PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- Long lines at the grocery stores and bare shelves are causing a lot of anxiety in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Many people are worried they won’t get the supplies they need to help them through the coming weeks. But economic experts say there is no reason to panic.
David Bell managed to get out of a Surprise Walmart with a single loaf of bread. It will last a couple days in his house with a wife and three young kids. He says the bread aisle has been bare, but on Tuesday morning, he decided it check it anyway.
“I was like, oh, it’s full so I’ll grab four loaves of bread,” says Bell. “One of the Walmart employees was like, 'hey, you can only have two of those,' and I was like, 'oh, ok, no big deal.'”
Bell says he turned to walk away with two loaves in hand, but that wasn’t the end of it.
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“I hear her talking to another customer saying, 'I can’t believe how selfish that guy is,' and the customer is like, 'oh, I can’t believe how selfish he is either,'” says Bell.
By the time Bell got to the register, he says another employee told him he could only purchase one loaf of bread.
“If they had a sign that said, hey, one thing or two things or whatever, it would have been no big deal,” says Bell.
"That is our goal, for you to have a couple weeks' worth of product that you need, not months and months' worth," said Mark Miller, president of Arizona Food Market Alliance.
“The problem is not the supply chain; the problem is panic,” says Hitendra Chaturvedi with the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
He says the pandemic caught retailers off guard. “The consumption is still the same but due to the panic, the demand has gone up dramatically,” says Chaturvedi. “What has happened is the forecasting models for these companies have never forecasted this so they run out of stock.”
Chaturvedi offers some words of relief. “Supply will come, it’s just a matter of another week, two weeks,” says Chaturvedi. “Stuff will come in stock.”
Bell is keeping things in perspective. He says his thoughts are with the grocery workers doing their best in these difficult times. “I know that they’re stressed out and things like that. I know they don’t have protocols for this kind of stuff,” says Bell. “I know everybody’s hurting the same and we’re all in the same boat. It’s just everybody’s got to try to help everybody out as much as they can.”
Like many grocery chains, Walmart has adjusted store hours to give employees enough time to stock shelves. A spokesperson forwarded a correspondence saying it’s up to managers to limit purchases to maintain inventory.