The urge to stockpile (Hurricane Isabel)greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
The urge to stockpile when faced with disaster -- even when it's unlikely to happen -- is as old as the hills
Saturday, September 20, 2003
Call it the economics of anticipation. Last week, as large swaths of the East Coast of North America braced for the arrival of Hurricane Isabel, the weather, for once, was more than just a topic of conversation: people were actually trying to do something about it.
"We always see the same buying pattern whenever there's a big storm warning," says Willie MacDonald, manager of Amherst Hardware in Amherst, N.S. -- a 25-year veteran of the business. "People don't forget the past and the ways they've been hurt. They always try to avoid repeating the experience."
Although the storm turned out to be a bit of a fizzer, experts say it is human nature to prepare for the worst -- even when it is unlikely to happen.
The rush to buy batteries, flashlights, generators and sump pumps has profound psychological roots: humans typically try to super-impose order and structure during periods of chaos and upheaval.
"The war with Iraq, the power blackout in Ontario, the fires in B.C., these are classic triggers for certain human instincts, like hoarding," says Daniel Lagacé-Séguin, a psychology professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. "We're hard-wired to behave that way, even if we know intellectually we can't change what's about to happen."
He says people also cope with uncertainty by taking action. "It just makes us feel better to do something, anything, to feel prepared rather than just helpless."
Although many Canadians are still well-equipped after the widespread Y2K jitters at the end of the last millennium, for retailers in the hardware business, the instinctive, human response can still mean big business.
"I've been watching the Weather Network on my computer all week waiting for more news about the storm," admits John Mansz, national product merchant at Home Depot Canada. "We carry about four to six weeks inventory of most items, so we don't make huge adjustments right away. But we do alter displays to meet demand -- when it snows, we also put out more snow shovels."
He says in times of perceived crisis, consumers will typically snap up whatever is available -- regardless of price.
Still, David Smith, manager at Mannion's Pump House in Ottawa, says that despite the storm warnings of the possible impact of the remnants of Hurricane Isabel, there was not the regular strong upswing in demand for disaster gear, like the spikes during the 1998 ice storm and following the power blackout in Ontario in August.
Maybe we are getting better at controlling our emotions, or maybe we simply just don't believe the weather forecasters anymore.
Still, homeowners should be fully equipped for when -- or if -- disaster strikes . Then, you will be well prepared for tough times.
Once you've stockpiled the beef jerky, evaporated milk and freeze-dried entrees, what will a modicum of psychological satisfaction cost?
more of the article here
-- Fallback (email@example.com), September 21, 2003
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-- Alex_o (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 10, 2004.
It's interesting that the message about spyware was also posted on this old message thread as well. I certainly could be wrong, but I'm going to assume it's a veiled warning not to post on this old y2k blog spot (TB2000).
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-- Mike (email@example.com), February 11, 2004.