Why The Urge To Buy So Much Toilet Paper?

Sign on an empty supermarket shelf from panic buying during the coronavirus, covid-19 epidemic in Australia

It is a scary time in our world. We've never seen something like this before and it feels like it is right out of a movie! However, there is no reason to panic, at all. We aren't even experiencing a shortage of items, like water, fuel or food. HOWEVER - for some strange reason, people feel the need to HOARD toilet paper!? We have a family of three (certainly not big)...a case of toilet paper (24 rolls) probably will last us 8 weeks. During this pandemic, maybe I'd buy two packages, but would feel okay with one. WHY the MAD RUSH? Store shelves are bare, but there is plenty of water. Amazon is sold out completely, yet I could get anything else delivered tomorrow. NOT toilet paper. So weird, right? Below is an article that I found that dives into the psychology behind this rather bizarre behavior:

Why Toilet Paper Is the 'Icon' of Panic Buying:

  • The psychology:Toilet paper is sort of an "icon" for panic buying in times of trouble, Dimitrios Tsivrikos of University College London tellsCNBC. "In times of uncertainty, people enter a panic zone that makes them irrational and completely neurotic." In this case, we have the combo of a scary new virus and buyers looking to give themselves a sense of control. In that context, shoppers are looking "for value and high volumes," he says, and those bulk packages of TP do the trick.
  • No shortage:The weird thing is that the US imports less than 10% of its toilet paper, notes economist Jay Zagorsky in theConversation. If we got most of our supply from overseas, that would be a problem, but about 150 US companies make the stuff. Thus, there is no shortage of toilet paper in America, just temporarily bare shelves as people hoard supplies for the psychological reasons cited above.
  • Copycats:Also playing a role here are the images people are posting of empty shelves—and watching what's in other shoppers' carts. "People, being social creatures, we look to each other for cues for what is safe and what is dangerous," clinical psychologist Steven Taylor tellsCNN. "And when you see someone in the store panic buying, that can cause a fear contagion effect."
  • Craziness:ASmoking Gunitem notes the arrest of a man in Clearwater, Florida, for allegedly stealing toilet paper from a neighbor's vehicle. TheBBCrecounts a bigger theft overseas—armed robbers making off with hundreds of rolls in Hong Kong. And in Australia,9Newsposted video of this fight among shoppers after one woman loaded up her cart with bulk packages of rolls and wouldn't share.
  • Where to buy:Shelves are so bare in the US that USA Todayis running a list of where toilet paper is still available. That list includes Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe's. The newspaper also hasa listof where to get other hard-to-find items, including hand sanitizer.
  • Advice:TheWall Street Journalhas advice on how not to get gouged online when shopping for toilet paper and other items. But before the specifics on that, the piece includes comments from Chuck Bell ofConsumer Reports, who thinks people should calm down because supermarket shelves will be filling up again. If they can wait to buy, they should. "This situation will go on for many months," he says. "If there are shortages, one can reasonably expect that manufacturers will respond."
  • Novel solution:An Australian tabloid took note of the toilet paper freakout in unusual fashion: TheNT Newsprinted eight blank pages—for people to use as toilet paper in a pinch.

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