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Panic buying toilet paper is a bad habit we can break

12 October 2021 – How toilet paper became the unofficial symbol anxiety during the pandemic? Empty store shelves are a strong reminder of how COVID-19 people took a toll.

At the beginning of the pandemic, home orders have driven people to buy large quantities of household goods, especially toilet paper. Demand grew to unprecedented heights in March 2020, with $ 1.45 billion in toilet paper sales in the 4-week period ending March 29, 112% more than the year before, according to IRI, a market research firm in Chicago.

Like the Delta variant caused a revival of COVID-19 this summer, market research indicates that it is almost 1 in 2 Americans started storing toilet paper again about the fear that the supply will run out. The greater demand is causing ripples through the retail chain, and a growing number of stores are back there facing challenges in stocking paper toilet.

Yet there is enough for everyone if people do not store too much, according to paper industry market analyst Ronalds Gonzalez, PhD, an associate professor of conversion economics and sustainability at North Carolina State University.

“As long as people buy what they need and do not panic, there is no problem with providing hygienic tissue,” he says, adding that “too much” equates to storing 6 to 8 months’ amount of toilet paper. , as some people did early in the pandemic.

But retailers are worried that history will repeat itself. End of September 2021, warehouse retail giant Costco told Wall Street analysts that it decided to purchase essential items such as toilet paper and water. Another retailer, Sam’s Club, launches limiting the purchase of supplies such as toilet paper by customers end of July.

“We have been deceived into working with the herd,” said Bradley Klontz, PsyD, associate professor of practice at Creighton University Heider College of Business, which specializes in financial psychology.

‘Literally, the last person to come to Costco does not get the toilet paper, so if the herd is running in a certain direction, we feel a biological necessity not to be the last person. That fear of scarcity actually creates the experience of scarcity, ”he explains.

The science behind inventory

People are collectively warned by photos shared on social media showing shop shelves stripped of toilet paper. These images have prompted consumers to rush out and buy bathroom paper, even if they do not need it – and that herd behavior has caused toilet paper shortages.

Now, one and a half years into the pandemic, people are overwhelmingly in danger. Any indication of a possible shortage of toilet paper can provoke anxiety and the desire to store up.

“It’s an adaptable response to the fact that I just had the experience,” to see empty store shelves, “Klontz says. He advises people to take a deep breath before buying extra toilet paper and then determine if it is really necessary.

Deep in our brains is the limbic system, a group of structures that rule over emotions, motivation, reward, learning, memory and the fight-or-flight response to tension and danger. When a person feels danger, the brain activates hormones to evoke blood pressure and heartbeat, increases blood flow and increases respiration so that the body is ready to fight or flee.

Once everything is in order, the body activates chemicals such as dopamine which evokes positive feelings of well-being, which rewards the flight-or-fight response. In this way, the brain strengthens an important survival instinct.

This sequence of experiences and the brain chemistry behind it may explain why people panic about buying toilet paper.

“With toilet paper, my limbic system is starting to think about a threatened threat to safety,” says Julie Pike, PhD, a psychologist in Chapel Hill, NC, who specializes in anxiety, hoarding and post-traumatic stress disorder.

She notes that when storing toilet paper ‘we avoid a threat and then we are chemically rewarded’ with dopamine. A storage cupboard full of toilet paper after an endangered threat of scarcity – no matter how unfounded – brings out the satisfied feeling.

When the market changed

Paper manufacturers produce hygiene paper for two markets: the commercial (think: the large rolls of thin paper used in offices, schools, and restaurants) and the consumer (the soft paper you are likely to use at home). In the spring of 2020, the commercial market declined, and the consumer market soared.

In general, the market for toilet paper for consumers is stable. The average American usage about 57 toilet bowls per day and about 50 pounds annually. Grocery stores and other retailers keep just enough toilet paper hand to meet this steady demand, which means that panic buying at the start of the pandemic quickly depleted stocks. Paper manufacturers had to change production to meet the greater consumer demand and fewer commercial buyers.

By the end of the summer of 2020, toilet papermakers were adjusting for the market shift and catching up as consumers worked through their stock of paper. But retail inventories remain meager because toilet paper does not carry large profit margins. For this reason, even healthy stocks remain sensitive to sudden shifts in consumer demand, Gonzalez says.

“When people buy more than they have to, they just buy from other people, an unnecessary shortage of toilet paper,” he says.

The supply chain

It is true that the supply chain is under unprecedented pressure, leading to higher prices for many goods, says Katie Denis, vice president of research and industry history at the Consumer Brands Association, which represents toilet paper manufacturers Georgia-Pacific and Procter & Gamble. Consumers should expect toilet paper to be available, but there may be fewer options for product forms, she says.

Still, Gonzalez says consumers should not worry too much about the global supply chain that affects the supply of toilet paper in the household. The raw material for the manufacture of toilet paper is available domestically, and more than 97% of the stock on U.S. store shelves is made in the United States, he says.

In modern society, toilet paper is a primary link to civilization, health and hygiene. Although there is no easy substitute, alternatives do exist. bidetis for example a device that can spray water in the field of gender. Other options are cloths, sponges that can be reused, baby cloths, napkins, towels and washcloths.

Human health and hygiene

“Compared to many other items, toilet paper can not really be replaced,” says Frank H. Farley, PhD, professor of psychological studies in education at Temple University, who studies human motivation. “It is a unique consumer object that is considered extremely essential. In this way, it plays into the surviving mentality, that it is essential for survival.”

Being without it can really seem like an existential threat.

New York Emergency Planner Ira Tannenbaum advises families to evaluate the use of essential household supplies such as toilet paper (you can do this pocket paper calculator) and keep at least a stock of 1 week on hand in case of emergency. New York City posted recommendations to families for emergency planning, including the guidance to ‘avoid panic’.

Pike says she would have accumulated a little more, something that could be done gradually, before panicking. She says if people are tempted to buy more out of anxiety, they should remind themselves that a shortage arises due to panicked purchases.

“Leave some for other families – other people have children and partners and siblings, just like us,” she says.

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