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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic , hamster purchases will take place in many countries in 2020.

Hoarding (derived from hoard ), colloquially also called hamsters , means food , clothing or other things beyond personal needs (consumption or adequate coverage of the replacement risk) or to compensate for fluctuating availability (seasonal harvest, seasonal availability or only occasional procurement possibility ) to stock up on the necessary storage .

The preventive installation of emergency supplies at times of good supply situation is basically a positive measure of risk limitation for times of need with insufficient procurement options (e.g. famine ); it is therefore also recommended by the state. Conversely, the creation of stocks in times of inadequate supply is usually rated negatively, as it removes urgently needed goods from the access of other consumers and leads to an additional shortage. Nowadays the use of the word hoard usually has a derogatory connotation .


Food , cash , foreign exchange , gold or weapons , for example , are often hoarded . This type of procurement goes back to the strategy of all living beings to ensure the preservation of their own life, but also of their own species. Hoarding as a mass phenomenon can lead to undesirable consequences: in the Roman Empire, for example, the shortage of money ( deflation ) through hoarding led to the threatened collapse of trade. In times of political crises, therefore, attempts are often made to dissuade the population from hoarding through education and propaganda. For example, the civil defense book distributed in Switzerland during the Cold War contained drastic descriptions of the consequences of hoarding for the supply of the population. Plans were also presented to ration the main consumer goods to prevent hamster purchases.

Usually the phenomenon of hoarding is limited in time and ends when the reason ceases to exist, e.g. B. the end of a war. In countries characterized by a shortage economy , however, it can become permanent; in the GDR, for example, it was common to buy seldom available products immediately and store them when they were offered, even if there was no acute need.

A hamster purchase is understood to mean a purchase that is solely used for hoarding, the creation of a supply. Hamster purchases can - but do not have to - occur as mass psychological phenomena. The term is often used disparagingly when items that are being stored are always available (very high security of supply ) and / or when hoarding is viewed as unnecessary. The term itself can be traced back to the hamsters who collect food supplies in their cheek pouches and carry them into the burrow.


Berlin 1946: women before the trip to the "hamsters"
People board a train for a "hamster ride" ( Remagen train station 1947)

First World War and post-war years

Massive hamstering began in the German Reich in 1916. It was the result of the rationing , which was expanded to include more and more goods , but also the maximum quantities for domestic supplies that had been in force since May 1916. Hamster purchases had already started when the war began in August 1914, but were limited to mainly middle-class households. From the summer of 1916, however, increasingly extensive hamster trips to the country began, while attempts had previously been made to cover their own supplies by shopping at weekly markets and in city shops. Despite extensive moral appeals and increasingly harsher threats of punishment, the number of hamsters continued to increase in view of the supply crisis of the " turnip winter " of 1916/17. With growing malnutrition and hunger, working-class households also began hamstering. This was supplemented by the hoarding of goods by companies and municipalities, which disregarded the existing maximum prices. At the same time, there was growing surreptitious trade that bought goods and sold them in the cities. It was systematically fought by the authorities, while individual hamstering became increasingly accepted.

Hamstering reached its peak in 1919, then declined due to improved supplies of food and fuel. Due to the rapidly increasing inflation, hoarding of real assets began in 1921, the peak of which was reached during hyperinflation in 1923. It resulted in countless protests, some of them violent, and also looting.

World War II and post-war years

As early as the Second World War, hamster purchases occurred as a result of the war economy in Germany, and propaganda tried to counteract these through reports of hoarders discovered and punished.

Justified hamster purchases took place in Germany in the 1940s after World War II . During this time, the special term hamster rides was established , which became necessary because, especially in the first years after the war, the supply of food in the cities was insufficient. Many people took the railroad to rural areas and tried to exchange property for potatoes, eggs and bacon from the farmers . These rides were known as hamster rides or hamsters for short. Traveling by rail was affordable back then, so the few trains that ran were often overcrowded. It wasn't uncommon to travel long distances by train just to get a sack of potatoes. Often people rummaged through already harvested fields for forgotten potatoes in order to take them home. During this time, many valuable pieces of jewelry or silver cutlery were exchanged for a few sacks of potatoes or other food. Many also helped the farmers with the harvest for payment in kind. After the currency reform in 1948 , the shops filled with goods again and the hamster trips declined.

Since the 1980s

In 1986, after the reactor accident in Chernobyl , consumers tried to hoard unpolluted long-life milk .

In 1995, during the three-week French civil service strike, the population hoarded long-life food.

As of May 2006, due to the threat of the H5N1 bird flu, according to media reports, many private individuals were hoarding large amounts of drugs that allegedly contain substances that were effective against the flu virus.

The ban on the sale of incandescent lamps in the EU, which was set for September 2012 , led to hamster purchases because consumers did not want to accept the energy-saving lamp offered as a replacement .

In March 2011, after the Tōhoku earthquake in 2011, some hamster purchases occurred in Japan due to the nuclear emergency.

After sugar hamster purchases due to the large price difference, several grocers rationed sugar sales in the German-Polish border area in April 2011.

In February and March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, certain goods were partially sold out in supermarkets and drugstores in some countries, visible through gaps in shelves . The market research institute IFH cites the fear of not being able to shop as usual as one reason for the stocking of food and hygiene articles by younger adults in particular. The social psychologist Clifford Stott described stockpiling as a rational strategy in a situation in which, in the sense of a self-fulfilling prophecy, a shortage is emerging. He advised media coverage that highlighted examples of altruism and recommended solidarity among neighbors. There were also mass purchases of goods and resale at inflated prices. However, sellers who charged exorbitant prices were sometimes excluded from selling on online sales platforms. However, there is no shortage of food in the industrialized countries ; rather, delivery bottlenecks arise exclusively from the greatly increased rotation of goods , to which production cannot react immediately.


In economics , a distinction is made between saving and hoarding , depending on the objective of the economic activity concerned . In Marxism, for example, this is often referred to as “treasure building” (in contrast to the consumption or accumulation of capital ).

Money is hoarded at home, in a piggy bank, in the safe, while it is deposited as savings at the bank. In the case of hoarding, the money is withdrawn from the economic cycle with possibly unfavorable effects on the economy and employment ; in the second case, the money is available for investments if it is lent by the credit institutions to their borrowers . This view is not shared by all economists: there is also the view that the storage of value (without counterpart) is also one of the functions of money - and that “hoarded” money fulfills its function in the satisfaction of its owner's needs .

See also


Manfred Bluhm: Hamster rides by ship. In: Verkehrsgeschichtliche Blätter , Volume 64, Issue 8 (August 2017), pp. 145–151.

Web links

Wiktionary: Hamsterfahrt  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Hamsterzug  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: hoarding  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture: Food Provision - Private Provision . Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  2. uwespiekermann: Hamsters between individual self-assertion and social offense. In: Uwe Spiekermann. March 19, 2020, accessed on March 20, 2020 (German).
  3. Parisians flock to buy hamsters , archiv.rhein-zeitung.de of December 7, 1995
  4. ORF : tirol.orf.at , as of March 19, 2009.
  5. ^ Hamster purchases from Poland , Die Welt, April 14, 2011.
  6. Hamster purchases because of Corona: Young people in particular have stashed supplies. In: infranken.de. May 2, 2020, accessed May 2, 2020 .
  7. Hamster purchases through Corona: Who is actually buying what? In: absatzwirtschaft.de. March 30, 2020, accessed May 2, 2020 .
  8. IFH examines consumer behavior in times of Corona. In: handelsjournal.de. March 27, 2020, accessed March 29, 2020 .
  9. January Ní Fhlanagáin: The psychology of panic buying. In: rtl.ie. March 7, 2020, accessed on March 15, 2020 .
  10. Jack Nicas: He has 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and nowhere to sell them. In: thestar.com. March 14, 2020, accessed on March 15, 2020 .