When the Singaporean government raised the DORSCON level from yellow to orange on February 8 according to Channel News Asia, panic had set in for some Singaporeans–which translated into irrational and sometimes harmful behaviour.
Groceries all over the island saw a surge in demand for what normal Singaporeans deemed to be “emergency” goods. These included canned goods, instant noodles, rice, and to some extent, tissue paper. Face masks and hand sanitizers were also in high demand, with supplies running out weeks before.
Reports have also said that the sudden demand then turned into a surge of cancellations as the panic passed.
While the COVID-19 situation hasn’t let up, a lot of the panic has subsided, leading to a lot of people with huge stockpiles of food they probably cannot consume or regret buying.
FairPrice CEO suggests people donate the excess food
Once the panic had passed, however, a lot of Singaporeans found themselves with excess supplies for their home, and probably a lot of buyer’s regret. Would they be able to return the goods they bought in a panic?
Marine Parade GRC MP and FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Peng said in a report from The Independent that in response to the panic buying he had witnessed firsthand, he had not allowed any returns or refunds on grocery items.
He said, “There was a minority group that criticised our move, but I would say, a large majority were in favour. In fact, many of them suggested to me that when this episode is over, that FairPrice should not allow people who stock up to return their excess goods to us to get a refund — this is actually our standard policy — this so as to teach people a lesson on buying responsibly and not hoard first only to return the stocks later. I thank everyone who have given me their various suggestions.”
Preppers or hoarders?
Perhaps fearing massive lockdowns (such as the one imposed in Wuhan, China, the virus epicenter, or a repeat of the SARS scare years before, some Singaporeans thought to create a sudden emergency stockpile of goods to last for a certain number of days.
The demand spiked so high in certain supermarkets such as FairPrice that it disrupted normal operations, and queues snaked all around the store, with normal shoppers being unable to complete their usual lists and having to put up with the surge of buyers as well.
Some branches struggled to keep up with supply, and even shopping services had to cancel because of a spike in orders for the same “emergency items.”
The situation got so bad that some groceries had to limit the amount of items people could buy. According to a report by Bloomberg, NTUC FairPrice sent out a statement that said, “to ensure more customers have access to high demand items… Each shopper can buy up to four packs of paper products, two bags of rice, four bundles of instant noodles and S$50 ($36) worth of vegetables. “
No need to panic
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself had to address the hoarding, as it was happening in such a widespread and repeated pattern across Singapore. In a Facebook post that same week, he said, “There is no need to panic.
“We are not locking down the city or confining everybody to stay at home. We have ample supplies, so there is no need to stock up with instant noodles, tinned food, or toilet paper, as some people did yesterday.”