Americans are stocking up on toilet paper once again. The hoarding of toilet paper in the US hogged headlines during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as cases surge in the US, Americans are at it again amid fears of a new lockdown.
Panic buying of toilet paper was witnessed in early 2020 amid unfounded fears of supply shortages. Consumers rushed to supermarkets, hotels, gas stations, and anywhere else they could find a roll of toilet paper to buy. Soon, toilet paper supplies ran out in stores.
A similar trend was seen in India when various states in the country imposed lockdowns due to the second wave of COVID-19. In New Zealand, which went into lockdown after the first cases of community transmission were uncovered in nearly a year, toilet paper and other essential items disappeared from stores.
While many services and products were affected by lockdown, toilet paper manufacturers in the US were mostly unaffected both before and after the lockdowns.
As lockdowns were imposed, and many retailers imposed strict limits on the number of essential goods that consumers could purchase at one go, panic buying halted, and the demand for toilet paper slowly returned to the pre-pandemic levels.
With COVID-19 cases surging across the US and the Delta variant infecting the unvaccinated population, a resurgence of panic buying has been seen in supermarkets. And while toilet paper is emblematic of panic buying, other essentials such as bottled water, canned food, cereals, etc. are also flying off the shelves, especially in states where cases are spreading rapidly.
So why are consumers hoarding toilet paper even if it will still be available later?
Experts suggest that the stress of lockdowns may inhibit consumers’ critical reasoning ability. The issue is compounded by watching other people take the same action. "People look at what others are doing. If others are stockpiling it leads you to engage in the same behaviour," Sander van der Linden, assistant professor of Social Psychology, Cambridge University, told CNN.
Meanwhile, manufacturers and supermarkets have assured consumers that items will be available later as well.