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Panic stockpiling unnecessary, causing more angst

Shelves previously filled with toilet paper are seen empty at a Ralph's grocery store in Encinitas, California.
REUTERS/Mike Blake
Shelves previously filled with toilet paper are seen empty at a Ralph's grocery store in Encinitas, California.

The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.

The coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything most have seen before. A novel virus, sometimes mixed messages to the public, a measure of fear and above all uncertainty.

So it isn’t surprising that people are buying extra supplies. It’s a natural survival reaction and in many cases it makes good sense. People don’t want to be out doing a lot of extra shopping, so having staples on hand is reasonable. And people want cleaning and disinfecting supplies to clean their homes and office spaces to keep their families, colleagues and others as safe as possible.

But what we’ve seen locally and across the state and nation goes far beyond cautious stockpiling. A panicked run on toilet paper has been one of the most obvious displays of excessive hoarding. Stores everyone have bare shelves, after people bought carts full of toilet paper. That triggered more panic as shoppers, seeing the shelves emptying, decided they’d better stock up, even if they don’t really need it.

The temporary shortages have prompted price gouging by some unscrupulous stores, or by individuals who bought up large stocks of items to resell.


Hoarding much more than needed isn’t just unnecessary, it’s a selfish act that harms others.

Many people with lower incomes can only afford to buy the things they need for the week ahead. They don’t have a stockpile of staples, including toilet paper at home to carry them over.

Clearing the shelves of toilet paper and other staples when you don’t need them also hurts food shelves and other nonprofits who lend a hand to people in need. If people can’t buy toilet paper and other non-perishables they won’t be donating it to those agencies and those who need them won’t get them.

In many respects, the COVID-19 outbreak has brought out the best in humanity. Most people are showing genuine concern and taking the safety measures recommended to help safeguard themselves and their families and to slow the spread of the virus.

But it also brings out some of the worst attributes of human nature. Selfish hoarding only adds to the anxiety at a time when caution and calm are needed.

Republished with permission.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by David Markle on 03/18/2020 - 11:32 am.

    The panic about toilet paper seems particularly absurd. As travelers know, in some countries folks wash themselves.

  2. Submitted by Misty Martin on 03/18/2020 - 11:46 am.

    Excellent article! And so relevant. I live in West Virginia, which was the last state to confirm a case of COVID-19 yesterday, with the Governor mandating the closure of all restaurants, bars and casinos (keeping drive-thru options for some restaurants as the only way to obtain prepared meals). But even BEFORE that happened, shelves here have been BARE whenever I tried to shop – absolutely NO toilet paper to be found, and very little staples like canned food items, dried beans, etc. – even sacks of potatoes were sold out at Kroger yesterday. There were NO eggs to be found at our local Walmart a few days ago. Very little cleaning supplies, etc. It does create unrest in someone like me who just turned 60 and has a very ill husband at home to care for, while I am still trying to work at my job (for now) as an Accts. Payable Clerk at a local plumbing and heating store. Even online sources such as Boxed, Amazon and eBay seem to either have limited or sold-out supplies or higher than usual prices for necessary household items.

    In today’s political cartoons, there was one that was especially poignant for today’s climate: entitled “Roll Models” it shows two, side by side scenes – one of a man leaving a store such as Costco, with a buggy filled to the top with toilet paper, pushing the cart with one hand, while hugging a huge pkg. of toilet paper with the other. The other scene depicts a small boy carrying two smaller packages of toilet tissue, hugging one to himself, while handing one to an elderly neighbor who had answered her door to him. I believe the artist signed his name as “Breen” and it was with the San Diego Union Tribute. So very fitting and such a lesson in these desperate times. I thank the artist for the contribution. We need it.

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