Coronavirus Toilet Paper Shortage – Is it Real and What to do About it

Is the coronavirus toilet paper shortage real? Why are people hoarding toilet paper and other supplies?

We’ve all heard the hype by now. The COVID-19 is pandemic. There’s talk about the labor losses, the supply chain breaking down, and everything closing up. And now the shelves are emptying – fast. But is there really a shortage? Or has our panic just prematurely backed up the supply?

There’s been toilet paper shortages in the US before…

There was the one in 1973, for example. Johnny Carson jokes about it here. Previous shortages never lasted more than a few days. And there’s no reason to expect it to now. Or is there a reason…?

There’s a fine line between panicking and being prepared. Sure, it’s good to be prepared, but when it’s driven by fear, you’re no longer preparing, you’re panicking.

Here’s what global panic can do…

I heard about people panic-buying on Thursday evening, and didn’t think much of it. Friday, I did my usual grocery shopping – which I have delivered from Walmart, and love it! Toilet paper was removed from my list because, as the delivery guy put it, “Shelves are completely empty.”

This morning, since I was still low on toilet paper, I went in to the local grocery store (a different one) and found that they were restocking the shelves. Stacks of toilet paper boxes littered he aisle.

The clerk at the store was adding blue stickers to the shelves. “These are the brands that will not be sending any more,” he told me with certainty. There was a blue sticker on just about every tag on the shelves. “This is real,” he went on. “There’s a shortage. It’ll hit when the supply runs out.”

An hour later there were two packages left – not boxes, but individual packages of tp rolls.

Are the manufacturers of toilet paper really not going to send anymore?

No. Big businesses like toilet paper companies aren’t big because they folded every time a challenge hit them. Never mind the blue stickers. Yes, they may struggle keeping up with demand, however, this is not the end of toilet paper.

The good news is the stores are limiting the number consumers can purchase at a time, which means there’ll be some left for us, allowing suppliers to catch up. Just go early in the morning after they’ve restocked and don’t buy more than you need.

Why are people hoarding toilet paper and other household staples?

There are a number of reasons that motivate a person to such levels of panic. Here are just two:

  1. The need for certainty – when times are uncertain, it’s natural to want to find a way to feel like you’re in control. Stocking up is one thing you know you can do to prepare for the uncertain times ahead.
  2. Fear – which can stem from the need for certainty. In fact, there are varying levels of this need. It can manifest as fear and panic, or a healthy preparation. It’s a basic human need that no one can escape. The fear, however, is unnecessary, and can be avoided by not feeding it things like hype in the media.

Does all this mean there’s a toilet paper shortage in the US?

So…back to the questions: is there really a Coronavirus Toilet Paper Shortage? Or has our panic just prematurely backed up the supply?

We don’t know if we can take one grocery store clerk’s word for it – even if he does know if supplies will be coming in or not. Or one grocery store’s experience for that matter. The only things we know for sure are that supply is low right now. And panicky shoppers were buying supplies by the butt-load.

If people are unnecessarily panic-buying, it doesn’t matter that it’s unnecessary when they’re depleting the inventory.

So…what is the best way to handle this? What can you do now?

It makes sense to pick up an extra package to carry you for the next two weeks or so. Be conservative with it, and wait for supplies to come in. But you don’t need to hoard. All that does is hurt others who need it, too. Like we said, there’s just no way this is the end of toilet paper.

If you’re really worried about running out, there’s one way to conserve your own supply: you can always find another way to wipe your butt. It’s possible; you can decrease your dependency on manufactured staples, one wipe at a time…

It’s just an idea, but… Have you heard of the fresh water sprayer? I’m told it can save you up to 80% on your use of toilet paper. And they’re not very expensive at all.

Okay, that was kind of a joke.

The alternative is you can panic and use this time of depletion to pay a butt-load for off-the-market toilet paper from some shady guy who saw the disaster coming and stock-piled it just so he could rip you off.

Kidding! Don’t do buy from that guy. In fact, boycott these people. These are the people with the shady websites that look like it was put together overnight. They have minimal company information, near to no reviews, and want an arm and a leg for the toilet paper (or sanitizer or lysol).

They’re taking advantage of good people in a crisis, when they’re probably the biggest contributors to the shortage.

If they’re going to be shady about that, who knows what else they’ll do to try to rip you off. You’re better off sticking to the major retailers like Amazon for now because they can at least be held accountable. Purchase your one extra package and wait it out. We’re all in this together.

What to pull from all of this…

I know we talked around a lot of it. Here’s the bottom line: There is no need to panic buy. It’s the panic that’s causing the bulk of the shortage, not the coronavirus quarantine. Just buy for a couple of weeks, no more, and the stock will come around. It always has and it always will.

Learn more about the coronavirus 2019 here.

The Latest