'Isolation Shopping' Has Us Making Some Weird Choices

These are the objects that now bear all of the responsibility for enriching our lives.
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
March 24, 2020, 5:52pm
'Isolation Shopping' Has Us Making Some Weird Choices

As more cities enact shelter in place measures and tell people not to leave home unless it’s to buy “essential items,” many are asking… What counts as “essential?” Generally speaking, we will all continue to be allowed to buy groceries, go to the drug store, and order booze (for pickup and delivery). But to keep people safe and mitigate the risk of overwhelming every hospital in the country, we’ve had to cut back on one of life’s greatest modern joys: Buying weird and dumb stuff.


Until recently, the internet was still a refuge for displaced anxiety shopping, but the time is now passed for ordering new things from the internet: Amazon has stopped stocking certain non-essential items in order to prioritize necessary medical supplies and household staples, and even if the fun stuff was available, demanding an already vulnerable, overworked employee to ship and deliver your impulsively bought Nintendo Switch verges on unethical.

Now, we’re reflecting on our admittedly underbaked purchasing decisions that now bear the burden of delighting and satisfying us for the (potentially) months of social distancing to come. Here’s a sampling of the absolutely non-essential items your friends and neighbors hoarded to prep for quarantine. See y’all on Animal Crossing, thanks to my impulsive gaming console purchase.

This puzzle

A banjo

A DIY “water feature” kit for bird baths

A knife-sharpening stone

“Sounds way more dramatic and ‘bunker lady’ than it is.”

A custom paint-by-numbers portrait of my dog

A Nintendo Switch

“I never play video games but the idea of spending potentially months cooped up like this made a $300 gaming system seem like a necessary purchase. Turns out it was, I love it so much already.”

Bulk cookie dough

Liquid latex

“To play around with horror makeup effects/work on a potential Halloween costume.”

A Grateful Dead box set

“Many people think Deadheads are weird so I guess this qualifies—it’s in transit now and will be enjoyed at very high volume.”


A lamb-shaped cake mold

A fucking bidet

A 10-pound bag of retired laying hens

“I had planned to buy them before this all started but then it seemed like an especially good time to take it on. Retired layers require longer cooking, and you basically have to make soup as a byproduct. I like to try new cooking projects and this is a good time for it. They were super cheap. I plan to learn how to cut them up into pieces.”

Stuff to grow weed

At at-home caviar kit

Microwavable White Castle sliders

A tie-dye shorts set

“I needed more stuff to wear because I’m not currently staying in my apartment, and I don’t want to be stuck in my high school drill team sweats and sorority t-shirts that I keep at my mom’s house for the duration of quarantine. This set is super soft and I will wear it again when This Is All Over.”

A piano

A denim vest for my cat

“I wanted something that was going to brighten the mood a bit. My cat actually loves wearing clothes, so I figured I'd find him something cute for the spring. This tiny denim vest was $8.88 (eight being the luckiest number in Chinese culture), which I took as a sign I should absolutely buy it!.”

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