Chaotic scenes as panic buyers swamp supermarkets

Even before stepping foot inside a Coles in Sydney this morning, it was clear that something unusual was happening.

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As hordes of shoppers rocked up at the store’s entrance in Westfield Eastgardens, they lined up to grab antibacterial wipes from a dispenser to wipe their trolleys down.

Security guards with walkie talkies and high-vis vests watched on closely to make sure everyone was behaving themselves and forming an orderly line.

Customers lined up to wipe down their trolleys.Source:Supplied

The line for the check out snaked around the entire store.

The line for the check out snaked around the entire store.Source:Supplied

Inside, a line from the self-check-outs a mass of bodies and trolleys snaked around the entire front section of the store right down to the frozen goods.

Where there should have been essentials like pasta, rice and tinned food there were just empty shelves and forlorn-looking shoppers scratching their heads. Even the curries and pasta sauces were gone.

Trying to suss out where the toilet paper was, I tried to speak to a member of staff who was frantically stocking up tissues.

Visibly stressed, his only response was a hand gesture as if to say “I can’t help you”.

A fellow shopper overheard, approached me and confirmed I was wasting my time.

The pasta section was stripped bare.

The pasta section was stripped bare.Source:Supplied

All of the flour had vanished by 10am.

All of the flour had vanished by 10am.Source:Supplied

“It’s supposed to be in the next aisle over, but it’s all gone,” she told me, looking exasperated.

Within minutes of arriving, it had turned from a super busy day to scenes of madness.

“This is how people are going to get the virus,” one shopper Rowan Shaw told me as he lined up to pay for his weekly shop. “Everyone panicking here together like this can’t be a good thing.”

Wedged between shoppers, told me he couldn’t find basic supplies for the weeks ahead. He was now starting to worry.

“Look, I just think everyone needs to calm down,” he said. “At the end of the day there’s enough of this stuff like pasta and toilet paper to go around.

Coles has just introduced new measure to stop panic buying.

Coles has just introduced new measure to stop panic buying.Source:Supplied

“There shouldn’t be this mad rush of people. There should be a better way.”

Similar scenes have been playing out at supermarkets around the nation today after stores introduced new measures to curb panic-buying.

Coles announced overnight that, from today, it will limit the purchase of pasta, flour, dry rice, paper towels, paper tissues and hand sanitisers to two items per customer.

Other items may also be restricted but on a store-by-store basis.

Coles’ chief executive office Steven Cain said staff had been working “as hard as possible” to get more products on shelves – but more action needed.

“As the situation around coronavirus continues to develop, we believe that everyone in the community should have access to their share of grocery items, particularly the elderly,” he said.

The company will also be following Woolworths in temporarily suspending change-of-mind refunds to discourage over-purchasing.

There were similar scenes in other stores, like this one in Marrickville, Sydney.

There were similar scenes in other stores, like this one in Marrickville, Sydney.Source:Supplied

“If you have already purchased additional items you no longer want, please look at donating them to community organisations or neighbours who have been struggling to purchase them during this time,”

“We will get through this together,” Mr Cain added.

Woolworths has also recently revealed a list of extensive shopper restrictions.

In addition to limits on toilet paper, hand sanitiser and bulk packs of rice, the supermarket giant has imposed limits on tissues paper towels, serviette and wipes.

Meanwhile, Woolies CEO Brad Banducci has issued a grim message about toilet paper supplies as Australian continue to panic buy.

In an email sent to hundreds of customers, Mr Banducci said toilet paper “won’t be available for pick up orders for the time being”.

“Limits are now in place on toilet paper, wipes, paper towels, serviettes, rice and some other items,” he said.

Toilet paper continues to be in short supply.

Toilet paper continues to be in short supply.Source:Supplied

“Our toilet paper suppliers continue to work on meeting increased demand, and we’re working with some suppliers to prioritise the production of smaller pack sizes, so we can make more packs available to you this week.

“Our team will be happy to see if toilet paper is available in store when you come in to pick up your order.

“We’ve been working hard to keep our shelves stocked and delivery and pick up windows available.

“However, as you are no doubt aware, demand is still very high and products are being bought more quickly than usual when they arrive in store.

“These remain challenging times and with the situation evolving.”

Mr Banducci said Woolworths had augmented its cleaning and hygiene practices with “an extra 4 hours of proactive deep cleaning in each supermarket every day”.

He also said if any customer or employee of at any individual supermarket was confirmed as having COVID-19 “we’ll let you know in that store”


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