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Walmart “Panic Buying” Isn’t Just About Essentials — What About Hair Dye?

It turns out people need more than hand sanitizer and yeast.

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As the weeks drag on with hundreds of millions of Americans under shelter-in-place orders, much ink has been spilled as to the nature of what American re buying. Hoarding toilet paper, bleach, soap, and hand sanitizer marked the first wave of panic-buying. Soon after, reports of yeast and flour shortages made the airwaves as more Americans decided to start brushing up on their home-baking skills with a few fresh loaves of bread. Now? According to Walmart CEO Doug McMillan, people are buying clippers, beard trimmers, hair dye, and more. The products are simply flying off the shelves. 

While some outlets have referred to the sold-out hair dyes as a symptom of “panic-buying,” it’s clear that the term that describes the massive hoarding that American consumers have taken part in for fear of supply chains shutting down or a scarcity mindset isn’t really applicable here. Namely, hair dye isn’t an essential need, and it’s especially not an essential need in a time where most people need bleach, disinfectant, and pasta. 

People aren’t buying massive quantities of hair dye or stocking up on dozens of clipper kits. Instead, the shift in purchases reflects an American populace adjusting to a new normal — and honestly doing so responsibly. After all, hair cuts need to happen at some point — whether they’re in the form of a buzz cut or a stylish haircut a la Kim Kardashian’s hair-stylist’s Instagram tutorial — and clippers and scissors are essential tools to do that.

As for the hair dye — can’t people just have fun? Yes, dying your hair with box dye is always a risky move. But what else are we doing? Who else are we going to see? Why isn’t it the time to see if purple really does fit on you, when your only social obligations are a few Zoom calls a week that you can switch to audio should you wish?

Look, people just want to get creative and have fun. Some of these product shortages suggest that they’re doing so — and they’re doing so without breaking any social-distancing guidelines or stay-at-home orders. There are, in the end, worse vices to worry about, and more harmful panic buying to be hand-wring over.