Public Calm Wiped Away By Panic TP Buying

Is it socially acceptable to publicly discuss toilet paper? Although the Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette purportedly gives advice for every occasion, I somehow doubt that it touches on proper conversation during a coronavirus pandemic. Proper or not, I intend to talk about toilet paper (“TP”). I can’t buy any because the shelves are devoid of this hot product, so I guess all I can do is talk about it. And talk about it we should. Let’s be in the know about the TP buying craze and resulting TP shortage.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware that toilet paper is in short supply now due to panic/excessive buying. Social scientists explain that stockpiling is not an uncommon reaction produced by fear. Let’s admit it. Everyone is afraid of the coronavirus. And if you for some unknown reason aren’t, you’re an idiot. But why stockpile TP? Hand sanitizer and face masks I get because they may be used preventively to keep you well. But TP can’t protect you.

The explanation lies in that people are afraid when they feel a lack of control. Stockpiling whatever item it is gives them a sense of control. So, there may be a coronavirus apocalypse outside, but people feel better knowing everything is peachy keen in the bathroom which is amply stocked with TP.

The fear of running out of TP is not valid. The current shortage is expected to be brief. The TP industry typically has a few months of inventory on hand. Moreover, manufacturers report they have significantly upped production to meet the soaring demand. Normally around 83 million rolls of TP are produced daily, and more than 7 billion rolls of TP are sold yearly in this country. That’s a lot of TP!

According to industry data, 90% of the TP sold in the U.S. is made in this country too. Thus, the idea that we won’t be able to get TP because it comes from China which is on a lock down, is wrong. Only 10% of the giant rolls of paper used to make TP rolls comes from China and India. 

And how much TP do you really need even if you are confined to home with a shelter in place order? The average American uses 50 pounds of TP or 23.6 rolls per year. Hopefully, the pandemic won’t last that long. Actually you can get an idea of how long your household supply of TP will last by going to [HINT: You’ll need to estimate how often you go to the bathroom to get the answer.] This website not only gives you handy information, but it gives you good advice too. It states: “Not everyone is able to get to a store and stock up on toilet roll. (sic) Don’t be selfish.” Translate that to read: DON’T HOARD TP.

As I see things, if you can deal with the very worst thing that could happen, you can get through the situation. Worst case scenario? You run out of TP. So you simply use some common substitutes: paper towels, tissues, wet wipes, and printer paper. Or skip the substitute all together and just wash off with water in the shower. 

Since the kiddos are home with schools being closed, maybe you could turn the lack of TP into a history lesson. What did the Romans do? They didn’t have TP. They just found a stick and stuck a sponge on it. After using this device, they’d put it in a pail with vinegar to clean it for reuse. Talk about a historical reenactment….

Want to learn more modern history? With the advent of printing came bathroom reading. Kill two birds–er, subjects–with one lesson. Have your in house student read some of your newspaper (the paper kind and not the digital edition please!) or a few pages of a cheap book and then use them as a TP substitute.

How about some fresh air and sunshine to take away the drudgery of being confined to home? Time for a science lesson. Various leaves can serve as natural TP. Just make sure before use that your little darling is not holding poison ivy and that the leaf doesn’t harbor an insect. 

And let’s not leave math out of the fun home activities you can do with your student during the TP shortage. Take a poll as to whether they prefer TP to be hung over or under. Three out of five family members prefer over? That’s 60%. Just FYI, surveys show that 60%-70% of individuals prefer their paper over. Heck, at this point, aren’t we just glad to have TP to put on the holder whether over or under?

Humor can help you get through just about any situation–even a TP shortage. Real news stories about what people are doing under these circumstances are sure to make you chuckle. In Hong Kong last week, armed robbers held up a delivery driver and stole hundreds of rolls of TP. Unsubstantiated are reports that the robbers told the driver, “Give me all your TP!”

Some businesses are trying to help their customers weather the shortage in creative ways. An Australian newspaper, the NT News, printed an extra 8 blank pages in a recent edition for use as emergency TP. A newspaper spokesperson made clear that the paper didn’t think that this was “a crappy edition.” 

Who ya gonna call when you’re out of TP? Don’t call Ghostbusters and don’t call your local police either. Terrified residents of Newport, Oregon rang 911 to report a lack of TP. No, seriously. So many calls were received that the Newport Police Department were forced to issue a public statement: “It’s hard to believe that we even have to post this. Do not call 911 just because you run out of toilet paper. You will survive without our assistance.” 

Public servants that they are, the Newport Police did offer residents of their town some ideas on what to do. They suggested citizens try old grocery receipts, pages of unwanted catalogs received in the mail, and even the “empty toilet paper roll sitting on the holder right now.” Pointing out that a lack of TP was not an actual life or death emergency, the public statement concluded with these words: “There is a TP shortage. This too shall pass. Just don’t call 9-1-1. We cannot bring you toilet paper.”

One day we will all look back on this time and laugh. “Remember when there was no TP on the shelves?,” we’ll ask each other. Well, that’s in the future. For right now, having no TP on the holder in our bathrooms is no laughing matter.

Just WONDER-ing:

Are you surprised that there has been a run on TP? Confess. Have you stockpiled (hoarded) toilet paper? If so, did you do so with the fear that it would run out and be unavailable to you? 








One thought on “Public Calm Wiped Away By Panic TP Buying

  1. Love your humor and the researched information you provide to help your readers learn to “roll with it.”
    Thanks, Alice!


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