Why are people stockpiling toilet paper as a response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? The answer to this might be found by following an internet ‘paper trail‘ (like anything else found on the internet, I can’t attest to how true this is, but it seems reasonable):
It likely started in China where the motivation to stock up on white ply was probably consumers who thought that toilet paper could be used for tissues, napkins and to construct makeshift facemasks. It is probable that people did not realize that home made masks could not protect them – it only give them the feeling they had taken control. Even high quality masks are of limited value to healthy people, though they are of some value in limiting the spread of the virus if worn by people who have the flu.
As manufacturers in some countries ramped up mask production, greed and dishonesty also increased. In February 2020, a company in Vietnam was shut down when it was discovered they were using toilet paper to replace the antibacterial layer usually found in masks.
By the time the virus had moved on to other countries, hoarding toilet paper was no longer closely linked to using it for facemasks. The behaviour was almost completely irrational – a clear example of herd mentality fueled by social media and news coverage. FOMO — the fear of missing out, had become the prime motivation. When people saw other people bulk buying toilet paper, they thought there had to be a reason. Though they didn’t know the reason, they still felt they had to buy toilet paper too. They become fearful that if everybody else bought toilet paper before they did, they wouldn’t be able to buy any.
Apparently these hoarders were not comforted by the fact that a seemingly unending supply of toilet paper keeps showing up on store shelves… and the only reason there might be temporary shortages was because they had hoarded it.
The only upside to all this is the jokes and memes that are floating around the internet. Here are my favourites. Which ones do you like best!?