NEW YORK TIMES: "For Doomsday Hoarders, What Now?" - 'the most dedicated hoarders (they prefer the word "storers") are holding on to their 200 cans of tuna fish, 100 freeze-dried M.R.E.'s (or meals ready to eat) and 55-gallon water tanks as tightly as their convictions' : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

January 6, 2000

For Doomsday Hoarders, What Now?


In the 1950's, a small cult led by a suburban housewife believed that on a given day, a flood would wipe out all mankind, but for a few true followers who would be spared. In preparation, many sold their homes and possessions or quit their jobs. When the world didn't end as predicted, members of the sect still rejoiced: obviously the world had been saved to reward their faith.

Modest versions of this scenario appear to be taking place now in homes across the country. While the Year 2000 crisis never materialized, the most dedicated hoarders (they prefer the word "storers") are holding on to their 200 cans of tuna fish, 100 freeze-dried M.R.E.'s (or meals ready to eat) and 55-gallon water tanks as tightly as their convictions.

Far from feeling humiliated, they express "relief and gratitude and a sense of abundance," said David Gershon, the president of the Global Action Plan in Woodstock, N.Y., an organization that has consulted with other Year 2000 groups around the world.

Karen Anderson, the founder of Y2K Women, a support network that helped women prepare for contingencies, says that many members have told her how empowering the experience has been. (She has also received a few angry e-mails from those who felt they had been persuaded to overstock.)

Also upbeat is Kathleen Davis, the founder of Daniel Boone Y2K Preparedness Group, in Berks County, Pa. Yes, she has 15 gallons of kerosene, 15 more than she needs. ("I don't even know what I did with the receipts," she said.) But she's been wanting to try out kerosene lamps for a while. She also has a guard dog, which she and her husband bought for Year 2000 protection and which she will keep even though the bandits look like no-shows.

There's the pool she bought for bathing in the event of water shortages, but that's no problem, either. "We always wanted a swimming pool," she said. And anyway, she added, "We are ready for whatever might occur, anything else that might knock out the infrastructure."

Like many die-hard naysayers, Sandra Ghost, the author of "Why 2K?" (1998) and a resident of Meadville, Pa., is telling people to hold on to their supplies for at least six months in case there are residual effects from the Year 2000 computer flaw.

Most consumers are dealing with much smaller stashes -- the recommended three or four days' worth. Thirty percent of Americans planned stockpiles, according to an Associated Press poll. Lisa McCue, a spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, also reports that there was no major rush on stores to buy last-minute supplies. Serious storers started buying last year and bought a lot over the Internet.

Yet, even those who just got the basics aren't returning items or complaining: Year 2000 fears appear to have been a catalyst for the kind of emergency buying that many consumers ordinarily put off. Suddenly, that much-needed generator or flashlight was at the top of the list.

John Simley, a spokesman for the Home Depot, said that generator sales have risen significantly nationwide over the last year, a fact that he hesitates to attribute only to Year 2000 fears. Mr. Gershon, the consultant, agrees. "We bought stuff we would normally want anyway," Mr. Gershon said.

In the aftermath, returns of items appear to be minimal. "Nobody's brought back a large quantity of anything," said Karen Cervi, a cashier supervisor at the Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, Conn.

At the Pioneer Supermarket on Columbus Avenue at 74th Street, where the water aisles were cleared out last week, "No one is experiencing any returns," said the manager, Anthony Scerri. "Water sells. It's a commodity."

Return policies at local stores have varied, with a few stores taking a harder line. Sears, Roebuck & Company recently got some criticism for insisting that customers pay a 20 percent restocking fee for returning its generators.

DeLollo's True Value Hardware in Watervliet, N.Y., which hung a sign in the window saying, "Y2K Are You Ready?" refuses to take generators or kerosene lamps back.

Many major retailers, like the Home Depot, are sticking to their regular return policies.

Todd Hulquist, a spokesman for the Food Marketing Institute, a trade group based in Washington that represents food retailers, said, "Our retailers are accepting returns, with very little exceptions."

Perishables are tougher to return, even vacuum-packed ones, said Carole Munson, the chief executive of Millennium III Foods, a manufacturer based in Belgrade, Mont. Millennium III, which sells foods packed in double ceramic enameled cans, many over the Internet, has a 10-day return policy but has thus far received no returns.

Food Plus, a distributor based in Smithtown, N.Y., that sells Alpine Aire freeze-dried products, many of them also online, told customers up front that no returns would be accepted.

This year might, in fact, become a record year for charities.

"Any canned-food drives will do very well this year," said Steve Davis, the director of Coalition 2000, in Columbia, Md.

America's Second Harvest, a nonprofit hunger relief organization, hopes its millennium food drive on Jan. 15 -- to redistribute food and supplies that many Americans stockpiled -- will attract donations.

Mike Ferry of Meadville, Pa., who had a substantial stash of supplies, has started a local can collection out of his church.

Year 2000 preparations have also brought residents closer together. Kathleen Davis, of Daniel Boone Y2K Preparedness, said, "I came out of this with good friends I wouldn't have met otherwise and neighbors I wouldn't have met."


-- John Whitley (, January 06, 2000


My family and I are very happy about what we have done. We have enough for ourselves and our neighbors if there were an emergency, such as an earthquake (we're in California) and we should have done this a long time ago. We plan to keep things stocked, Lord willing. This was our answer to everyone at the beginning -- the most we stand to lose if things didn't go well was really -- nothing. If we didn't do something and things got bad -- that is when we all lose. We are a solution to the problem and not part of the problem. We even helped the economy -- if you want to look at it from that standpoint. So what's the big deal for the polly's? I can really only see someone getting angry if they abused their credit cards thinking they were not going to have to pay them because everything was going to go down. It looks to me like people got smart and paid off their debts and got themselves into better shape. Maybe the polly's are jealous?

-- Kim Scaramastro (, January 07, 2000.

You bet...I'm holding onto (and rotating) my food preps. Don't have 200 cans of tuna (about 120) but have 200+ cans of Staggs Chili, a couple hundred each fruits and veggies, about 50 cases of LDS food in #10 cans, 50lb. of Honey. and lots of other stuff...

It's about a half hour short of 1/7/2000 here....seems kinda early to be letting down my guard (and preps). Regards all....DCK

-- Don Kulha (, January 07, 2000.

From the title of this article, I was ready to spit bullets...but upon reading it, it seems fairly well balanced. Except for the fact that most of us didn't "overstock" if we aren't returning stuff. And I resent the word "hoarding" used in the title.

I found it an empowering experience and one I will continue.

-- Ynott (, January 07, 2000.

Somebody out there with more brains than I have answer this question for me. What the hell is wrong with hoarding? What do you think all those that work stocks and bonds are doing, they have high intentions of hoarding wealth. What is the difference in hoarding food or gold?

-- Notforlong (, January 07, 2000.

Here in the US, food is *so* cheap and *so* readily available that we tend to forget how precious it is, and take it for granted.

To *not* store a good supply of non-perishable food is the height of idiocy. It takes very little to bring that message home -- the loss of a job, illness, or other personal catastrophe will easily serve as the messenger.

As someone who's always believed in that common sense principle -- and, has *needed* his stored food on more than one occasion due to illness and injury -- I have no intention of going back to a hand to mouth existence.

-- Ron Schwarz (, January 07, 2000.

Ron, from your mouth to the polly's ears.

Just perfect.


-- Ynott (, January 07, 2000.

Hoarding comes before Security in the dictionary.

But, in real life, hoarding occurs after a disaster.

Go figure.

-- Joseph Almond (, January 07, 2000.

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