Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Toilet Paper Panic

A bit late to the party. But today we’re discussing why people bought enough toilet paper to last them six years, even if they had continual diarrhea.

To make sense of today’s toilet paper panic, we’re going back in time to the Great Toilet Paper Scare of ‘73.

In October 1973, the oil-producing countries of the Middle East stopped all their oil shipments to America.

Oil prices quadrupled, unemployment spiked, and the stock market crashed. The strongest nation in the world was thrown into chaos.

As if the oil embargo wasn’t enough, a congressman from Wisconsin mentioned the possibility of a toilet paper shortage. Which became the butt of the joke in Johnny Carson’s monologue on his Tonight Show

“You know what else is disappearing off the shelves? Toilet paper,” said the comedian and television host. “We better quit writing on it.”

Although only a joke, Carson sent Americans into a panic. The next day, millions of shoppers overran the stores and snagged the toilet paper off the shelves.

What was once a farfetched hunch, was now stark reality.

The toilet paper shortage was becoming real. At least, in some supermarkets. In other shops only a few blocks away, inventories were stocked.

So what went wrong?

Professor Steuart Henderson Britt said it best: 

First someone says “There may be a problem.” Then the next person says, “There’s probably a problem.” And finally someone says, “There is a problem.”

The 2020 toilet paper panic followed the same rules, but started differently.

It didn’t begin with a joke from a famous TV celebrity, but a supermarket observation.

Early during the pandemic, everyone was asked to stock up on hand sanitizer. So we took the stores and did as we were told: we bought hand sanitizer.

But that’s not all.

We also bought a reasonable buffer for everything else we needed, including big, bulky toilet paper.

The toilet paper aisles were soon empty and made a big impression on everyone who saw the bare shelves. 

The impression being, “We may have a problem.”

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach