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‘It’s crazy, worse than Christmas’ - a shopper’s tale during coronavirus pandemic

PUBLISHED: 14:24 20 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:55 20 March 2020

Supermarket shelves have been stripped bare with people panic buying. Picture: Submitted

Supermarket shelves have been stripped bare with people panic buying. Picture: Submitted

Archant

“I’m not panic buying,” the man in front of me tells the assistant as he wheels his precariously-piled trolley to the check-out. “I’m stocking up sensibly in case I have to self-isolate.”

So were plenty more, looking at the shelves. Calls to avoid panic buying seem to have fallen on deaf ears in King’s Lynn, where half the town must be battening down the hatches.

The town’s Hardwick Sainsbury’s was out of loo roll by lunchtime, along with washing powder and tinned dog food.

Ready meals were also flying out of the freezers, apart from the on-trend meat-free offerings. Maybe vegans don’t panic shop then.

MORE: Queues outside supermarkets before 6am after chains take action

A shortage of key household supplies is leading to 'opportunism' by thieves, according to Norfolk Police.  Picture: Chris BishopA shortage of key household supplies is leading to 'opportunism' by thieves, according to Norfolk Police. Picture: Chris Bishop

There were just a handful of hand washes left, so I snapped up a white tea and neroli, generously infused with jasmine and vitamin E. I’m guessing we can probably drink it if we run out of tea.

“I haven’t seen a chicken for a week,” says the woman at the check-out. “They’re all gone by the time I finish work and get to do my shopping.”

Fido’s luck was in across the road at Food Warehouse, which had plenty of dog food. Ready meals seemed to be the shopper must-haves here, looking at other people’s trolleys. But toilet roll and hand wash were a no-show.

Beanz meanz empty shelves at the giant Hardwick Tesco, despite a limit of three of anything. Everyone in King’s Lynn (pop 35,000 and counting) must have been in to empty a 60ft aisle. Toilet rolls and tea were also long gone.

An appeal to Sainsbury's customers to think before they buy  Picture: Chris BishopAn appeal to Sainsbury's customers to think before they buy Picture: Chris Bishop

Morrisons near the station was also loo roll-less. But people who shop there clearly don’t like their beans as much as Tesco customers. Know your demographic and you can shop strategically.

There was a curveball waiting at the check-out. No 30p carrier bags left. I raided a nearby empty till which had what might have been the last three, giving two to the assistant.

“Once they’re gone they’ll have to have the 60p ones,” she said. “It’s just been mad, it’s worse than Christmas.”

I notice a familiar face as I made my way to the door. A woman and her daughter who were behind me at the till a supermarket or two back. We compared notes on what we needed like racecourse regulars sharing tips.

The loo roll aisle at Tesco, Hardwick  Picture: Chris BishopThe loo roll aisle at Tesco, Hardwick Picture: Chris Bishop

“Arr yorl roight darlin,” she says. “Did yer foind yer dog food?”

I have a tip that the Co-Op in Dersingham is standing up better than most to onslaught.

MORE: Supermarkets hire thousands of extra staff amid virus outbreak

Smaller village, maybe a more community-minded clientele. No loo rolls, but beans, bread - and cat litter.

Shelves have been stripped of toilet roll at Sainsbury's. This is not the Sainsbury's the couple visited.   Picture: Chris BishopShelves have been stripped of toilet roll at Sainsbury's. This is not the Sainsbury's the couple visited. Picture: Chris Bishop

“We’re getting regular deliveries, so we’re doing OK,” says one staffer.

Outside two women compare the contents of their bags. One says: “It’s scary, what are we going to do when they run out of bread.”


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