Let’s Talk About Hamsterkäufe

If you are confused about the word “Hamsterkäufe”, let me explain the word to you. In short, it’s a German term that describes people rushing into supermarkets to purchase things and stockpile (hoard/store) them at home. It is a combination of two German words, the animal “Hamster” (the German and English word is the same) and the word “Käufe” (purchases/buying). Have you seen a hamster eating? Right, it seems like their cheeks are stuffed when they eat and that’s basically the root of the saying “Hamsterkäufe” (plural) or “Hamsterkauf” (singular). We sometimes also just say “hamstern” as it is the verb for it.

Causes For Hamsterkäufe

Usually, you would probably see that mass hysteria happening in times of severe catastrophes, like in wartimes for example. But these days it can also occur for other reasons. Today, the main cause for this can sadly also be the scaremongering media coverage. What makes it worse is that many citizens aren’t able anymore to critically evaluate information’s, thus, they fall victim to the low-quality media coverage. But this is not how it ends. What is worse is that it starts a vicious cycle and even the most rational person will eventually start doing Hamsterkäufe as well, mainly as the irrational behavior of everyone else leads to a shortage of certain but important products. That’s when rational people get fear as well because when they see that products visibly run out of stock, it causes uncertainty. So, in short, at this point, everyone is rushing into the supermarkets to purchase as much as they can, in case the shortage will persist for a longer time.

How It Looks Like

Now I will share some snapshots I’ve taken when I went shopping in my city during times of Covid-19 news. This weekend I went into different stores as everyone did so to get the last available things. I’ve been to several stores of five different supermarket chains and in all of them, there was a shortage of very important products. Quite a lot of important products have either been sold out completely or there were only remainders. At the moment, very scarce products are milk and dairy goods in general, mineral water, canned food, baked goods, potatoes, rice, pasta products, flour, fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, plant oil, loo rolls, and soap. The cheapest products were scarce the most while expensive products often had a few remainders. Here are some pictures…

Interesting Observations

When most of the popular baked goods ran out, out of a sudden there was a high demand for flour as well. So, it seems like people actually start to bake their own bread in these times. The meat was still available last week but this changed during this weekend and with the high demand, it was now also difficult to get plant oil, which makes sense. All kinds of mineral water brands ran out but sugary drinks such as Coca Cola and soda are still available. This makes me think that people actually live a healthier life today. Same observation counts for fruits and vegetables. When rice and potatoes ran out, the wrapped products like wrapped fried potatoes ran out shortly after as well. Pasta became scarce too but this is a product group where you still can get a few packages. That makes me wonder if people are afraid about the fact that many of those products come from Italy, the European country where the Covid-19 cases quickly increased first. Finally, people are very concerned about loo rolls and soap!

My Personal Opinion

We should take Covid-19 seriously. Even if it might less likely to be dangerous for healthy people, it can be very dangerous for elders or those who have certain medical conditions. On the other side and as I mentioned previously, we should critically evaluate information because there is quite a lot of misinformation spread, even by established media institutions. And I don’t think that panic is a good idea. As seen in Germany right now, the “Hamsterkäufe” introduce very new problems to the whole situation. Now, not everyone can get what they need, this includes people who aren’t able to stockpile things, for example, those in need. While I try to stay updated on the whole Covid-19 situation, I must say that I am actually more afraid about the fact that a small panicking flock of sheeple can cause a vicious cycle and problems for everyone else, than I am afraid of Covid-19.

17 thoughts on “Hamsterkäufe

  1. That concerns me too Dennis. Of course, I am concerned about the virus too. Luckily I live in a rural area so I am not often in crowds but even in Tasmania there have been a few cases and you don’t know who you might meet going about your daily business. However, the hoarding behaviour of many is as big a problem especially for someone like me who can’t go about to different shops to look for things. If the shops that I can get to don’t have what I need or my supermarket delivery has missing items I probably won’t be getting them. I have enough of some items to keep going for a while but things like bread, milk, pet food and perishable goods could become a problem if this goes on too long. I may have to attempt baking bread. I haven’t done it for a really long time.

    1. There is a nice real-time map with global COVID-19 cases. It was interesting to look at it and I also thought about you one day and looked at Tasmania. It’s crazy how fast it spreads and I was surprised to find it in your area as well.

      Yes, right. When the hoarding started, I really thought about the elders who might not be as mobile anymore, be it because they don’t have a car or because of health conditions. Seriously, it’s nuts… today I was shopping for 4 hours. Like really, 4 hours to get basic stuff. From 3 pm to 8 pm I went through all kinds of stores. I’ve been to 5 supermarket chain brands, but actually to more than 5 stores as they have some in different streets. I was exhausted and thought about how older people will do it. I also thought about poor people who just can’t easily take 100 Euro and fill the shopping car. Not to mention, because I had that too in the past, those with social anxiety or depression. For them, shopping alone is already an ordeal. I bet I would have freaked out back then… that whole situation would have given me a severe panic attack with existential fears. Or those with other health issues.

      It makes me become a cynic. I can’t understand those selfish idiots who started the vicious cycle. I usually purchase for 3 days, sometimes also for a week like everyone does. But now I was standing in the shops and bought a little more too, to have enough for 2 weeks. Because I wondered, when is the next time I get something if some idiots stockpile for 1 or 2 months? I saw one of those hipster dudes in front of me with two shopping carts full at once… I thought like “What are you doing dude? This is not a war”. I seriously thought “If this is survival of the fittest, someone seriously needs to kick his ass” but internally calmed down because I am not that type of guy anymore. I generally understand people who come from villages with their cars and shop a little more because they don’t drive to the city every day… but people in the city, we have like more than 10 supermarkets per district. It’s absolutely not justified to fill two shopping carts but people do that now.

      Do people already hord in your area too? I’ve seen some stuff on social media… it seems to happen everywhere.

      1. There have been reports of people panic buying toilet paper in Australia. Even my friends in the Huon Valley have reported that the local supermarket was running out. I think this is why the stores were quick to enforce the buying limits and it is a good idea. I have always shopped for two weeks at a time. Even when David was alive we shopped for basic items when we got paid and then just topped up on perishable items as required. I believe you actually spend less if you are not going to the shops all the time as you never just buy the one thing you went in there for. It has made me well prepared for living in an area where you can only buy the most basic items locally. I walked into the supermarket in Wynyard last Thursday afternoon thinking I might buy one or two things that might not last till Wednesday when my shopping is delivered but it was so crowded that I just left. It was pension day and I think it is always like that on Thursday afternoons. I have been ordering the bulk of my groceries online for five years, since David got sick as it is easier with the heavy items than trying to carry them home. As long as the store sends everything on my list next week I will be OK. If they don’t I will have to get creative with what I have. I don’t think they will run out of pet food but if they do I guess Cindy and Polly will be eating the same food as me.

        1. Buying limits absolutely make sense at the moment. I hope they will do this here too. Online ordering groceries is a cool thing and it got more popular here too over the last years. I tried it out a few times and I would probably do it more often if there wouldn’t be several stores a 10 minutes walk away. I hope you will get all that you need. I prepared myself too in case I need to get creative… by having enough noodles and rice and different sauces and deep-frozen vegetables for 14 days. So far, cat food didn’t run out here in the stores either.

  2. An interesting and, I believe, accurate evaluation of this phenomenon. Here, it started with a run (no pun intended) on toilet paper. What?! How people decided that was the one thing they would need in a pandemic, I don’t know, yet they did. Then toilet paper disappeared from the shelves. Now, it extends to other things. I hope these “sheep” live to see the day how silly their response was to a real but over-hyped danger. I agree the constant media attention to this on a 24 hour cycle is a major contributor to the problem.

    1. Yes, it was the same here. First, it was toilet paper and only then water and other things followed. It seems it’s everywhere the same. I found a video from the Netherland of a toilet paper warehouse worker and I had a really good laugh… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wA4KS546rZo

      You described it well. A real but definitely over-hyped danger. The doomsday media coverage is a real problem, combined with the fact that way too many people aren’t critically evaluating available information anymore nor do they stay calm.

      1. I enjoyed the video! LOL! Anyway, panic buying creates artificial shortages that cause more panic, then, in America, I suppose gunfights in the super markets! LOL!

        1. Exactly, that’s the vicious cycle. People start to go crazy in Germany as well. No guns of course but a friend told me he saw people fist fight over the last bags of potatoes lol. Insanity.

        2. At some point, people will think, “I was an ignorant fool to buy so many perishable things in my panic. Now I have a basement full of rotting potatoes!” Well, more likely they never will get it. There’s a couple of brothers in Tennessee who bought up a whole lot of hand sanitizer and toilet paper with the idea of selling it for outrageous prices. They were outed and forced to donate it. Of course, they were shamed on Facebook.

        3. I heard this story yesterday. One guy was asked in an interview and he said he only wants to cut his losses lol… and he didn’t show remorse. He demanded like $80 on Amazon but Amazon banned his account very soon 😀 Now he was standing there like “What now?”.

        4. I’m glad people trying to price gouge are finding it isn’t happening! To hell with them, and I hope they all get stuck with hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of things they can’t get rid of!

        5. I’ve told many people about Hamsterfauf, and they all laughed when I translated! I think it is a perfect description of the phenomenon. What can I say? You Germans have a talent for describing social behaviors, my favorite being Schadenfreude! LOL!

      2. Hehe, funny. This is actually true. Sometimes when I looked for English words, there have been times when I couldn’t find a word that would describe something as good as the German words do. 😀

  3. > I am actually more afraid about the fact that a small panicking flock of sheeple can cause a vicious cycle and problems for everyone else, than I am afraid of Covid-19.

    I share the same feeling.

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