Why is toilet paper running out in the face of the pandemic?

The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has already reached 159 countries, infecting more than 180,000 people. This pandemic has created a real economic and social crisis, and its consequences, although clearly devastating, are still unpredictable.

In this article, however, we will focus on explaining a curious social phenomenon that is occurring as a result of this whole crisis, which affects shopping and has to do with the “collective madness” that is taking hold in practically. all countries. And the point is, toilet paper is running out. It sounds like a bad joke, but it isn’t. Why is the toilet paper used up?

We will respond to this social phenomenon and in addition, we will discover its similarities with the phenomenon of bank panic.

    Why toilet paper is running out in the face of fear of coronavirus?

    Why is toilet paper running out in these pandemic days? The reality is, it’s not that there is a shortage of toilet paper, but that people are afraid of running out, lest others accumulate it.

    As a result, many end up piling up paper (more than they need), which has the direct consequence that many others run out of it. And so, it’s like a fish biting its tail; “I accumulate, but so do the others, because they are afraid that I accumulate.”

    The phenomenon actually works like what happens in banks (i.e. in the face of bank runs of losing our money, which we will talk about in more detail later). So, the “toilet paper depletion phenomenon” affects us all, but it is a fact that we are not all left without, because a lot of people accumulate it, and that’s where the error lies.

    It also affects people who are not afraid of the coronavirus pandemic, but still fear that other people are afraid or worried, which causes us to accumulate toilet paper (for fear of not having any). available later).

    This way, in trying to answer the question of why the toilet paper has run out, we know it is happening because, wanting to avoid running out, we end up buying too much.

    How do we act and why?

    Basically what a lot of people do is run and get their toilet paper, with that “panic” to run out, created in a totally irrational way (like we’re going to die so we can’t dry our asses with paper. ). This is reinforced by the fact that toilet paper packages take up a lot of space, so their rarity is striking, to leave large empty spaces on store shelves.

    They go to the supermarket and get their part, but not just a “pack” of six, or twelve, but several packs, lest another come (who also wants to accumulate his five “packs”) and I steal there down, or go another day and there will be no more “pack”.

    like that, we act totally irrational (Although in a way), worry that someone else (just like us) will run to the store to collect their accumulated paper and leave us nothing. Reading like that sounds pretty absurd doesn’t it?

    What happens then? That we got our long-awaited role, not so much for fear that it would run out for lack of resources, due to such an uncertain time as we are living because of the epidemic … but for the simple and only reason why we fear that others will have it before us (And they finish it).

      Result of this dynamic of fear

      The result of all these explanations to the question of why toilet paper has run out is of course the arrival of images that many of us have seen throughout these days across networks and other platforms: shelves in stores and supermarkets, where paper should be, empty.

      What is happening? That in their turn, these images end up sinking in us, and awakening in us a certain feeling of “anguish” which makes us go into “panic”, leading us quickly to go to our beloved (at this time). in our head, even essential!) toilet paper.

      extreme situations

      You could say that in virtually every country, the sale of toilet paper has exploded, And even in Australia, a borderline situation has recently been experienced; According to the BBC, a person took out a knife at the supermarket during an argument over the damn toilet paper.

      Normal situation vs. Collective “crisis”

      Thus, by analyzing why toilet paper is exhausted, we observe two types of totally antagonistic situations:

      1. Normal hours

      People believe there will be toilet paper and no one will store “extra” amounts of it.. Their purchases are therefore “normal” (proportionate, rational, significant, etc.).

      2. It’s time to panic

      People are afraid of not having access to the paper, that is, it will run out. They fear the shortage of the product, which causes them to accumulate the same. This, in turn, creates scarcity and everything becomes a vicious cycle..

      Similarities to bank run

      In this way, for all that has been said, we see why the toilet paper has run out, and we also find a parallel between the situation of toilet paper exhaustion and bank or financial panic.

      Thus, the situation of bank panic (also called bank rush, bank run or bank siege, and in English “bank run” or “run on the bank”) is a social phenomenon by which many customers of a bank withdraw their money. en masse, and in a short period of time.

      This withdrawal of money is carried out for fear of running out of money in the near future., And this fear arose from bank insolvency (since banks only have a certain amount of money in accounts).

      The massive withdrawal of money, usually appears by the forecast of a financial or economic crisis in the banks, although another possible cause is a change in the economic policy of the country in question. There are, however, more possible causes for this (although less likely).

      As we can see, the same thing happens in the bank panic as in the situation of the toilet paper: there is a fear of not having something, which gives rise to the “urgency” to have it (also as an “accumulation”, just in case), what generates product shortages, which end up not reaching all customers (Or the people) who really need it.

      So, we can talk about similarities in the reasons why toilet paper runs out and bank money runs out in situations like this.

      Rational or irrational behavior?

      So, the answer to why toilet paper in this pandemic is running out, Can he refer to rationality or to logic? Or rather to “collective madness”? Probably the second option; if it is obvious that we are buying “more” to avoid running out of “without”, the basis of all this is quite irrational.

      In relation to this question, according to experts, it is rational that people prepare (psychologically, materially, etc.) for a negative situation that is occurring (or that is about to happen). However, what is no longer rational is to acquire an exaggerated number and disproportionate product; it already goes beyond mere supply.

      All this without evoking the insolidarity and selfishness of the people who are found at the origin of these types of behavior (even if they can sometimes arise “unconsciously”).

      The consequences of a panicked purchase

      As we have seen, behavior of this kind (from madness to buying) aggravates scarcity and feeds “collective madness” in which we slowly immersed ourselves without realizing it.

      In addition, irrational and disproportionate storage of products can lead to price speculation by companies, according to Steven Taylor, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of British Columbia, author of “The Psychology of Pandemics ”.

      What would happen then? According to Taylor, if the price of toilet paper increased excessively, we would begin to see this product as a scarce commodity, which could further increase our anxiety and impulsiveness when purchasing such or such a similar product.

      In fact, these price increases have already occurred in several products since the advent of the coronavirus (COVID-19); one example is the masks, which have been marketed for prices of up to $ 100 per unit on platforms such as eBay.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Heffernan, S (2003). The causes of bank failures. Mullineux AW, Murinde V, ed. International banking manual. Edward Elgar. pages 366-402.

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