Sunday, March 15, 2020

I Have Figured Out The Toilet Paper Hoarding

I realized it today. It is the same impulse that drives my friends to hoard ammo or reloading components.

An example. You learn to reload. All is well. You buy a couple of hundred primers in the various types, some powder, and you make some ammo. You observe that there is a price break to buy a thousand primers. Next time you get a thousand. Moving along, you use a couple of hundred and you feel understocked so you buy another thousand. You have established a floor, the minimum number you feel comfortable having. Next time you buy five thousand. Well above your minimum, but wait, it becomes the new floor.

Then there is a shortage. There was panic buying at some point several years ago and the supply and manufacturing did not keep up. There were outages for a while. If you needed large pistol primers and didn't have a supply, you were out of luck. People remember that. They buy ten thousand. That sets a nice base, they don't use them, they are the emergency reserve. They go back to buying a thousand here and there and working from that, maintaining the reserve that has become their minimum.

Ammo the same way, in whatever quantities are the baseline.

Now it's toilet paper and it's everyone. Might be 48 or 96 rolls, but there's now a minimum stock that people want on hand. Store stocks will not recover until people's attics and garages are filled to the new minimums. There's nothing to be done about this except ramp up production for a while.

Humans and human behavior can only be observed. Telling people to be comfortable when they have an open eight pack of toilet paper is now impossible. The stores are empty, rolls are being snatched off the pallets before they can be unloaded, and having eight rolls is like having the fire warning light on in the cockpit. More must be found.

It will sort out. Our grandchildren will wonder why we felt the need to have 96 rolls of TP in the garage at all times, just like we looked back at our grandparents that lived through the Depression and wondered about the things they did.


LL said...

Toilet paper may have a longer shelf life than large rifle primers. But not longer than a twinkie.

ASM826 said...


I regularly shoot surplus ammo from the 1960s. It all goes bang. Those primers are all 60 years old. I don't think that properly stored primers are going to go bad in my lifetime.

Greybeard said...

I wonder how much of this TP panic relates to hearing about Venezuela?

HMS Defiant said...

...and remember, there is a tiny chance the nation will go insane and elect Biden and we'll all be up the shit river without a wipe or a paddle. So far I haven't yielded to the impulse to buy huge stocks of paper or ammo. I have enough of both but don't much use the one and we buy a little every couple of weeks as needed.
OTOH, the sheep are learning about supply chain and just in time delivery for the first time now and they find it upsetting and confusing.

Beans said...

Herd mentality. The herd is only as smart as the dumbest animal. In this case, an intersection of WalMartians and Democratic Socialists. Which, unfortunately, means that flatworms are smarter. And better looking.

Divemedic said...

JIT has always been a bad idea, and this is why.

Also, when I was younger, I was helping a friend clean out the closets of her recently deceased grandmother. Having lived through the depression, she had hidden wads of cash all over the house- inside of the pockets of clothes in the closet, inside of furniture, etc. It was because her entire generation learned not to trust banks after the left everyone in the lurch during the depression. That is why you occasionally hear stories about people finding $10,000 inside of a sofa that they bought in a Goodwill store.

STxAR said...

Mom kept glass bottles, we had a can of soap scraps under the sink, and a few paper bags of paper bags. But we also had a deep larder, and kept enough food to live on for quite a while. A depression or a panic will teach folks lessons, hopefully they learn the right ones.

A garage full of toilet paper infested with mice will be an eye opener for most.

JustPeachy said...

The TP hoarding is bizarre. Just... has nobody here ever been camping? Travelled in Asia?

I remember, vividly, the first time I walked into a restroom outside a hotel in Southeast Asia: there was a squat toilet (no tank or flusher or anything), and in the corner a barrel of water and a dipper. No TP in sight. Took me about two minutes to figure it out, and I have never since been scared of running out of TP. We bulk-buy everything anyway, so we're good for a month. But if we run out... I have a dipper. We're good.

Aaron said...

It's an interesting phenomenon.

My grandmother, who grew up during the depression, always kept a very large stock of toilet paper and paper towels in her place, well in excess of what she could potentially go through.

Probably a comfort thing knowing you have your necessities at hand when you've gone through an extended period of scarcity and want.

I think now its mainly people panicky after confusing themselves from media reports that after the flu hit Hong Kong ran out of toilet paper, since the virus hit here, they think we'll run out of toilet paper too, and the rest of the crowd followed along.

Glen Filthie said...

I became mathematically literate late in life. But I came back with a vengeance. I learned that whenever a shitlib sneered at you as if you were a moron, and challenged you to "do the math" … you'd better get out the paper, pencil and calculator and actually do it because you can bet that he hasn't. That goes for anyone trying to use stats and mathematics to bolster a political point. (Aesop - I wanna see you in my office after this!)

Getting the math right is easy. Getting the underlying assumptions right, and interpreting the stats are the other half. According to Fat Al Gore the ice caps should have melted 7 years ago. He amassed a tidy fortune selling that panic to stupid people and his disciples are still doing it today. The math is rock solid, but I wouldn't wipe my arse with their assumptions, their methodology, their intellectual honesty and credibility, or their interpretation of their studied results.

Math is not your friend, nor is it your enemy. It should be neither of those things, it should be regarded correctly as a powerful tool that has to be respected - because it can hurt you if you misapply it.

ASM826 said...


People don't do math, especially statistics, intuitively. That's why we can have lotteries. They don't assess risk well at all. Risk is always an emotional thing. Examples abound, but this virus gives a great example. The same people that buy Lotto tickets every week when their chance of winning is less than their chance of being struck by lightening while being eaten by a bear will ignore a 60% chance of catching and sharing a serious and potentially fatal disease.

Old NFO said...

Greybeard has a good point!

danielbarger said...

Why the irrational stockpiling of strange goods by people who prior to this month never
thought about supplies or tomorrow? Simple. Because people are stupid. Homo sapiens is
NOT an intelligent species. It's a CLEVER one. There are occasional individual instances
of intelligence in the species but as a whole we are emotion driven, illogical, selfish
and short sighted. Clever...Hell yeah. But NO intelligent species would learn how to make
nuclear bombs, nerve gas and engineered diseases that can kill millions and then DO JUST THAT.....MAKE THEM. So no. We as a species are a failed experiment.

David said...

One of the proudest moments of my time as a father.

I was talking to my son on the phone last week. I asked him if he and his roommates (they are all in college) had enough food and supplies set aside for about a month. He replied. "Yeah we keep at least 2-3 weeks of stuff around. We went shopping yesterday reinforced our supplies a bit, added a bottle of bleach, and our regular weekly groceries. And Murdocks had a sale so I picked up an extra thousand each of 9s and 223s."

I laughed and asked "Did you buy a truck load of TP?" He responded "Nate asked if we should get more? We told him - No we're not planning on letting you start doing the cooking."