Virus panic-buying frustrating shoppers

Like most grocery stores in Cowley County, the Arkansas City Walmart’s supply of paper products, hand sanitizer and other disinfectant items get depleted quickly. Panic buying during the coronavirus scare has caused some customers to stockpile these items. Many stores have imposed purchase limits for the most sought after items, which also include eggs, milk, bread and other staples.

The fear over the spread of the coronavirus has led to empty shelves in many area stores. Customers have not only depleted supplies of paper goods and disinfectant products, but food items as well.

Jamie Byrd, acting manager of the Dollar Tree in Arkansas City, said that like most stores, they have had to put a limit on toilet paper.

“We actually hide it in the back so people don’t take more than what is limited already,” she said.

At the moment there is no need to ration. Thursday afternoon, the toilet paper was completely sold out.

Byrd said the hand sanitizer and toilet paper were the first things to go. She said with the kids are out of school, she has seen a high demand for snack foods, eggs and bread.

“We have eggs, but we don’t have any bread,” she said.

The Mini-Max grocery store in Winfield is also having difficulty keeping the shelves filled. Store manager Anita Hadley said panic buying has depleted not only the store, but the warehouse as well.

“I have no bread, no eggs, no milk,” she said Thursday. “I have very little meat, no hamburger, no potatoes, so it’s the entire store.”

She said the store is even out of Ramen noodles.

“That’s a weird thing to be out of,” she said with a laugh.

Hadley said their warehouse is working hard  to replenish stock but also is limiting amounts being sent to each store.

“I am limiting two of this and one of that,” she said. “Our warehouses are doing the same thing so they can try to get the stuff to every single store.”

Store managers at area Walmart, Walgreen and Dillon stores declined to comment, but shoppers were not hesitant to express frustration. 

Trista Snook said she had driven to multiple stores Thursday morning looking for bread and Clorox wipes for a friend. She eventually found some spray disinfectant, but was not able to find any bread, only hamburger buns.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Snook said. “I was shopping for an older friend who didn’t want to get out, I couldn’t find anything.”

Snook said she had never seen stores in Ark City so low on stock. She worries that she won’t be able to find the things her grandmother needs.

There’s no reason for people to stockpile items, Snook said, and she tries to only buy what she needs so others can get what they need.

“I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck,” she added. “I want people to be able to get the stuff and find it.”

Krista Jacobs, browsing at Dillons, said she was concerned about the lack of meat and canned goods. She has tried to stock up a little on some items, but not meat.

“We come from a family that hunts deer and fishes a lot, so we have freezers full of that,” Jacobs said.

Mostly she was shopping for odds and ends. Hamburger, eggs and milk have been hard to come by, and that does concern her. 

She has a lot of children at home who like milk.

“I just tell my kids, ’you can have a bowl of cereal in the morning and you can have one cup of milk and that’s it,’” she said with a laugh.

Jacobs has stocked up on hand sanitizer, and has been keeping the kids at home. She lives in the country so the kids have plenty of room roam.

“It hasn’t been too big of a deal,” she said.

Some citizens say that while the empty shelves can be frustrating, they still find ways to get by. Bob Barnett said he has been able to get most of the things he really needs.

“There’s a few things they’ve been out of, but then you make do with something else,” Barnett said. 

He hasn’t tried to stockpile items. He just buys what he thinks he and his wife will need, and they try to stay home as much as possible.

“I guess we got to do something about this,” he said. “The only way to do it is to do what they tell us to and stay away from public places.”

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