The coronavirus outbreak has prompted people around the world to panic buy toilet paper. Here's why.
Mar 10, 2020, 22:23 IST
In Hong Kong, the coronavirus caused panic buying of toilet paper as early as mid-February. It apparently got so dire that an armed gang robbed a shop of 600 rolls of toilet paper one day.
Around the same time, Australian Haidee Janetzki accidentally ordered 12 years' worth of toilet paper. When Australian demand for toilet paper grew in early March, she resold the paper to raise money for her daughter's school.
Meanwhile, an Australian tabloid circulated an issue with an extra eight blank pages. "Get your limited edition one-ply toilet paper newspaper sheets," the front page said.
Elsewhere in Australia, the fight for toilet paper got heated. On March 6 a fight over toilet paper at a supermarket in Chullora, a suburb outside Sydney, got so bad that police had to intervene.
Meanwhile, some Middle Eastern people looked on the world toilet-paper crisis with a raised eyebrow. Toilets in many Muslim-majority countries have a shatafa — a type of bidet attachment — that reduces the need for toilet paper.
Bidets, which also don't require toilet paper, have also caught on. One of Australia's biggest bidet distributors said enquiries had tripled since the toilet-paper rush.
The situation in Australia soon became TikTok fodder, with many people making mocking posts to the tune of "It's Corona Time."
The US hasn't been immune to the panic buying either. Police we called after customers at a Costco in Chino Hills, California, turned unruly after seeing the store out of toilet paper and other items.
People have also been forming huge lines outside Costco and other large retailers to prepare for bulk purchases of toilet paper. Here's the line outside the Costco in Chino Hills.
Panic buying could also be seen in the UK, where the owner of an amusement arcade swapped the toys in his grabber machine for toilet paper and hand sanitizer instead.
The panic buying around the world has prompted not only governments, but also one of the world's biggest toilet-paper suppliers to clarify that there is no shortage and to tell panic buyers to stop.
But shoppers have yet to heed this advice. Experts say the panic buying could be a behavioral reaction to "the loss of psychological control" over the pandemic, or to a lack of clear direction from authorities.