A Pandemic of Grocery Store Greed: COVID-19 brings out our selfishness

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nearly empty grocery store shelves

I had to go to the grocery store today. Given the current state of things, I felt like I was gearing up to enter a battle zone as I walked in. I had tried to stay away, but my mother needed bread. So I went to the war-torn land currently known as Food City.

I had a plan: dash in, grab a loaf of bread, dash out! So I made a bee-line for the bread aisle, which, to my dismay, was still decimated. Literally all that was left besides hot dog/hamburger buns were 6 loaves of Kern’s Texas Toast style bread. I and about four other shoppers all converged on the aisle at the same time. Everyone looked at each other warily, waiting to see if someone was going to selfishly swoop in and take it all. I quickly grabbed one loaf and got out of the way. I didn’t stick around to see who got what, but I hoped everyone managed to get one loaf apiece.

As I made my way back to the front of the store, I saw what we have all been seeing for the last week or so: empty shelves. Most of the dry goods like beans, rice, and pasta were gone. Juice, cereal, milk, all looking pretty bare. I didn’t see the toilet paper aisle, but did I really need to? We all know what is going on with that. 

At the checkout, it was disheartening to see shoppers still pulling up with carts overflowing huge amounts of groceries when there is so little left on the shelves. Surely these enterprising people realize that by stockpiling insane amounts of necessities, they are taking away from what other people can get. But they do it anyway. I have to ask, when did people stop caring about their fellow man? When did selfishness replace brotherly love in this country? Shouldn’t we all be concerned with making sure our neighbors have enough, rather than being fueled by greed?

But I need to make sure my family is prepared!

I know some people might say it is foolish to be unprepared. In fact, multiple people warned me to “stock up” over a week ago, even though our government officials were still saying to just buy the normal amount of grocery items. But don’t you think that if everyone had listened instead of panicking that there would be no need to “stock up”? The grocery store shelves wouldn’t be bare if people would stop trying to hoard enough supplies to last through summer! That isn’t preparation; it is just plain greed.

Aren’t we are all supposed to be staying home as much as we can? But how can we when it requires multiple trips out over several days just to get the usual grocery items for everyday life? If people would just buy a normal amount of products, everyone could limit their grocery trips to one per week. This way it feels like we have to constantly check on which stores actually have our necessities in stock! And the continuing panic makes it seem like we can never buy enough.

It isn’t really that bad, is it?

Um, have you seen the videos of grocery store shoppers actually fighting each other for toilet paper? As in, throwing punches at one another? And surely by now you have read about the two brothers in Tennessee who ended up with 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer after they bought all they could find and tried to sell it online at an INSANE mark-up. (They also wound up with a federal investigation for price gouging, along with a cease-and-desist order.) They said they are doing a “public service” by selling these vital products to areas where none are available. Areas such as their own home state, where they themselves caused the product shortage to begin with?? Such an upstanding public service!

How about the people we are seeing on the news, handing out much-coveted packs of toilet paper or paper towels for free in some parking lot while a reporter films their altruism? Call me cynical, but it all feels just a little too showy to be borne from a true desire to help others. It would be far better if these people would just leave the products on the grocery store shelves where we can all get what we need, when we need it.

But there have been genuine efforts to help others during all this, too!

Yes, there are examples of kindness and self-sacrifice around us, too. The grocery store workers who are working tirelessly to fill those empty shelves again. The truck drivers, postal workers, and restaurant delivery drivers. Not to mention everyone working in the medical field right now! All shining examples of helping others during a crisis. Thank God for them and what they are doing for other people. But how about we all do what we can in small ways, too, and try to think of our neighbors before we sweep the grocery shelves clean? You may not want to wait out a quarantine without an endless supply of food, but you are causing harm to your fellow man by selfishly taking everything you can get your hands on.

After I described the grocery store scene to my mother (who is 75 years old and doesn’t drive), she actually said she was afraid to eat. She doesn’t want to run out of food and is afraid there will be none left on the shelves. Is this really how we want people to feel during a time like this? We ought to be rallying together, ensuring that we all feel secure and have enough. No one should be trying to look out for themselves at the expense of someone else. Is that really the way we want our country to be? I don’t. So, please, let’s not make things harder on each other. Let’s care about one another and rise up to meet this crisis with integrity, compassion, and love for our fellow man. That way, we all can be okay.



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