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What is a Feeding Frenzy?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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Feeding frenzy as a term first applied to the crazed and excited way in which sharks consume food. The presence of food in the water can lead to hundreds of sharks snatching and grabbing bits of food as quickly as possible. The initial use of the term feeding frenzy has migrated to its use in many types of businesses, and often refers to a frenzied effort to acquire either a product, or something like stocks or bonds.

In retail, huge sales after Thanksgiving in the US can provoke a feeding frenzy of sorts. For example, a few years ago, Wal-Mart offered DVD players for 29.99 US dollars (USD). The price was limited to the stock on hand, and thus when the doors open, people raced into the store.

In Rohnert Park, California, others attempting to get to the stock of DVD players trampled a woman in her sixties. Though the woman proved to be merely bumped and bruised, she was the victim of a feeding frenzy associated with low prices.

Occasionally, hard to find collectibles may provoke a feeding frenzy as collectors vie for the opportunity to own something rare. This may occur in an auction style event, where bids are fierce and quick and go much higher than the actual value of a piece, or a site like EBay selling a few hard to find collections can cause a feeding frenzy of activity.

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Legitimate stock tips, like rumors that a company is about to go bankrupt or to be purchased by a larger company can create a feeding frenzy in the stock market. In this case, many people may wish to buy or sell large amounts of stock, and they want it done “right now.”

The term feeding frenzy might also be applied to people attempting to acquire tickets for a popular Broadway show or musical act. For example, generally when Barbara Streisand announces a concert performance, people quickly flock to their telephones to get tickets as soon as they go on sale. Usually performances are sold out within an hour or so, and more performances may be added to allow more people to see a performance.

In general the feeding frenzy has several identifiable characteristics:

  • Something rare is offered.
  • The rare thing offered is offered for a short time only, or in limited supply.
  • The response is very quick action by a large number of people.
  • The response provokes chaos and unusually aggressive behavior.
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