Wed. Oct 27th, 2021


Of course I refrained from it panic buy I own petrol, but I may have struggled to fill the car when the news first appeared. In defense I had to drive the girl to college the weekend and I’m going to need the fuel anyway. But all the other selfish and frankly alarmist drivers who flocked shamefully to gas stations the next day obviously have no such legitimate reasons.

Of course, by Monday morning, the government had decided that the chronic and apparently belligerent lack of delivery drivers was all our fault because we carelessly ignored our advice not to fill. If the Secretary of Transport says there is enough gasoline to go around, only a complete sociopath would have refused him to take his word.

In any case, it is clear that the whole problem needs to be solved by this weekend. This is the Conservative party conference in Manchester and not that many Tories want to abandon their cars in Stockport after the gas runs out.

Note, you have to applaud the government for its radical strategy to increase the prestige and wages of transporters. Other countries were content to fight the shortage of post-pandemic, but only this government has the vision to exacerbate it with its Brexit settlement. Or maybe it’s part of the pressure on electric vehicles. Suddenly, it is not just cars that have the range to get home. I can now see the slogan: ‘Would you rather not be stranded on the right side of the environmental road?’

What should be clear to all ministers is that there is nothing irrational to rush out to fill your car if the stock becomes irregular. Yes, panic shopping is irrational. But refilling your car when there is little gasoline makes perfect sense. What is less acceptable is to rush out to fill half a dozen cans.

Even less OK is owning half a dozen jerry cans. I can see the need for a reserve stock if you are a farmer or live in a remote place, but in cities we have these garages every few hundred meters (or at least earlier). I can understand the case for owning a can, but several?

This jerry-can business also needs a garage. I do not mind keeping a few bags of pasta or toilet rolls in my room, but I’m still struggling to figure out what we thought we would do with all the cans of tomatoes. But I am superstitious about leaving containers full of flammable liquid on the landing.

And honestly, people did not think it through. It can definitely only be a matter of time before jerry cans can be walked on. You need to ask if we have enough carriers to bring in all the extra cans needed to handle the emergency or the parts to handle the increase in demand. Before you know it, there could be an overflow of spare parts, and who can we ask for nozzles since Matt Hancock’s former neighbor is no longer an option?

The real concern is that this is just the beginning of the crisis. The places we used to call gas stations are not just there for fuel. They also offer life-saving stock Pringles at 11pm. Luckily, there are no reports of panic that Pringles has bought, but there are isolated cases that players have to deal with Quavers. More disturbing were stories that the stock of Cadbury Twirls was running out. This is a concern.

When we got back to the college drop-off this past weekend, we noticed that several service stations were putting up signs on the highway warning drivers that they did not have dairy milk. Interestingly, there are no reports of garages running out of Peperami sticks or air fresheners.

Of course, this is only the beginning of what looks like a pattern for at least the next few months. Purchasing a permanent state of panic can be an exciting new pastime, where each week offers a new goal for pursuit. After Eat Out to help, we can all look forward to standing in line to get stock.

Retailers are already sounding the alarm about toy supplies for Christmas. The fear is so great that I can get a few things for the grandchildren I don’t have yet, just to make sure they don’t miss out in the years to come. But if this is the natural state of affairs, we need to get on our feet quickly and check for updates on panicbuy.com regularly, which you can search for in Google by typing in Daily Mail.

Unfortunately, it is not easy to store a turkey early, despite the warnings, but there may be good consideration of parsnips, nut bread and plums. If someone needs canned tomatoes, I might just know of a supplier.

Follow Robert on Twitter @robertshrimsley and email him at robert.shrimsley@ft.com

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