Empty shelves and long lines: What was with all the panic buying during the pandemic?

In this Friday, March 13, 2020 file photo, shoppers browse empty shelves at a supermarket in Larchmont, N.Y, amid panic-buying due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

It was pretty common during the first and second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic to walk into a grocery store and see empty shelves—particularly in the toilet paper aisle.

Customers spent hours in lengthy lines just to get in to big box stores to stock up on necessary and not-so-necessary items alike, despite the fact that experts kept insisting there were no supply shortages. So why wouldn’t our brains listen?

In episode 4 of Life Unmasked, the team explores why we all felt the need to panic buy during the pandemic. Why was toilet paper the hot-ticket item when COVID-19 was not a gastrointestinal disease? Have our buying habits changed forever as a result?

Jon Erlichman, anchor of BNN Bloomberg’s The Open and correspondent with CTV News, joins Life Unmasked to talk about what panic buying did to the supply chain and how a province-wide shortage was avoided while University of Toronto Psychology Professor Steve Joordens explains why our brains went directly to panic buying in the first place.

Life Unmasked airs first on the iHeart app every Thursday morning before becoming available on other streaming platforms. If you have questions for the podcast team, or an idea for an episode, please email lifeunmasked@bellmedia.ca.