking about “no need to panic”. What to do? Fill up your tank (or tanks if you own more than one car) !

Why? Because it gives you more control over your life. Pure and simple. If you have errands to run, children to drop off and pick up, work to commute to, business to attend to, you are probably going to need to have the car available. If you car is not full then the correct step now is to fill it so that you can plan to attempt to do things so that the one tank of gas will last as long as possible. If the shortage turns out to be a rumor, at least you have full tank of gas. If it turns out to be true, well there will probably be rationing and if you start with a full tank, chances are good you will be able to cope.


If you do nothing? Well if it turns out not be true you might be inconvenienced by those who have decided to fill up but if you have enough gas in your car the whole thing should blow over. If it turns out to be true; then you are getting into the game late and now you are faced with the inconvenience – possibly- of not having enough gas for your needs. A huge potential problem for a person in many circumstances.


It is clear from the choices that, unless you have a full tank of gas already, the sensible choice, even it is only a rumor, is to fill up your gas tank at your first opportunity. Now that is not necessarily the best choice for society. This is what Mr Grahame loudly and frequently pointed out on his radio show. It also was loudly bruited around on social media about what ‘wankers’ people were to “panic buy”. Nowhere in the loud din was there the mention that maybe it was ordinary people trying to take the best course open to them THAT THEY COULD CONTROL.


And that to me is the crux of the matter. If you throw uncertainty into the lives of ordinary people, especially if the uncertainty deals with thing that they need to function. People will react. The smart ones will try to get as much control of the situation as they can. That is their responsibility.