Allow Me To Explain: Panic Buying in America

Allow Me To Explain: Panic Buying in America

Moving to Germany I have learned so much about myself and my country. Apparently, allegedly we Americans are the worlds shittiest people. This isn't based on attitudes or aptitudes. Well we can be loud, stupid and closed minded. To Germans, we are superficial and rude which is like the kettle calling the pot black. We don't have any culture so that is that on that. Our land is only so old so we have no history as the streets weren't walked on by scholars and great thinkers just cowboys & Indians. And with the eradication of people and our young countries foundations we couldn't possibly have any traditions. This sentiment of us being trash all stems around something as trivial as food. What foods we eat. The food waste we have. And now that we are in the midst of a global pandemic where people are dying, the world is most concerned about our buying habits. Yes, Americans have horrible diets and even worse ideas around consumerism. We will buy you if you stand still long enough. But we know this already. We know. And I really do not need to hear from a culture that has an economic surplus and still buys people well after slavery ended about us buying everything. But that is another blog. Right now let me focus on Americans panic buying during this public health crisis of Covid-19 .

I'll start with the luxury of German Lebensmittel (grocery). First, a lot of people do not know that Germany has multiple reserves of sort for their foods. One example is their own soybean supply which controls the entire supply chain of processed foods, vegan products and cooking oil. I guess that explains the abundance of schnitzel and pommes frying all day long. As a server would say in a Jamaican spot "We no have dat". America has nothing they can say is exclusively theirs or that we reserve just for our own citizens - although we should. We may grow a lot of things and produce things like Twinkees and Coca-Cola but the apple is not our national treasure. We share what we grow and nothing is proprietary. We rely upon consistent trade, farming and controversial hybrids with and from other global enterprises. This is the only way we can have apple pie 24/7 365. And the idea that we can just preserve and package things is against nature. Some things have to be plucked off a tree at just the right time by an actual human to meet demand. Because of this our grocery just costs more. We can't create our own market, dictate better prices or tell people sorry apple pie will be back next year. However, Germany does this. Their nation waits all fucking year for a single type of asparagus. Try that here and fuck around and find out. I mean we can wait for cotton candy grapes but that nonsense about kale being a holiday food is utter trash. Also begging for foreigners to pick strawberries for the harvest that may not come is also trash. Seriously, Germans are trying to lure people with mini job pay out during a global pandemic for... spargel and strawberries.

Germany aside the entire EU and possibly other places I haven't been to have the luxury to buy some items they want how they want. Case in point ... bottled water. In fact any beverage sold in a quantity can be separated and bought individually abroad. I can walk into a store in Paris and snap a can of their delicious variation of Coke off a six pack and no one would blink an eye. We cannot do that here. We have to pay a convenience price for an individual can or bottle or buy a pre-packaged quantity. That may come in six, twelve, eighteen or twenty four. Or we can pay into a membership for a bulk store that allows us to buy ungodly quantities of things we really do not need. Hence all the viral videos of us at Costco, a place where Americans buy access for as high as $300 a year just to go inside of. So in order for us to amass a large amount of packaged water or any beverage it will appear we are panic buying or hoarding. I may just want one or four bottles but I am forced to buy 18. This isn't our fault. We send you all our imports and you purchase what you feel right? And no we don't just keep water on hand because we live paycheck to paycheck, own larger vehicles and have real kitchens. There is no reason for us to stockpile water or anything else because we seldom buy or cannot fit it in our tiny refrigerators. Do you see the irony? That is the European dilemma not ours. In Europe, people shop on average every two to three days. The average American family will buy a single pack of something and refrigerate what they may consume over a week or two. We will then get in our SUV and buy more as needed. Of course this differs depending on the size of a household, their overall income, tax bracket and region. But the average American family is not sitting on a cellar full of beer as there isn't a reason to. Germans and other Europeans are ... at all times. You all hoard all the time!

Have you ever witnessed a disaster in Germany? No? Yeah, no not me either. Germany has no storms, no tornadoes, no earthquakes, no mudslides, no droughts etc. (well maybe a few isolated events over centuries). There is no clear history or need for Europeans to stockpile anything outside of personal access and or greed. Americans go out and buy a lot when something is projected to happen. Our electrical grid is less reliable. We have food scarcity all the time. There are people living in "food deserts" where entire cities are lacking a grocery store. Some of us must buy as much as we possibly can get when convenient to us. Whether that is water, bread or paper products. And this pandemic and the rhetoric around it tells us this is the fucking end. We want to buy everything we can possibly imagine as we may run out of it. Many of us also believe we must buy not for two to four weeks but for a lifetime. My German husband likes three to four martinis a night so our office is well stocked with vermouth and vodka. He isn't stockpiling batteries or toilet paper. There is a store every 100 feet in Köln over stocked with these items at all times. The grid is strong so he isn't concerned about having a readied flashlight or a weather radio. Plumbing has never failed us in the three years were have been in an building built in the 70s. The faucet operates well considering there is no fluoride in the water and aside for mineral buildup it runs cold and tastes fine. Alcohol and other niceties are extremely cheap in Germany. He can buy spirits at most every grocery store or specialty shop. Most liquor is highly competitive with pricing, sales and incentives. In America, we still have dry counties where alcohol sales are not permitted thanks to our Puritanical European founding fathers. We also only have one state in the entire union that allows open carrying of alcohol so it isn't a convenient buy. Meanwhile Germans can go to a kiosk anytime they would like to wander with an open, cold beer. So why do Germans have balkons full of kastens year round? My husband has a silly obsession with glasses accompanying bottles in certain Rewes. Those multi buy and gratis offers that make Europeans crazy really don't exist here in the States. I mean they do but there is no value in my purchase but almost every weekend there's two Turkish guys with a  PA system set up in the Real throwing gifts and shots at shoppers. If we want to drink like he does it is an expensive and compulsive habit. Meanwhile my husband can waltz into an Aldi or Lidl and come out with four bottles of top rated vodka for under 30 Euros. That vodka ... one bottle here ... IS $30 plus!

Besides y'all's Oma's cook. We have entire generations who do not know how to cook and or appreciate home cooking, We have a demographic that relies upon prepared foods for their sole nutrition and survival. These people are expecting for Starbucks to stay open consistent hours and for the grocers, convenience stores, big boxes and fast casual restaurants to remain open. Germans and most Europeans are satisfied with bakery runs and cold on-the-go meals. They rely upon matriarchs to create one warm, whole food prepped and home cooked meal every day. Now I am certain there are takeaway types in Europe too but they also know that may not be available all the time. Americans want and expect service with no interruption. We dine out and take out more than anywhere and there is an entire industry of people who rely upon us to do that. Restaurant owners want their passes filled and table changes. Delivery drivers want to stay busy. Drivers and servers alike rely on tips. This is the American way. This idea that Americans are stock piling dry beans because we want to is absurd. The majority of us do not know how the fuck we are going to manage without access to prepared food and that doesn't mean McDonalds. We want boxed salads, power bowls and meat & threes too. But where do you all suppose we get that when we are to shelter in place? So yes we are buying excessive amounts of food and it seems impulsive and random. But for many of us it totally is so we are oddly getting 38 cans of corn hoping that will suffice. Those that cook will probably have some restraint as our pantries are stocked as normal. However, Germans buy a medium pizza and eat it directly out of the box with a fork and a knife. That same pizza serves a family over here. We do have some restraint. 

Then there is the unhealthy narrative. There are videos and think pieces explaining how we don't we buy fresh fruit and vegetables? We don't because of spoilage. If you have been paying attention only our rich 1% have been clearing the produce shelves. They have also been buying up more appliances to store more perishables having already filled their walk ins, wine cellars and summer kitchens. They can afford to hoard mass quantities of fresh meat, produce and dairy. The average American family may have a large refrigerator in comparison to Europeans but we are already actively using our freezers for ice trays and packs of chicken. There are moms with gallons of milk and breast milk pouches for their children. There are people with lifestyles and dietary needs whose crisper drawers are full with already rationed greens and bruised fruit. We also have people living in poverty and or rural areas that lack infrastructure. They do not have access to grocers or proper refrigeration. There are people in the United States living off the grid, on reservations, tent camps, in cars etc. and they have managed their food supplies the best way they know how. So there is a great percentage of Americans who cannot afford to buy more or hoard supplies. If a lot of us began stockpiling things like potatoes, kiwis or steaks there just wouldn't be anywhere to put it. Those that did panic without considering personal consumption or storage have green meat on their hands. They may also have non consumables they cannot donate, resale or return. Globally, there are a lot of people who do not know how to preserve, can and or own a vacuum sealer. Most people cannot hoard anything that will ripen or rot as they do not know how to sustain it. A lot of people are taking the risk because they do not know when they can go out again. And the prices for this kind of food is just too high to take chances on anyways.

I have been complaining about food scarcity since the moment I arrived back in the states. I explain this by asking people how many times have they gone store to store looking for a basic item only to come home empty handed. This is why cashiers ask "Did you find everything you were looking for?" because it is totally American to ask a question and not have any action behind it. I mean if I answered "No, I was looking for tomato paste and this is the third store I have been to today" he or she isn't going to go find me some. The reality is I have been looking for tomato paste long before the public health crisis announcement. It was and still is a rare item to find. I may be picky and forgoing some that is accessible to me but what I want is nowhere. Same goes for decent salted butter, long grain rice, celery root, fennel and arugula. I can find these things in almost every single shop in Germany big or small all year long. Here I have to "shop around" and since I've been back I have seen potato shortages, the absence of limes and a sudden decrease in cilantro (coriander). So yesterday when I finally saw concentrated tomato paste in tubes which I prefer ... I panic bought three! I want to believe the entire city is stuck at home eating chili and spaghetti but I doubt it. That product has just been constrained. But I can go in the fucking Netto and not only find this exact same product but various ones in different flavors and or brands. And trust me all of Germany is making their disgusting Chili Con Carne right now. People in other parts of the world do not know what scarcity is. They literally have everything and the only one off occasions where something isn't accessible is it is out of season, imported, too expensive and or not worth the hunt. In America, we are supposed to have everything all the time too but we actually don't. Some items are only in certain areas or available for the affluent. Some things we are simply priced out of like saffron or halibut. Meanwhile Germans are able to get such things in most every neighborhood at Rewe at a reasonable price.

Americans are experiencing serial price gouging. This isn't just happening in mass resale or black markets. Right now even our trusted grocery stores have hiked up prices for basics like bread, milk and eggs. Produce is an ever changing cost that has swelled in past weeks. I went from paying $2.99 for 3 lbs. of white potatoes to being ripped off at $5.99 for the same exact kind and quantity. I personally have had to make severe alternations to our household to endure that we do not waste money or resources during this time. I would love to be able to hoard but we cannot afford to. I have made dire choices to avoid certain foods based on their current prices. I have also considered things I normally wouldn't buy to sustain our household during these uncertain times. I have bought what I could like dry milk, dried beans, assorted grains and a variety of rice. The goal for me is to have foods I can cook and or eat without infrastructure. I believe it all will fail if not now when I finally get back home. I want my family here to have everything they need to survive this. I don't believe the American government - locally or federally - can sustain utilities and resources beyond 14 to 30 days. If people aren't working and businesses aren't making money there is a strong possibility that a lot of organizations and agencies will fail. This is also a prime opportunity for a lot of companies to take advantage either by gouging prices, restraining supplies, denying services or abruptly interrupting services we forget are vital to everyday life. Why would I invest in perishable foods, sources of entertainment or a stockpile of toilet tissue when there is no banking, no electricity or clean running water. 

As for the toilet paper I am sorry that other countries rinse or hand wipe their urine and feces. People in North America generally use indoor plumbing with proper disinfectants for cleaning as well as paper products for their waste. I admire other cultures that have embraced more economical and environmentally sustainable processes but only a limited amount of Americans can or will. The idea that we would forgo toilet paper for an unknown duration of time and adapt to other methods is radical. If an American household has 2.3 girls or women residing in it multiple rolls of toilet tissue will be used per week. Similar to our beverage quantities one can buy four packs of toiler paper products but most buy packs of eight, twelve or sixteen. It is also extremely expensive in comparison to European offerings. In Germany, I can buy a recycled paper product that is below average quality and 2-ply for about 2 Euros for eight or more rolls. If I purchased significantly better here in the States it would be $6 or more for less of an amount. In fact, the lowest quality tp sold at local discount and drug stores is sold three individual rolls for $4. Today in Sunday's store flyers four quality rolls are on sale with a rebate for $5.99. That tp is actually $8.99 for four rolls all the time! So if you have a household with multiple children, parents and grandparents the only way to survive a sheltering in place does require a shitton of toilet paper. And I can assure you that no one of any ethnicity or nationality would like to run out during an apocalypse to buy more. Again, kudos to those not foreseeing a constrained supply or owning a bidet but over here we enjoy our tp. I can also see that the UK and Australia also prefers theirs as they too have been fighting in grocery stores over toilet paper. And don't even get me started on those that actually have proper diets and corresponding bowel movements. No wonder some Asian cultures have just given it up! I am certain with all the piss poor choices Americans make with food we will keep that our usage to a minimum. 

I have stopped arguing with Germans or other Europeans about what Americans do or do not eat. Sadly, a lot of Americans will embarrass me when I try to argue that we too have healthy diets. There is always some rural American that pops up mid-discussion eating fried butter and sipping a 64 ounce Diet Suicide. The American body type which for most is bigger, hardly athletic and at times clothed sloppy doesn't survive just off burgers and fries. Most of us have a balanced diet but cannot afford to maintain that with healthier choices. Most Americans consume a lot of meat and dairy but not at every single meal like a German. A lot of us work to a point where two meals are perfectly acceptable which throws our metabolism out of the window. So many wake to a coffee only breakfast, a lunch of convenience and a single balanced meal at dinner. We have yet to say to ourselves we require nourishment or fuel to maintain ourselves at peak optimization. Europeans can make healthier choices due to availability and cost. A family sized yogurt is under a Euro, a carton of berries is under 2 Euros and a container of shelf stable juice is about 90 cents. If I opted for this breakfast here in America, which in Germany would not only cost under 5 Euros but could feed a household over a span of several days, it would cost me around $12. If I chose to make those offerings organic and or dairy free it would be cents on the Euro difference abroad but here it would easily escalate to over $18. Most Americans facing this choice are going to opt for just coffee or sugary cereal or the quintessential scrambled eggs. We cannot be concerned about the health consequences as we will not have a place to live or lights on only our $18 breakfast every few days. There are so many other circumstances that are out of our control that dictate how we eat, our health as well as our incomes. However, we are not eating Hostess Twinkies or Burger King for our daily meals. And sorry pommes mit mayo is a snack none of us can take on. We want to eat healthy and make better choices but in most cases we just have to succumb to what is accessible to us. At a time like this when fast food is closed and snack foods constrained maybe we will make hard choices for the better. However, I don't see us adhering once this all subsides. 

I am trying to be comedic about this but I am offended. A lot of Americans are. I am watching you. I am watching the world and a lot of these first world countries are also running out of food. The Ayn Rands and Darwins of the world are hoarding and we are laughing at you. If you choose to ignore the supply chain and poke fun at people overreacting that is your loss and our gain. It is survival of the fittest and being as healthy as the weakest link. If I choose to allow my mother to continually go out to shop as she normally does she may be exposed and make me sick. I have to protect her and our homestead, thankfully without a gun, but by keeping a well stocked home. The food we have chosen is actually healthy and the quantities are modest. Now we do have the occasional chocolate and soda but the plan is to continue to purchase bread, meat and eggs as we do not have the means to store it for a long period of time. As cities and states lockdown or force quarantine we wish to be ready. We do not want to feel like we didn't react and supply ourselves in time. Again, I am seeing empty shelves in Spain, France, Canada and Germany. We are not alone. And maybe because we aren't prideful or ashamed, we do buy more. I would suggest if you can to get everything you may need for well over 30 days as it may take that long to "flatten the curve". If you cannot get sanitizer, masks or gloves that is fine. Instead opt for basic soap, meds, vitamins and shelf stable food and drink you can sustain you and your family off of for the long haul. As Spring and Summer nears you must be mindful that what you can get now may no longer be harvested and to wait may be to suffer. At least here that is how it is. And for you it is inevitable. That is how it will be. Maybe forever.

What is mind boggling to me is people all over the world aren't taking real issues seriously? Do we really believe nations can "bounce back" from economic and agricultural strife? At this time most of us really need to be finding alternatives to maintaining food supplies. People that can afford it should be buying generators for their homes, neighborhoods should be going in together for one to power the  entire street and communities should start planting if they haven't already. If the climate will so called reset itself with us staying indoors, it would be ideal to start gardens for Summer and Fall harvests. Individuals and families can propagate from scraps and create composts. If we are all locked indoors for a month or so this is the time do that. Even those with a black thumb can regrow things like herbs, lettuce, celery and carrots. Those that can preserve and cook really need to teach others by making online content, going live or blogging. Soon people will require those resources to survive. If families are out of work, schools are closed and infrastructure is crumbling we have to take care of our own. Instead of watching viral altercations or waiting for governments to act you can get ahead of things. Take your money out of the failing banks and plant it into the damn ground! Or wipe your ass with it and leave us Americans out of it.