Why Are People Stocking Up on Toilet Paper?

Why Are People Stocking Up on Toilet Paper?


If you take a look at the average grocery store today, you’ll see empty shelves. Whenever another COVID-19 surge makes the news, people start panicking. This emotional response leads them to start stocking up on what they feel are essential supplies.

For many people, the idea of an essential item evolves flour, beans, lentils, or rice. If you want to prepare your home for an emergency, bottled water might be part of that investment. 

Stocking up on paper plates, toilet paper, napkins, and similar consumables doesn’t make sense. Yet, when you go to the grocery store today, TP is the first thing flying off the shelf.

Why are people buying toilet paper instead of food? 

We Live in a World Filled with Uncertain Information

Although there is a practical need for toilet paper, we must remember that there is a psychological benefit to feeling like you have some control over your circumstances. 

When governors and governments institute lockdown protocols without warning, it can feel like your life starts spiraling out of control. 

In the United States, the coronavirus economy’s initial unemployment numbers were some of the worst on record. Americans had not seen such dire circumstances since the Great Depression.

When you know that you need to hunker down at home for a few weeks, the average family’s goal is to leave the house as little as possible. That means you need to stock up on the everyday consumables used each day. Toilet paper fits into that category.

People cannot control what happens to them during uncertain times, but they can use toilet paper to reduce their anxiety when information is an uncertain commodity. 

Hoarding Toilet Paper Creates an Illusion of Safety

When the world feels crazy, we want to have safe places to create an oasis from that chaos.

Some people take refuge in video games. During the first COVID-19 surge in March 2020, Sony and Microsoft worked with ISPs to regulate Internet streaming because of how many people were playing games online.

Others decided to take the time to improve their homes. The Home Depot saw record sales at numerous stores throughout the United States as people took on more DIY projects.

If you don’t play video games and power tools feel like a waste of time and energy, where do you turn for comfort? For many people, lessening anxiety meant stocking up on the supplies they thought they would need to make it through the upcoming weeks and months with the coronavirus. 

It wasn’t only paper goods that grocery stores saw flying off of the shelves. Baby wipes, disinfectants, and anything else that promised a measure of safety became a priority. 

What can we do to ensure that we stay safe with the next COVID-19 surge without disrupting the grocery supply chain? 

We must offer people confidence. Stocking up on essentials happens when families are uncertain of what to expect. If we as a nation and a planet provide one another with real-time information about what to expect each day, there will be much less anxiety to manage.

When people feel less anxious, they’ll be less likely to buy items in a panic. 

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