Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Tell everyone not to panic buy and that's exactly what they'll do

LAST week's panic over petrol
was like something out of a film. Specifically, a scene out of Patriot Games, one of my favourite films of all time.

If you haven't seen it, and - like me - you prefer your films with car chases and explosions aplenty, then I urge you to go out, get a copy on DVD and enjoy Harrison Ford shooting at Sean Bean. Because, amid all the IRA-themed action, there is a message which serves as a bit of a bizarre metaphor for panic buying petrol.

In one particular scene Ford's character, the jaded ex intelligence agent Jack Ryan, gets paid a visit by a CIA boss, who's popped round to his house to let him know that a gang of Irish paramilitaries are a bit peeved off with him. The boss says it's nothing to worry about but Jack Ryan, being the quintessentially American action hero, works out that being told there's nothing to worry about is the something to be worried about. It's pyschology. Tell people there's nothing wrong and almost always they'll assume the opposite.

Which is why all you Jack Ryans out there, having been told not to panic buy petrol, immediately went out and bought loads of petrol. You were told to top your tanks up. You were told not to panic buy. Do NOT panic, they said. Yet the more you mention the word panic - even when it's preceded by the word “don't” - the more ingrained it becomes in your mentality. Cue the queues spilling out of every petrol station for miles around, and all this because of a strike that hadn't even been confirmed. People were brimming their tanks en masse at £1.45 a litre, a scenario made even worse because the Twitterati - a shadowy group connected with events going back as far as last summer's riots - were turning the panic volume up to 11. As soon as you even mention panic buying, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

With the local elections coming up I'm not allowed to get political and blame the Government. In the run up to polling day I'm not allowed to point out that David Cameron told you not to panic buy. Or that he did suggest everyone went out and topped their tanks up, just to be sure. Or that Francis Maude admitted telling everyone to bring their jerrycans and stock up on fuel was a mistake. This is a Champion blog and, naturally, we couldn't comment. Other than to observe that lots of you have been out panic buying at petrol stations.

Panic buying petrol. Panicking about people panic buying petrol. Just panicking in general. Don't do it. Please?

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