What’s with the hoarding of toilet paper and water?

March 14, 2020 • 10:45 am

(h/t: Matthew for the tweet).

I’ve been to the grocery store twice in the last week; I’m not stocking up for a virus siege, as I have at least two weeks’ worth of food in my crib. But apparently lots of people are hoarding stuff, as the stores were inordinately crowded. And there were two items that stuck out from many people’s grocery carts: huge packs of toilet paper and huge plastic cartons of water bottles.

I don’t get why these items are hoarded—especially the bogroll.  I figure that a person in normal gastric condition goes through at most one roll of toilet paper per week, and that’s a generous estimate. If you do part of your excreting at work, it would be half that. And most people, if they are rational, have a good six or so rolls at home. (I have a lot more due to an unfortunate incident in which I bought t.p. at Costco and then forgot about it and did the same thing a few weeks later.) So for a family of four, you’d need 16 rolls max for a month, and I think I’m way overestimating here. Why should you buy more? It’s not as if a.) the manufacturers are going to run out of product and b.) there aren’t alternatives if things get really dire (remember what many Indians do).

Likewise, public water supplies can be disinfected to protect from viruses, as I think they already are, so unless the pipes get broken or we have a drought, why the bottled water?

I can only guess that people are panic-buying. Yes, by all means stock two weeks’ worth of food and a few extra rolls of t.p., but what I am seeing and hearing is that people are way overbuying, to the extent that stores are running out. Look at this video of Aussie going nuts in a store!

I have no theories to explain the run on bogroll except for sheer, irrational panic. If you have another theory, by all means proffer it below.

Here’s a cartoon from reader Bruce, which resembles what I saw in the grocery store this week:

209 thoughts on “What’s with the hoarding of toilet paper and water?

    1. That’s the weird thing, it both is and isn’t like hurricane prep (I live in Florida). We went to the store yesterday, and all the paper products were gone, and all the bottled water. But there was plenty of bread. The canned stuff like Chef Boyardi were picked over, but the rest of the canned stuff, and the pasta and sauce were in fine shape. Really, everything else was normal. And why buy water? It’s not like a storm is going to knock out the waterworks.

        1. Food pantries are running out and they survive on mostly canned food. Me? As a kid I didn’t think I liked mushrooms, spinach or asparagus until I had fresh. Canned asparagus should not be fed to anything, anyone, no way, no how.

            1. The canned sweet potato makes a nice soup with chicken or smoked turkey pieces or ham, onions, a bit of hot pepper, thyme, garlic.

              You can mix a can of Beefaroni with a can of baked beans for a nutritious meal. Great when there’s nothing else to eat.

              I bought two cans of Spam to add to my doomsday stash, and one didn’t even make it there. Fried up it’s delicious with bread or can be fancied up with sticky rice and Nori wraps.

              1. I like Spam and beeferoni though if it has a whiff of garlic in it I’ll get some major intestinal upset and need a lot of TP so the beeferoni may be a no go now.

              2. Yeah a sensitivity to short-chain carbs. In other works FODMAP – “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols”

                You can’t avoid FODMAP stuff completely but you can avoid it. Once I started doing this it made a huge difference for me. I used to get so bloated I looked pregnant and you could see the water retention in my face. My hands would bloat so much I couldn’t get rings off. Now I don’t have those problems. Everyone is different for how much each type of food affects them but for me I have found garlic really slams me. This makes it really hard to eat a lot of prepared meat. The cafeteria at my work puts garlic in all the chicken and even will put it in the rice sometimes so I can’t find much to eat there. Often I eat too little simply because I can’t find stuff to eat and didn’t have time to put something together. But it’s better than having a puffy gut. I also eat rice pasta instead of regular pasta. I can’t even eat apples. Those things always hurt my stomach so now I know why.

                It is all because about 7 years ago I got a nasty stomach flu and after I recovered I was left with IBS.

              3. No this came from having IBS. I had the perfect storm – I got the stomach flu just as I was under a lot of stress. Migraines are a mystery but I suspect they were stress related too in that I developed them when I worked at a really awful place for 8 years and endured a lot of abuse after I finished a stressful 7 years of university. I think my neurology just lost it. I didn’t get migraines until my mid 30s.

  1. One explanation that I have seen that I feel the most comfortable with on why the toilet paper and bottle water: they are really cheap, on a price per volume basis, and somehow that comforts people. “I came home with a full cart (or car or van, or UHaul truck for that matter) with not a lot of money.”

    1. I suspect it’s something like that, the cheapest items (store brand products) tend to disappear first. I’ve anecdotally heard in Australia that if you want to buy toilet paper, you need to be at the shop an hour before opening.

      I’d also think a lot of people think they can use toilet paper as a substitute for tissue paper.

  2. I don’t think there were panic purchasing sprees, at first.

    Normal purchasing habits normally spread out the demand over time. But the news suggested that everyone might get sick or needs to be quarantined, and now everyone was restocking their normal supplies but at the same time causing temporarily empty shelves. People perhaps bought a bit more than usual, but there was certainly no hoarding (of course there are always a few).

    But now that everyone saw the empty shelves, they likely bought more than they would, because they lost trust in restocked markets. Maybe they bought twice the amount this time, making things worse.

    1. I saw on the news a guy with a trunk full of Lysol Wipes and Kleenex. He was buying up stuff and making a killing selling them online and gouging desperate people. Disgusting.

      1. That’s the doofus in the article I linked in here somewhere. He and his wife couldn’t understand why this upset people.

        1. I know. What jerks. My husband is in the very high risk group, and I couldn’t even find an extra bottle of hand sanitizer. That’s why I have to resort to making up my own.

          1. Yeah and now you can’t even find stuff to make your own. I have some stuff that is expired but I think one is okay. The stuff I have at work is expired but at least they have put it out everywhere and I work in a hospital so it’s all over.

            1. Costco had bottles of Isopropyl alcohol but I don’t know if any is left. I had to order Aloe Vera online and it was on backorder but should get here soon. You’re lucky to have access to the stuff at work. I’m told I have to follow the recipe proportions given, to the letter.

              1. Yeah there is a WHO recipe and my dad’s friend was going to send him his. He is a volunteer firefighter and I guess they had to make it.

  3. Any paper product takes up a lot of space in the store so the stores in general keep a low stock (relative to other goods) and replenish frequently. That means that in a panic situation the paper products are the first to run out. People know this from experience and exacerbate the situation by creating a run on the paper goods at the beginning of a panic situation.

  4. I’m with you, Jerry. Considering that tp companies are not going out of business anytime soon, the only explanation I can see is that people on some weird level enjoy getting invested into a mass panic. Blame it on the zombie movies.

    1. I think you’re on to something there. I think these hoarders are the same people who go out on the night before Black Friday, and camp out in front of the store entrance.

      1. Yes. Maybe one of Jerry’s fancy U of Chi friends can do a psyc study. I’m still hoping they can work in some zombie movie refs and the subconcious thrill of mass panic.

    2. Isn’t throwing rolls of toilet paper a way to get rid of zombies? Or was it shooting peas? Am I confused? The TP was for Puerto Ricans? Or what?
      Are the pea shelves empty?

  5. Prof. Coyne doesn’t have to live with a teenaged son who uses enormous amounts of tp. I’ve heard similar complaints from other parents. We’ve had some awkward conversations about how much he can use.

    That said, people around here are hoarding. My husband witnessed an incident where a woman became belligerent when told she could only have five packs of tp. She tried to leave with ten packs and the police arrived almost immediately and escorted her out of the store with no tp.

    1. “Prof. Coyne doesn’t have to live with a teenaged son who uses enormous amounts of tp. I’ve heard similar complaints from other parents. We’ve had some awkward conversations about how much he can use.”

      Sounds like a sufficient reason for him to get a part-time job. He can take his roll to the bathroom and take it back to his bedroom.

      (Considering how slovenly some adolescent human male primates can be, I wouldn’t too much fault his predisposition toward cleanliness.)

      1. Having a clean teen is better than the alternative.At least school is still open so he can’t use tp and take multiple showers during the school day.

    2. My four year old (now six) used so much tp he blocked the pipes. Major plumbing intervention was needed. He is on a strict ration now.
      He got (illicit) access to great quantities because I buy big when it is on special, such as half price. TP doesn’t rot..

    1. Herd mentality. Kirkland TP flies off the shelves (well, pallets) and maybe some people figure it’ll be cheaper to use than Kleenex for dealing with flu and cold symptom of a runny nose.

    1. Indeed. Brian Leiter had an apt reaction to the principals in the NYT article:

      Matt and Noah Colvin should be arrested for endangering public health.
      They’re apparently too stupid to realize that being featured in the NYT is going to bring the wrath of people and law enforcement down on them.

      1. Yes. These people seem to be lacking in empathy so they are therefore completely incapable of anticipating the wrath of others. Usually this is okay because they don’t care what others think but in this case there could be more dire consequences.

  6. I reckon panic buying kicks in as shelves become noticeably empty but I wonder if “buying stuff” is just the way people try to control an uncertain future? Ordinary people cannot help with research or protect their families with ‘medicine’ so they do what they can to prepare.

    It might even explain why some people are ‘ripe’ for the various scams being run. Talking of which I have seen comments elsewhere from people urging prayer and ‘humbling ourselves before god’. They seem to be ignorant of past religious failures to mitigate earlier plagues and pandemics. And also skip over why a loving god should let loose an indiscriminate smiting.

  7. Mass Delusions and the Madness of Crowds was written in 1841. Still true today. See the tulip investment boom as an example.
    The fear us that we will be under lockdown as in China and Italy. Panic us being fed by the media.

    1. “being fed by the media”

      Nonsense. “The media” is in general doing exactly what they should. They are discouraging hoarding.

      Fear of being in lockdown is not delusional. It is what is inevitable when people confuse preparation with “madness”.

      1. We may end up relying on our innate survivalist skills learned as Cub Scouts and Girl scouts, Brownies or Girl Guides.

        1. To sharpen your survival skills, read Nansen’s 600 page (rather well written even after translation to English!) report of his (with Johannsen) attempt on the North Pole around 1895.
          Easy to find on Amazon.
          After well over 2 years of travelling almost entirely on ice above 80 degrees North (Cruises to Antarctica stay less than 70 degrees South, far more than twice as far from the Pole), they came out rather uncomfortable and looking awful sartorially. But both were around 10 lb. (5 kg.) heavier than when they left Fram, their ship, with sleds, kayaks and dogs.
          The latter didn’t do so well.
          That ice ain’t flat and easy and uniform. But eating bears, not getting eaten by them, burning walrus blubber, not getting stabbed by them, swimming the Arctic ocean to rescue a kayak, etc. preceded a long successful life for Nansen as a diplomat and sort of a scientist.
          Later, with the same ship, Amundsen was so smart that his conquering the South Pole almost seemed comfortable in retrospect.
          Designing Fram so it wouldn’t get crushed and sunk, about 45 years after and 25 years respectively before the Anglophones Franklin and Shackleton respectively had their disasters (the latter ignoring that knowledge, but he was a great leader rescuing all his men–Leader Drumpf may be leading over 100,000 USians to their Corona deaths now), was major for the rest of the Norwegians on Fram as well, quite apart from knowing how to avoid scurvy (cf. Scott).

          Survival skills is pretty far from most modern humans’ mind. But we’ll be needing them for the horribly hot climate, not the freezing.

  8. Both toilet paper and packs of bottled water take up tons of shelf space per item. If the supplies run half low, it looks a lot more dramatic than it does for almost any other product. That’s enough to set off the feedback loop and ensuing panic buying.

    At least that’s what I think.

    1. That’s a good point! I hadn’t considered that.

      Positive feedback loops in human behavior are endlessly fascinating.

    2. And yet there are photos of people with shopping carts loaded to the ceiling with toilet paper. Enough to last a family a year. Either they think this is the apocalypse, which is a possibility, or they’re seeking profit.

  9. The local market was out of TP last night, apparently they got their shipment in at seven in the morning and it was gone by noon. The good news is that the supply of breakfast meats, local cheeses and beer were intact.

    I’m in WA, and the mood here is really odd. A lot of our Seattle/Tacoma clients are self-quarantining, the schools are shut down, but people seem in good spirits for the most part. Oh yeah, it’s also snowing. So there is that.

    1. Is ‘self-quarantaining’ a new expression or a new action?
      I did not hear that during the N1H1 epidemic.

      1. There is self isolating and quarantine. I think the difference with H1N1 is you can spread this sucker more while asymptomatic where H1N1 you got sick and new it.

  10. Indeed. Brian Leiter had an apt reaction to the principals in the NYT article:

    Matt and Noah Colvin should be arrested for endangering public health.
    They’re apparently too stupid to realize that being featured in the NYT is going to bring the wrath of people and law enforcement down on them.

  11. People lost it here. I’ve seen friends post images of aisle upon empty aisles of all food. TP is gone in seconds when put out. Forget wipes or hand sanitizer, that’s been gone for at least a week.

    A lot of the shortages are from profiteering. People who drove around from store to store buying up all the products and reselling. Amazon and others are cracking down on this and this means these morons are sitting on tons of masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, etc. while places like hospitals run low. I really wish they could be caught, charged & their bounty taken from them and redistributed to people who need it. It’s especially bad for people who have low incomes as they can’t stock up and when people hoard, they get none. It only takes one jerk to do it too. A friend went to COSTCO to get the normal amount of TP on morning only to be told a guy came in earlier and cleaned them out by buying $200 worth. Stores need to be better corporate citizens & limit the amount of stuff people can buy.

    I’ve had friends who were waiting in line at Walmart with groceries for almost an hour. That’s nuts. My parents, who are elderly though they hate me to call them that and my mom has a serious lung conditions, have just been slowly buying a little extra each week instead of hoarding a ton of stuff all at once. I told them I can go get them groceries but they live in a different city so I don’t know if I would be permitted if it gets so bad they lock cities down.

    1. They might like to try out ordering online for pickup (maybe you could order for them if they’re not used to internet shopping; and a neighbour could do the pickup). People are being encouraged to set up a buddy system, in case they come down ill and are shut in.

        1. Glad to hear that. I was going to ask if they had found an emergency buddy. When I lived in Woodbridge many years ago, there was actually a grocery store that would deliver to one’s door! This was a rarity, in the 1990s.

      1. Yeah I just ordered from aloe gel. I have some running alcohol and will stop using it frivolously now to wash make up brushes. I also have ample hydrogen peroxide because I use it with my fish tanks.

    2. Red wine (as Mayno pointed out) is as good a wound disinfectant as 70% alcohol. It would be a good hand sanitizer. However, I’d rather drink it. Note that drinking it will not sanitize your hands.

      1. Red wine is normally about 12 or 13% alcohol. I wonder where the rest of its magic powers comes from.

    3. Some guy in, I think Indiana, is being investigate as a hoarder. I hope they prosecute and convict the guy as a lesson to others.

  12. My wife went to the store for a few items that might come in handy. She found one box of latex gloves on an otherwise empty shelf, and a single bottle of isopropyl alcohol. Why would hoarders leave one item? It may be out of a sense of guilt. Like when you are at a party and the plate of cookies is down to the last one. Nobody wants to be the one to take the last cookie off the plate. They don’t mind scooping up an armful of something, as long as there’s one left.

  13. What else are you going to do when you’ve been prepping for the apocalypse and your bunker is full of nothing but beans and canned chili?

    But seriously, the behavior is almost locust-like. Most people aren’t panicking over the virus, they’re panicking because there are people panicking over the virus and taking all the toilet paper and they aren’t sure if they are going to be able to buy it next week. Tragedy of the commons and all that. Honestly, I’m excited over the data sets coming out of this experience. I spent 2 hours at Walmart marveling over the patterns in the cleared out aisles. In many cases, shelves above eye level were left stocked and hoarders tend to prefer corn dogs, tater tots and make xed frozen veggies over fresh equivalents that they could freeze or can themselves (canning materials remained untouched). All the potatoes in the produce section were gone, yet there were plenty of oranges and fruit. And of course the vegan/organic freezer section was virtually untouched.

  14. You know, talking about panic and TP shortages is the supposedly humorous meme rampant among young people today.

    I do not find this funny at all. Especially considering that a whole lot of young people actually think this pandemic is not going to affect them.

    They actually believe this disease doesn’t kill anyone below the age of 80. That it is just a flu, or like getting the flu. They believe that not a single young person – their agemates – has died from this. They actually joke that all the Covid pandemic will be remembered for is “The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020”.

    Stocking up on things is not panicking, it’s prudent to eliminate unnecessary trips. And Dr Coyne – I’m guessing you live by yourself based on your TP use? I live in a household of five, with two women. Women use TP at a startling rate – at least 5 times faster than men.

    That supermarket shelves are bare does not imply panic. It implies that a lot of people are stocking up and that is not the normal supermarket inventory paradigm.

    And stocking up on TP is actually pretty smart. Data from China last week showed that Covid can transmit fecally, and diarrhea is a common symptom of this disease.

    1. I agree with you about women using way more TP, after wall, we don’t have a neat spigot. Thanks for your comment, as I did not know that this thing could cause vomiting and diarrhea. I had read that it’s typically a fever, and/or dry cough, muscle aches, and sometimes runny nose like a cold or flu. I just googled the latest news, and you’re right about the other symptoms. Ugh.

  15. Here in Germany the government has warned people against Hamsterkäufen (hamster-shopping). As far as I can tell there’s no big problems.

    Merkel held an hour-long press conference the other day, and did a better job of explaining the whole thing to the public than the virologists did. But then, she has a PhD in physics and credibility that few other leaders anywhere have ever had.

        1. Thanks — I was trying to figure out how to use it. (I guess hamstern would be hamstering in English, from the verb to hamster.)

          I learned another great word the other day — Inkompetenzkompensationskompetenz. It’s from philosophy, and means exactl ywhat it looks like. It refers to philosophy’s ability to recognise and accept its own incompetence compared to science in solving real life problems.

          1. And yes I think the English equivalent would be “to hamster” and presumably is hoarding in general. In English we say to squirrel something away so I think it’s the similar idea.

  16. It’s the same here in Germany. You go into a drug store or supermarket and more often than not the toilet paper is nearly sold out.

    Does any of these hoarders realize that Covid-19 is not gastrointestinal disease?

    1. Actually, it can be. Early reports from China show fecal transmission confirmed by anal swab. About 4% of confirmed Covid patients get diarrhea.

      SARS also demonstrated fecal transmission.

      1. Ok, I took a look at the RKI(*)-homepage. They say that the symptom “diarrhoea” is rare.

        Nevertheless, it does not explain the disproportionate massive hoarding of toilet paper.

        (*) Robert-Koch-Institut

  17. A local request came out today. Schools’ food pantry shelves are empty. I just got back with a shopping cart full of donations. Ohio schools are closed and many of the families are food insecure. There were still plenty of canned items available, but the cheaper store brands were sold out. Volunteers are scrambling to fill this need. School bus drivers will not be driving kids but instead delivering boxes of food. I’m sure folks thought I was hoarding.

  18. I am surprised no one has mentioned the bidet yet. I have one, use it every day and use maybe one roll of TP per month….when I have a guest.

      1. I had a coworker years ago who had his elderly mother living with him. He’d installed a bidet for her in the bathroom off her bedroom.

        I happened to use that bathroom once when I was over his place for a party. I spotted the bidet and had to give it a try just to say I’d had the experience. I think I read about bidets in Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer before first I’d ever laid eyes on one.

            1. My fear is the water washing things where they shouldn’t go. Women have to be careful with their orfuses.

  19. My pandemic story would be directly from my grandfather who was born in 1899. He caught the flu in 1918 while in a school in Kansas City. He damn near died from it but lucky for me he did not. One of the real killers about that flu was the lungs filled with fluid and you basically drowned or suffocated. He remembered they used a device, a large needle to poke into the lungs through the back and drain the fluid. Possibly that is what saved him.

    1. my great grandparents died in a related flu epidemic pre-1918 (don’t remember the exact year) and my great grandfather caught the flu in 1918 during his training for the Great War, in a Kansas army camp (again, I’ve forgotten which one) which led to his missing out on the carnage. So two flu epidemics with two different results; one nearly ended my particular family line and another may have saved it. Swings and roundabouts I guess. Here’s hoping my family and I survive this one, with or without toilet paper. Hell, if worse comes to worse, I’ll just shit in the back yard and drag my ass across the lawn like a d*g.

      1. If I had to guess I would say the army camp was Camp Funston, built near Ft. Riley to train soldiers for WWI.

    2. I recently heard that some believe the excess water in the lungs was due to many physicians prescribing massive amounts of aspirin. Don’t know if it’s true or not.

  20. When I moved into my new shack 2 1/2 years ago I purchased one of those Costco giant bogroll cubes. I NEVER shit at work or in public (no, your weirdo, public restrooms, I mean) but I still have 5 full roles plus another 1/4 in use. Yes, I live alone, but I am also a vegetarian and I also use tp to blow my nose (as a perennial allergy sufferer, this is a significant usage), and to pick up the occasional feline hairball dispensation. My point is, I use what should be a decent amount of loo roll yet after a significant amount of time I still have a fair quantity in reserve so, exactly how much do other people shit!!!!???? I’m pretty regular, as one must be with my diet and my social phobias, so what the unholy hell is going on with the rest of the nation?

  21. Here at my local Safeway last night, they did have tp, but were starting to run out.

    It was bizarre what was cleaned out, and what was still available. The paper goods were mostly gone. Pasta sauce and pasta was 98% gone. Nuts were nearly gone. And in the produce section, spinach was gone, and kale was going, too. Most other produce were still available. And, inexplicably, kosher chicken was nearly out.

    I scored a half-gallon of milk, and considered myself lucky.

    Once reason I’m buying more than usual is to cut down on the number of trips I will need to make to the store over the coming weeks. If I start feeling sick, I’ll have my groceries delivered, if that’s still possible. The fewer times I need to leave my home, the better.

    At the store last night, there was a young man standing behind me, who apparently hadn’t heard of the social distancing advice. The more I tried to move away from him, the closer he would move to me (I mean, standing within 2 feet of me). I finally told him that I’m not allowed to stand near other people (over 60, medical condition). He did get the message then.

    I work around some younger people, and most of them are taking this seriously. But there’s one young guy, super athletic, who thinks this is all a joke, and that people are over-reacting.

    1. Ugh the young. A very fit coworker died a few weeks ago from influenza. He was 48 and extremely health. He was a Krav Maga instructor and healthy eater. He left work early on a Thursday and died Monday morning after being out into a coma and put on a ventilator. So the young should take note.

  22. My $0.02 worth on why people stock up on toilet paper:

    -IMHO, Professor Ceiling Cat underestimated how much t.p. the average person uses. I know a family member who uses almost 3 rolls/week. My four-year-old likes to wipe exuberantly with big wads of t.p., and my husband and I don’t want to discourage him, because he’s still learning. People with gastrointestinal issues may need more paper.

    -Sadly, from a selfish point of view, there’s very little downside to stocking t.p., even though it may deprive others. Toilet paper is relatively inexpensive, easy to store, and doesn’t go bad. You know you’ll end up using it someday, regardless of what happens with the pandemic.

    -To us Westerners, t.p. represents a tangible aspect of civilization. Wiping sans t.p. (with your bare hand or something else) feels instinctively wretched and gross, and most of us would much rather not risk it.

    -I have childhood memories of running out of t.p. and having to wipe with bits of scratchy newspaper in People’s Republic of Poland, and I prefer not to repeat the experience.

  23. Well, I must try not to enjoy my raisin bran too much (with the emphasis on bran!), since stocking up on that, but not on asswipe, as my disreputable associates would have called it, is putting the world out of balance. I did enjoy seeing a fellow the other morning with 6 or 8 huge boxes of raisin bran filling his cart, but no rolls of asswipe.

    Is it the word ‘toilet’ which is supposedly offensive; surely it’s not ‘paper’ half of TP. Then there was the Parisian museum employee who wondered whether the tourist who asked after the restroom was sleepy.

    More seriously, I think most people here must feel very grateful to be fortunate enough, or perhaps just unstupid enough, not to live desperately from paycheck to paycheck. So we can stock up somewhat. Undoubtedly by far the biggest reason for that is not fear of shortages, but to minimize the number of times of having to go through checkouts with the hordes, some with undiagnosed and so far non-symptomatic corona virus infection–or the feeling of guilt that maybe you unknowingly have it now yourself and are endangering others.

    And also feeling grateful to have sick leave/medical insurance, or at least live in a civilized ‘1st world’ country. In that context, reading the following probably sickened me more than anything else in this trying time.

    A WAPO quote from

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/09/sick-leave-coronavirus/?utm_campaign=coronavirus_031120&utm_medium=email&utm_source=retention&wpisrc=wp_pw_ret_coronavirus_031120

    “I shouldn’t be puking next to my car and going (back) inside, washing my hands and doing somebody’s grocery shopping,” she said. “But I am because I don’t have a choice.”

    And she did that for the sumptuous salary of $15,000 per year to feed her family. Maybe by applying to emigrate to the Congo, or Moldova, or Kashmir, moving towards greater civilization would improve her life. Mexico for sure would.

    My own ‘vomit’ here is known as sarcasm, which the USian electorate over many years in general well deserves.

  24. The run on tp would make a lot more sense is one of the symptoms of coronavirus were the runs, rather than respiratory distress.

    1. From early report from Chinese hospital involving small numbers of patients:

      There is documentation of fecal transmission of Covid verified by anal swab testing showing active virus.

      Diarrhea was seen in ~ 4% of patients.

      Relatedly, there was a cluster of SARS spread fecally.

  25. I have heard a rumor that people think all of our TP comes from China and we will run out before more can get here.

    This is absurd as there is a plant in Youngstown, Ohio that produces 140,000 tons of the stuff per year.

  26. Symptoms lists include diarrhea, which occurs in 1% of the cases. Percentages don’t get listed in most sources, though.

    Where I live, some areas have well water, which is disgusting in the best of times, so it makes sense for those people if they fear not being able to leave the house and being sick with something requiring hydration.

    Otherwise… sheesh.

    1. What is wrong with well water? I know some people have high iron or sulfur content, but most folks with such issues have filtration systems.

      1. Yep i have two wells – a nice drilled one with high iron so I have a system take care of that and a dug well that is used as a back up.

        I think that Ladyatheist probably means the wells in her area are yucky.

        1. The well water where I went to university, Warrensburg, Mo, was absolutely horrible. So much sulfur! The first time I experienced this was at a friend’s house, I went to take a pee after he had showered and, not knowing otherwise, thought he had taken a massive crap beforehand without using the vent fan. I was gagging and choking the whole time. I can’t imagine drinking that stuff! I don’t know how he could shower in that either. Makes my complaints about my local water stinking of bleach and chlorine seem paltry by comparison.

          1. Hydrogen sulfide gas (H 2S) can give water a “rotten egg” taste or odor. This gas can occur in wells anywhere and be: Naturally occurring – a result of decay and chemical reactions with soil and rocks. Produced by certain “sulfur bacteria” in the groundwater, well, or plumbing system. I have some of it in my well water, but it’s harmless. You just have to get used to it. Otherwise you can can put in a water purifier. I’m used to it now and don’t bother with adding equipment.

          2. “Makes my complaints about my local water stinking of bleach and chlorine seem paltry by comparison.”

            Those Yale students who cussed out the Christakises should have to endure such a good dose of adversity.

  27. Life-long Republican Peter Wehner says over at The Atlantic that Trump is done for due to his gross mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis. Says voters are gonna shut Trump’s presidency down like it’s a common professional sportsball league or Broadway play or public school.

    It’s one thing to lie like a thief in broad daylight about things like the Mueller report or Ukrainian phone-call shakedown or the size of your inaugural crowd, I suppose, another to show your ass as incompetent when people’s health (and grandma’s life) is on the line.

      1. tRump supporters have relied almost exclusively on the stock market as evidence of how great their dear leader is.

        Suddenly, the inevitable…

        1. I have a HS friend in FLA now. I think it is as has been suggested in Trumpland. They are having events and everything. All restaurants are open. She herself is a big Trump fan and she is saying things to her Canadian friends like they should come down to the States instead of deal with restrictions in Canada. It’s really a mess.

      2. According to a USA Today/Ipsos poll conducted last week, Republicans are 15% less likely than Democrats to have undertaken preventative measures such as washing their hands more frequently (presumably because the former relied on the initial claims of Dear Leader and his Fox News propaganda minions that coronavirus was a hoax, while the latter were more likely to rely on the advice of actual, you know, doctors).

        It’s all fun & games and pulling pranks like wearing a gas mask on the House floor until someone gets sick, I suppose.

        1. I guess this is where a conservative fear of things in general (esp unknown non-traditional things) and distrust of science clash.

          1. tRump himself has a good chance of contracting the virus. He’s mixing it up physically with White House and Mar-a-Lago visitors which I think gives him about, maybe, a 30% chance of contracting COVID 19. Now, the disease is fatal for about 8% of people his age, so there’s a non-negligible probability he’ll end up removing himself from the election as well as from the land of the living, which wouldn’t make me lose any sleep, unless I was still wired from staying up late celebrating.

  28. Was just at the supermarket here in Cologne (Germany). Everything normal. No panic buying, plenty of toilet paper (for heaven’s sake).

  29. We want for there to be a near-Armageddon disaster. So many of them in movies and on television, and we are quietly, fiercely determined to be among the survivors as we look dramatically over the seas of ruin; the empty shelves and shopping carts not put away. It is like we are getting to play a part in a dystopian movie.

    1. I knew a guy who sold everything they owned, quit his job, and moved with his wife to a cabin in the woods.

      You can guess how that worked out.

    2. During Y2K I bought a new 30 gallon fish tank & needed vessels to carry water in to fill it so I bought 3 big water containers – the plastic ones you take to a picnic. I remember the cashier saying, “for Y2K?” and answering “no, fishtank”. I remember also laughing because when nothing happened people felt like it had all been a scam. I worked in IT so I knew everyone had busily identified what had to be fixed & fixed it. Now people are trying to say that this virus is nothing “just like Y2K”. Damned no matter what.

  30. has anyone considered that, whilst being all superior and self-righteous about ‘how much bog-roll do you need?”, some people are stocking upon toilet paper because you can blow your nose on it and then flush it?
    With the decline of the handkerchief, people tend to use tissues, which aren’t flushable; also, you end up with a bin full of soggy paper that just icky.
    and if vomiting is involved, much easier to grab a handful of paper to wipe up spillage, rather than a cloth that’s going to be…unpleasant at best.
    so getting lots of easily-flushable paper makes perfect sense to me. some people should climb down from their high horses.

    1. Yeah I do that but I don’t go to COSTCO and fill up two trollies worth which is what is happening. No one needs $200 worth of TP.

    2. Raising kids and large dogs, I know the value of regular old towels for… special occasions that we shall try to forget.
      The other day the wife came home with a bundle of small terry-cloth towels. Trying to not think what they are for!

  31. My sister rang from Oregon today (morning her time). She’d just been to CostCo and arrived just before the doors opened to find a long queue of people already waiting. When the doors finally opened, an employee was handing out coupons to any customers wanting to buy toilet paper – no coupon, no sale at the checkout.

    My sister swears that in an earlier panic-buying spree a couple of years ago, ahead of a forecast snow storm, the local supermarket shelves were stripped entirely bare of kale. Apparently, Portlandia was pretty close to the truth!

    1. … no coupon, no sale at the checkout.

      Damn, like rationing during The War.

      Back when a US GI “over there” could score big time with a gift of nylons and chocolates. 🙂

        1. Here in the UK supermarket own-brand hand sanitisers costing less than £1 were selling on eBay for up to £30. Not sure if I’m more angry with the greedy b*stards bulk-buying the stuff and causing a shortage that they can profit from or the idiots enabling them to make it worth their while by paying silly money for things.

  32. Just got back from shopping. Besides tp and bottled water, people have stripped clean the shelves of frozen vegetables and canned vegetables. Also, roasting chickens. Oddly enough, the shelves are brimming with fresh fruit and vegetables which, luckily, was what I was out shopping for.

  33. I went out a few times in the last three weeks to stock up on various items, including a bit more TP than usual. Why? Because if I or my wife get sick I don’t want to have to drive to the store and endanger others.
    Assuming that I’m even fit to drive to the store. I’ve stocked up on items I would want/need to get me through a two week illness.

    I bought 2 – l liter tetra packs of shelf stable milk, good until September.
    ginger ale, apple juice, canned beans, chicken (soup) base. Various easy to heat and eat canned food like baked beans, canned salmon, tuna, chicken. I bought three loaves of bread, which I froze and am now rotating as I buy fresh.

    I still need to get coffee filters, coffee and flour, just as regular purchases. I keep a well stocked pantry, even if stores closed I could survive a long time, just on the mystery food in the bottom of my freezer.

    I tried to find generic regular strength acetaminophen but I couldn’t find that anywhere, I wound up paying twice the price for less of the brand name. I suspect collusion of some sort, this has been going on for six months, as well as shortages of T1 otc for well over a year.

    Ever since I got a puppy I’ve been sneezing and needing to blow my nose, I’ve been going through TP like it’s the end of the world.

    Totally worth it though.

    1. I also bought paper towels, I think they are more hygienic if someone in the house is sick and for using after handling raw meat or fish.

  34. I think herd behavior on the TP. It is not something for which substitutes cannot be readily found.
    Water I can see, depending on where one lives. When disorder is bad enough, utilities can be compromised, if only temporarily. I think most urban multifamily buildings would start to be unlivable fairly quickly if the power and water went off, and the toilets stopped flushing.
    I don’t see that as likely, but people want to feel like they are doing something.
    We get cut off from the world for weeks at a time fairly regularly, so we have enough “stuff” for any likely eventuality.
    Our problem is that my wife has to go out there every day and see patients, including those suspected of having Covid-19.
    On the upside, we often work with dangerous chemicals, so we have plenty of N100 respirators, filters, and protective suits, should that need arise. (which it almost certainly will not).

    1. Holy crap Batman. I only have N95 masks. Is my risk 5% greater than yours?😝(I use them when weighing chemicals but mostly when cleaning garage. Too much mouse poop.)

      1. Maybe I use scarier chemicals, although I usually use a vent hood when dealing with the bad stuff.
        Really though, we just got the best gear we could find. There are no penalties assessed for having an extra margin of safety.

  35. I’m waiting for some doofus to flush paper towels because he/she ran out of TP or couldn’t get any because of hoarding. Be prepared for the entire city system to get backed up.

  36. I live roughly 25 miles from the epicenter of the first deaths in Washington state. We’ve been out of T.P., Kleenex, hand wipes, “purel”, rubbing alcohol and other disinfectants for at least 2 weeks.

    Many shelf-stable foods are also gone.

    1. Stay in touch, brother. Let us know if we need to form a zombie-apocalypse posse to suit up, come in there to rescue you.

      1. Thanks for the support. If you can, please bring Daryl w/ his crossbow or Michonne with samurai sword. Either would be a boon to said posse and give me comfort. 😉

  37. I buy in bulk anyway, so I have plenty of soap and TP on hand.

    I went to the local market yesterday and found some weird things were sold out, like chocolate milk. There was a sign over the disinfectant spray requesting that you keep the purchase to 5 units, which seams reasonable.

    I live with my elderly father, so I have made some changes. Canceled my planned trip to go play poker, washing my hands more, things like that. But I’m not overly concerned yet. We do live in a county with zero reported cases.

  38. They should be hoarding Matzah instead. 1) Lasts for years without spoiling 2) Very filling 3) Reduces the need for toilet paper

  39. It is pretty obvious that you are a guy! You do know that women use more paper, right?
    I’m not into hoarding either, but it does give people a sense of control when everything else is bonkers. And who wants to run out of toilet paper!? Remember never to use tissues, they aren’t made to dissolve like tp. Good luck everyone!

  40. “at most one roll of toilet paper per week, and that’s a generous estimate. If you do part of your excreting at work, it would be half that”

    I use about 1 roll in 5 weeks or so.

    Poop at work if you are short! 🙂

    1. Kind of a dumb question, IMO. What does “afraid of” even mean? Hiding in the basement? Unwilling to hang out in large crowds?

      1. Afraid = feeling fear or anxiety; frightened.
        Sinonime:
        frightened
        scared
        scared stiff
        terrified
        fearful
        petrified
        nervous
        scared to death
        apprehensive (about)
        intimidated (by)
        alarmed (at)
        uneasy
        tense
        worried
        panicky
        terror-stricken
        terror-struck
        horror-stricken
        horror-struck
        scared witless
        beside oneself
        frantic
        hysterical
        shaking in one’s shoes
        shaking like a leaf
        timid
        timorous
        faint-hearted
        cowardly
        cowering
        cowed
        pusillanimous
        daunted
        nervy
        in a (blue) funk
        in a cold sweat
        in a flap
        in a fluster
        spooked
        etc.

        1. Well, that’s not very helpful, is it? There’s a hell of a lot of distance between “uneasy” and “hysterical”.

          Which is the point of my objection. Why couldn’t the question have been clear enough to distinguish between “alarmed” (very rational response to a pandemic, IMO) and “terror-struck”?

          So, yes, it is kind of a dumb question.

  41. C’mon, folks, we’re up over 190, so surely can get this one over 200 comments. I take a lot of the active commentary on this to partly be an attempt to keep people busy and at least somewhat cheery, so good!

    And I try to inject a bit of humour, as well as humor, each time. But there’s no accounting for taste in humour (especially mine, as others here are surely and justifiably thinking).

    Anyway, this time I’ll refer you to one of Gary Larson’s “Far Side” ones, with a double, not the usual single, panel. In the first is a very small little wooden structure in the valley with the occupant cursing a bit at his bad luck; something like ‘Damn, there ain’t any left’.
    In the second panel up on the nearby hillside, looking down into the valley with the troubled ‘occupant’, is a noble looking canine, much like the St. Bernard rescue dogs who have those casks of brandy. But the something around doggy’s neck is a roll of a thing very much involved in the discussion here.

    The strip itself is easy to get now, and far funnier than my description. Try “https://www.google.com/search?q=Larson,+far+side,+dog+with+toilet+roll&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=chePT2G6Iky_rM%253A%252CYaaj9yl7sd9b9M%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kTGBxDlY7UmcrG2CK60yQCeG_s4EQ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiIyKvipp_oAhULK80KHUtZCnkQ9QEwAHoECAoQBQ#imgrc=chePT2G6Iky_rM

    1. Sorry, last doesn’t work, but Wiki: ‘Gary Larson “Far Side” dog with toilet roll’. That will work.

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