The first days of March in the COVID-19 timeline had been significantly marked with widespread panic buying of all essential goods like disinfectants and toilet paper.
During this frenzy, it had become apparent that the apprehensive public had been infiltrated by unscrupulous people with the intent to hoard as much as possible for the purpose of selling these items later at a much steeper price. It was only when the government cracked down on the practice with threats of stiff penalties that the shelves had slowly begun to fill up again, and the proverbial wolves among sheep were held at bay. (As their defense, the profiteering tag was such a strong accusation, because their motivation at the time had merely been borne of a keener sense for business.) Talk about blood in the water and striking while the iron is hot.
Still, notices of online sales of these products began to stealthily appear in e-commerce platforms like Amazon, as well as in social media. While this had without doubt corroborated once and for all that hoarding for profit had been committed, it had likewise hinted at a more important and somber reality: because people were now in lockdown and not allowed outside, the stage had been firmly set for the internet to thus emerge as the remaining battleground.
With economic and business activities being characterized as accustomed to on-hand or direct negotiations, the quarantine call had halted all these, up to near-standstill. Also, trade and commerce slowed down, in some sectors considerably, because of work stoppages and the closure of industries.
Slowly however, this partial hum by the economy, except for some vital industries that remained functioning, had been replaced by or had shifted to, more active online activities (i.e., bill payments) and other forms of business transactions. Along with this, the rise of online direct buying and selling had likewise become the more logical and appealing options at this time for the people in their homes.
This “captive” market, with very few places left to go to, like say perhaps the sari-sari store or the barbeque stand at the corner, had suddenly become willing patrons to this torrent of online goings-on, which include groceries and food order services, and others, as though they were manna falling from up there.
Also, for a country hailed as the texting capital of the world, the use of online transactions, especially at a time with one’s back to the wall, does not come off as a far-fetched idea. On the contrary, it has come as the most sensible reaction to all the things brought about by the lockdown.
The latest online phenom, which is online barter had also become quite a common practice these days. Closely resembling the concept of the swap meet, the transaction involves arranged exchanges of goods between two parties, with lesser use of money and with more emphasis on mutual satisfaction regarding the swapped thingys.
Finally, despite the continued lockdown, quarantine, and social distancing brought about by the coronavirus, this new form of mercantilism rising seems to be just another but most welcome facet of the new normal. Let it be that sheep may have to again run with wolves in these new dire times. They have no choice but to do so. No choice but to be discerning of new realities if we’re all to survive.