When the full extent of the spread of the novel coronavirus first became known, some of the most ubiquitous memes on social media had to do with the hoarding of toilet paper. Being a nation that’s long thrived on gallows humor, people were finding all manner of ways to crack jokes about what was part of a larger and literally deadly subject of discussion. But the hoarding was real. Pictures of empty shelves at grocery stores flooded Twitter and Facebook and at least in some places, they’re still showing up today.
Was the hoarding unavoidable? Did it really accomplish anything for the hoarders? And why is it that we always seem to see these reactions when a moment of crisis approaches? Marc Fisher offers some thoughts on the subject at the Washington Post, and he sees this trend as something that speaks to man’s natural reaction to external threats. But more to the point, why specifically are people hoarding toilet paper every bit as much as they do break and milk before a hurricane?
The leading theories are:
1. We’re buying too much toilet paper because we’re panicked there won’t be any when we need it.
2. We’re actually using way more than usual at home because most people are sheltering in place rather than using the facilities while at work, school, restaurants or other public places.
“The third theory is that both of those are right,” said Doug Baker, vice president at the Food Industry Association, which represents retailers, distributors and producers — the whole chain of businesses from the factory to you.