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The loo roll went first, multipacks of it, stuffed into the boots of family cars or carted home in carrier bags. Next was the pasta, tinned soup, dried legumes and – bizarrely, given that Covid at no point threatened the UK’s water supply – mineral water. Many scoffed at these coronavirus preppers in February, dismissing them as cranks. Then, as social media filled up with images of ransacked shelves, many went out and joined them. Supermarkets had the eerie, desolate quality of a disaster movie. It was weird.
But what became of these Covid stockpilers? In February, we met James Blake, the owner of Europe’s largest emergency food supplier, in a near-empty warehouse – freeze-dried macaroni cheese and chicken fried rice were flying off the shelves – when Covid hadn’t yet reached UK shores, but was already the only thing that anyone could talk about. He ran out of his stock within weeks of our meeting. “It’s been crazy busy,” he says. “When lockdown occurred, volumes skyrocketed. We did something like two or three years’ annual turnover in two months.” It has been frenetic work, getting all these orders out and sourcing more stock. “There were 10-week waits for some orders and people were still ordering, despite that,” he says. It took him until June to clear the backlog of orders.
In February, a 30-year-old property developer from Essex, who we will call Andrew, had stockpiled £100 of food and water, and planned to buy more. And buy more, he did. “I’ve got loads of tinned hot dogs left over,” he says. “They taste like shit, but I was starving the other day, so I made hot-dog pasta. It was diabolical.” Under his desk, he has two boxes of unopened bottled water, stockpiled just in case. “I’ve been watering the plants with it,” he says.
Meanwhile, Clarissa (not her real name), a 40-year-old student from Oxford, stockpiled 108 loo rolls in April, when the shops started to sell out of them. Because she lives in a residential street and did not want the neighbours to know, her husband hid the loo roll in recycling bags as he was carrying it into the house. (He had to visit multiple supermarkets, to circumvent the restrictions on bulk purchases.) “I saw the headlines about people stockpiling toilet paper, and I panicked,” she says. “I have a puppy and a small child. It would be disgusting if we ran out of toilet paper.” It took her a few months to work through her stockpile, which she stored in a shed, to save space.
Neither of the stockpilers I spoke to regret their decision to lay down supplies. “Nobody knew how this was going to pan out,” says Andrew. “I don’t feel vindicated. It’s more like I made the choice at the time that felt right for me, to protect myself.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘I’ve been watering the plants with bottled water!’ What the panic-buyers did next | Coronavirus