Baby formula madness: 'This happens every morning at Coles'
A BRISBANE woman has posted a video to Facebook of a group of women frantically stripping baby formula from shelves at Coles, accusing the supermarket of doing nothing to stop the practice.
"This is what happens every morning at Toowong Coles," Cindy Emma wrote on Tuesday.
"Same people every day literally running into the store fighting each other grabbing as much baby formula as they possibly can leaving the entire shelf empty laughing at me thinking it's funny when I questioned them about it. What are you going to do about this Coles?"
Brooke Keels described the video as "crazy".
"I had to take my daughter off formula a little early as I could find her stage ANYWHERE!," she wrote. "So frustrating that they can do this!"
Jacqueline Johnson said it "really makes me mad". "When my little boy was younger I got really sick and was unable to feed him myself and I could never get any formula it was always sold out," she wrote.
"Australia is already facing a [national] shortage when it comes to Aptamil formula, hence why most stores have a notice of two tins per customer," wrote Nakia Bourne. "Some people cannot breastfeed and rely on these formulas and people like this being so selfish and disrespectful is absolutely horrible. There is no respect."
Robert Steven Mitrevski was critical of the supermarket for not properly enforcing sales limits. "How rude of Coles allowing this type of customer to behave in such a manner and to not impose a sensible and realistic limit across all of its stores and enforce the message," he wrote.
"It is after all about sales and this company doesn't ... surprise me [at all] about its corporate responsibilities."
Baby formula and other Australian products such as vitamins and skincare products are in high demand among Chinese "daigou", or personal shoppers, who sell the products on social media platforms such as WeChat and ship them back to China at massive profit.
The long-running shelf shortages of infant formula, which have been causing headaches for mums since at least 2015, show no signs of slowing in the face of growing demand from China's estimated 50 million potential customers.
Daigou can rake in anywhere up to $100,000 a year and even into the millions.
In response to Ms Emma's video, Coles repeated that its stores "have a strict limit of four tins of baby formula that is enforced per customer", but many weren't buying it.
"Wow, you either don't care about your customers or you don't listen," Ms Emma wrote. "Do you think it's acceptable to have people running through your store to a baby [aisle] fighting each other for baby formula?
"I have spoken to your staff in store and have been advised ... that this is not the case, they are just as frustrated, they told me that these people change their clothes and come back and buy more.
"They told me there is nothing they can do about it even though they try to limit the amount they still buy more. This happens day after day, store after store, what are you going to do about it?
"They are lined up in the morning before the store opens, about 10 of them, the same people every day at the same store. It would be nice if you could tell the truth Coles instead of lying to your customers."
Coles replied that "we understand your frustration". "We expect our stores to enforce the four tin limit per customer," the company said.
"If you ever believe our limit is being circumvented, or you're having trouble locating a preferred type of formula, we'd recommend speaking with our store manager directly and they'll be able to assist you."
Andrew Sillick argued it was "about time baby formula went behind lock and key".
"Only way to get [it] is [if] a staff member unlocks it and get ID and it is stored on a database," he wrote.
"If [you] come back for more the system will tell you have got the limit for the day. Link it to all stores. Only way to stop it. Or have a card that only hospitals give out after birth with mother's photo on it. Matched to a computer system and if have husband has second person on card."
Last month, Brisbane mum Jessica Hook snapped photos of groups of up to eight daigou stripping shelves at her local shopping centre.
The 27-year-old said she spent "a couple of hours" each week travelling to different supermarkets to find the brand she needed.