If you thought maybe it was just your local grocery store or Costco that either ran out of toilet paper (and paper towels!) or had extreme lines for a few rolls, it's not. Toilet paper shortages (and altercations over TP shortages) are happening globally. While running out of hand sanitizer or face masks is one thing, people are confused why some parts of the population decided it was a good idea to buy out the stores' toilet paper supply. TP doesn't protect us from or treat coronavirus, and it's generally manufactured locally.
So, why is all the toilet paper running out?
The answer? Panic and fear. NPR interviewed Professor Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Michigan, and he told the station that everyone is seeing everyone else buy toilet paper, so they're doing the same thing before the toilet paper runs out and they won't get any. Literally, we are only hoarding TP because we see other people hoarding TP and it's a vicious cycle.
Unlike a natural disaster that we can generally plan ahead for, we don't really know what's going to happen in a crisis like this one. The unpredictability is driving people to make odd decisions. Dr. Dimitrios Tsivrikos, a consumer and behavioral expert at the University College London, tells Sky News, "...in public health issues we have no idea about the time or intensity and we get messages on a daily basis that we should go into panic mode that we buy into more than we need to. It's our only tool of control."
You'd think that the ability to order anything we want, whenever we want it, would put our minds at ease — but no. TP is running out on Amazon Prime and Instacart.
It's unclear *who* exactly started this TP madness (Sky News reports that it started in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus outbreak), but the reasoning behind TP (and not other basic necessities — although many grocery stores have implemented water gallon rations as well) is probably because it would really suck not to have it. Plus, Dr. Tsivrikos suggests that people are drawn to TP because you can get a big supply (which is comforting) and it has a long shelf life.
What to do if you need toilet paper right now.
Fret not — as for now, it seems like Costco is taking the biggest hit in terms of TP supply. While it totally depends on where you live, do your due diligence and check Target, Walmart, your local grocery stores, or even the nearest gas station. We haven't completely run out of TP (yet). But if we do, just remember: You will not die because you don't have toilet paper. Many people do without! You can simply use water to clean yourself up, and no, you don't need to invest in a bidet.
The bottom line (pun not intended)? There's seriously no real need to panic buy truck-loads of toilet paper. Experts think the TP frenzy is beyond ridiculous. The clear path to victory here is washing your hands and avoiding contact with your face. That's it. Good luck, y'all.