Stop the madness: save some toilet paper for others


NT News File

Stores like Mariano’s cannot keep their stock of toilet paper on the shelves during this pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak is prompting many Americans to stock up on various grocery and household items. Most of them make perfect sense—canned food, hand sanitizer, soap, snack food—but some items just don’t seem like the logical things to buy during a global pandemic. The most confusing? Toilet paper.

But why are people panic-buying to begin with? Grocery stores are still open in Italy, despite the rest of the country being on lockdown. Governor JB Pritzker ordered a shelter in place, but grocery stores are still open, among other essential businesses. 

When people are stressed their reason is hampered, so they look at what other people are doing,” said Marsden. “If others are stockpiling it leads you to engage in the same behavior.

“In the U.S., people are receiving conflicting messages from the CDC and the Trump administration,” said Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist at the University of the Arts London. “When one organization is saying it’s urgent and another says it’s under control, it makes people worry.” 

That worry has also, unsurprisingly, led to a legion of memes on the subject.

Since Marsden spoke, the Trump administration has taken this pandemic more seriously. They are working closely with the CDC to streamline their recommendations for Americans, including social distancing and staying home as much as possible. 

Another reason grocery store shelves are becoming bare in a matter of days is the theory that if everyone thinks the stores will run out of supplies, they want to get there as soon as possible to grab what they can.

This mentality does not just apply to reasonable items, such as eggs and canned goods. In a panic, people buy way more than they need of  necessities, and also items that don’t seem to make much sense. This is where toilet paper comes into play.

“People see photos of empty shelves and regardless of whether it’s rational it sends a signal to them that it’s the thing to do,” said Marsden.

In a world that is in panic, it is important to remember that for now, stores are still restocking. Things are only selling out because people don’t think they will be restocked, they see others grabbing handfuls of supplies, and they think they need to buy them too, before it’s too late. 

When shopping, be mindful of other people. Do you really need four dozen rolls of toilet paper? Do you really need gallons and gallons of water? As long as the water is still running, you don’t need to go out and buy your own. Though it might be hard to think clearly during this crazy time, try to think before you buy.