Why the toilet paper?

I’ve been thinking about that. I spend a lot of time thinking about why groups of people do what they do and this one has me somewhat puzzled.

While I’m not sure how it got started I have an idea about how it continued. Once the toilet paper started running low people wanted to make sure they would have some so they ran out to buy it too, which is a least not disease related irrationality. So the hoarding keeps going disease relation or no disease relation.

For the record I’m not participating in that. I’ll use the water in the bowl, my hand, and wash my hands before I join the flock in this.

Now as for how it got started, I don’t know. I’ve to find examples of the early people hoarding it to see what they thought they were gaining. Maybe the toilet paper was just in someone’s field of view when the hoarding instinct clicked on.


  1. kestrel says

    I read an article about this… here it is: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/heres-why-people-are-panic-buying-and-stockpiling-toilet-paper.html and what they say is (or at least, what I came away with) is that it’s a way of exerting control over something. When people feel they have lost control over their lives, they try to control *something* and buying toilet paper is super easy to do. Or at least, it was. And then, when people are scared, they tend to do what everyone else is doing, and in this case it was buying toilet paper. So everybody did that too, because that’s what they saw people doing – there were pics of empty shelves on the news etc.

    In my tiny town it was also soup and pizza. People are so weird, sometimes.

  2. blf says

    This is entirely from memory, and so may be garbled or contain inadvertent mistakes: The craze started(?) in Ozland, which apparently imports much of its toilet paper from China. Someone in Ozland “decided” (i.e., probably, spread a rumour) that meant there would soon be a shortage of toilet paper.

    Also from memory, bidets are suddenly making a comeback.

  3. says

    I got lucky. Last Monday Safeway had 12 rolls of a name brand paper for $4.99 which is a very good price, so I bought two of them. It was after that that the panic set in here. If I run out in the next couple of months then things are going very badly for me.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    One significant factor, though I don’t know just where it fits in the timeline: sensationalist False Noise personality Sean Hannity featured a video clip on his show of shoppers brawling over the remaining toilet paper in a store – neglecting to mention that this occurred in Australia – and set off panic buying by his addled viewers in the US.

  5. says

    I saw that one too. I don’t disagree with the consumer psychologist, but I want to the “patient’s” words for myself.

    Otherwise I agree about feeling lost control. There’s more to it than that though. It’s a collection of kinds of felt loss of control. I want to break them all down and look for vulnerability. People are weird, and that weirdness looks like flocking to me. The flock can be directed by anyone willing to try.

  6. says

    Interesting. A fear of imports affected by a the virus seems plausible as an irrational reaction if true.

    And other people reacting could be reacting to the percieved hoarding of others as much as the original worry. I hope this doesn’t happen too often before people find more rational things to do with the negative feelings.

  7. says

    That’s a pretty good example of triggering a hoarding wave. It’s so specific, swarming, flocking. I refuse to believe that it can’t be understood and gotten under control as a society. It’s got to be possible to get that focused on global warming or bigotry as a category of behavior.

  8. says

    I’m not surprised by the bidets. But I can’t help but notice that municipal water infrastructure and ones hand work too. Or a wash cloth. When you have it public water is great for rinsing. We’ve decided to become sensitive about feces. At least that’s what it looks like to me, I’m not really sensitive to body functions like most, I’m indifferent. I think it’s related to the tourette’s but can’t say it’s universal.

  9. says

    This is where my hoarder nature comes in: I buy bulk. I have, oh, maybe 200 rolls of toilet paper down in the storage and several cubic yards of rolls of paper towels. It’s easier to shift a pallet-load of stuff once a year than have to keep remembering to buy it.

    I suppose if I went into a panic mode, I’d wind up with *2* pallets of ${whatever} which would mean I’d be set for 2 years.

    The only thing I miss is milk and eggs, without which pancakes do not happen.

  10. says

    I think it’s reasonable to assume that people will want to know what a Covid-19 infection looks like. I can see how that could be on someone’s mind and hit could become a concern for toilet paper at some point. That fact could start or maintain a hoarding wave.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *