Dear Supermarket Managers:

Learn from Black Tuesday. There was a run on the banks. Here’s how the banks that survived handled it:

  1. Day one: dole out withdrawals as fast as possible. Passers-by will see there are no long lines and no runs on the bank, therefore they will not add to the panic.
  2. Day two and on: Make transactions move as slowly as possible. This stretches out the supply of cash on hand for as long as possible.

Granted, there is no supply shortage this time, only a demand surge. But the same economics applies. Here’s how you do it:

MANAGE PUBLIC PERCEPTION. Make it look like you are fully stocked. Close until you can restock the shelves or create the appearance of being fully stocked. Then refuse to sell unreasonable quantities of anything to anyone, forcing people to only take what they need.

Our supply chain is optimized for just-in-time production where items move from the manufacturer to the shelves with as little delay as possible. This means there is no buffer. Therefore, limit the rate stuff goes off the shelves to match rate at which the stuff comes in. This will force people to chill the fuck out, because people cannot be trusted to do it for themselves. They’ll also stop worrying and soon go back to their normal patterns of shopping.

Make it happen under the guise of public health by escorting the shoppers into the store and making them maintain a safe distance from each other. Schedule shopping appointments and go appointment-only so there are no long lines. Make it more dificult for people to shop at your store, so sales are artificially limited. The free market fails society in these situations, so turn your stores into little dictatorships.

After people see things are back in stock and they believe they can get whatever they want whenever they want it, supply and demand will be back in balance again. But until that happens, you must trick people into believing it is so already, through whatever means necessary. Otherwise it may not happen naturally.