Long lines and empty shelves in supermarkets. The Dutch stock up on mass sustainable food products and toilet paper. The approximately fifty distribution centers of supermarkets in the Netherlands are currently operating at maximum capacity to fill the shortages of stocks in Dutch supermarkets.
Hundreds of extra trucks will be deployed this weekend to supply the shops with products, director Marc Janssen of the Central Food Trade Agency (CBL) told news agency ANP. CBL is the trade association that represents the interests of supermarkets and food service companies.
Janssen thinks that after this weekend, the stocks in the shops will largely return to normal levels.
Limit on toilet paper and pasta
The hamster rage has further forced the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands to set sales limits. At Jumbo, the limits apply both in the shops and on the site, at Albert Heijn only in the webshop.
At Jumbo, this applies to hygiene and cleaning products and painkillers paracetamol and ibuprofen. “The maximum number is 2 pieces,” spokesman Rennie Vernooij e-mails. The relevant products are marked with signs, at the cash registers it is checked whether customers adhere to them.
Sustainable food is most popular
At the major competitor Albert Heijn, online shoppers have a limit of two on crates of beer, sets of several bottles of soft drinks and toilet paper. Customers can order a maximum of three packages of disinfectants and long-life foods such as pasta and rice.
The company only takes the measure for online customers, because it is easier to arrange there, explains Pauline van den Brandhof, spokesperson for the company.
In recent days, both chains have been selling much more toilet paper, towels, tissues and soap. How much more, the companies don’t want to say anything about that. Consumers also hoard longer-lasting food, such as baked goods, soups, canned vegetables and long-life dairy products, Vernooij reports.
Consumer psychologist Patrick Wessels is not surprised that people build up stocks in spite of calls from Prime Minister Mark Rutte, for example.
“Several scientific studies show that there is little connection between what we say we intend and actually do,” he says. “We hear Rutte and think: no, we don’t do that. But then we see that everyone is doing it, and then that good intention immediately goes overboard.”
The human brain works in three steps, he explains. “There is something unknown, like the coronavirus, where we don’t know what to do. Then you go do what others do and that’s hoarding right now.” That people do this is not to be blamed afterwards for not taking action, he concludes.
The hamster drive continues to affect the chain, for example at multinational Essity, the Swedish manufacturer of brands such as Tempo, Libresse and Edet toilet paper. The company was already running at full speed, but despite Friday some customers had to sell no, says Gertie Eikenaar, who is responsible for the company in the Netherlands.
Due to the hoarding behavior, production and distribution had to be further increased. The company had already done that. “Yes, we already felt wetness,” she says.
Isn’t pasta more logical?
It only gets really complicated when the border between Belgium and the Netherlands closes, says Eikenaar. “That can get tricky, because the factory is located in Stembert in Wallonia,” she says. At the toilet paper manufacturer, they also wonder why their product is so popular now. “Hoarding pasta, doesn’t that make more sense?” Says Eikenaar.
There is no shortage of toilet paper for the time being, if we can believe the cheerful video below.
Curbing the hoarding urge can be done by communicating clearly, says Wessels. For example, a limit on products only helps if supermarkets say this is so that everyone can buy it. “If you say that the limit applies because stocks are running low, it becomes competitive and aggressive, because it only reinforces the feeling of scarcity,” he explains.
“Let the consumer know that you are on top of it as a company, give them the feeling that it is under control,” he advises. “Just saying that people should not hoard does not help.”
Social pressure under the heading of #hamster shame could also help, Wessels thinks. “Hopefully you’re ashamed of death if you try to walk out with 10 packs of oatmeal despite all the calls,” he says.
The government could also intervene. A 1962 law gives Minister of Economic Affairs Eric Wiebes the opportunity to come up with rules to prevent hoarding.
Among other things, he could prohibit the sale or purchase of certain goods above a certain number within a certain period.