The toilet paper fallacy

An unnecessary shortage

Toilet paper is a selfish thing to hoard.

Aristotle once said, “He who overcomes his fears will truly be free.”

With that said, it’s time to look at the fears perpetuating one problem facing America. I first learned about the mass toilet paper buy-out just after COVID-19 come to the U.S., only days before NDSU campus was closed.

I was at the nearby food market buying some provisions and decided to buy some toilet paper—out of actual need, unlike many people there. While I was pulling a 12-roll pack of toilet paper off the shelf, I noticed that half of the entire shelf was missing its supply. Only seconds later, a small family pulled up and began filling their cart with what remained, stating aloud to each other that Walmart was all out.

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “That’s strange,” but I really went no further than that. Later, I discovered on BBC news that on February 17, almost a full month ago at the time, armed robbers in Hong Kong allegedly stole “hundreds of rolls of toilet paper.”

“Toilet paper?” I thought, “Why would somebody want to steal that?”

Now that our country is in quarantine to contain the virus, I’m starting to understand the erratic behavior that would lead people to steal toilet paper. Long story short, people are stress-buying out of fear, not out of need.

In a discussion with a friend, I learned that there was a rumor that there was to be a quarantine, as well as a probable nationwide lockdown, that could last at least 12 weeks in order for COVID-19 to be dealt with. Like many other people, I found the sudden interest in hoarding (as well as sometimes fighting over) toilet paper to be humorous.

In a discussion with several elders, one jokingly said, “What’s wrong with tree leaves? There are plenty of those around should you run out of toilet paper.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s web-based page on COVID-19, symptoms include fever, cough, trouble breathing, tight chest and bluish lips and face. Many of these symptoms have a lot in common with a cold or allergies, certain health conditions which are very prevalent in this country.

People are afraid of getting coronavirus and are preparing for the worst… albeit in a strange yet understandable and very easy, way.

Of course, we combat such illnesses with no shortage of Kleenexes. People are afraid of getting coronavirus and are preparing for the worst… albeit in a strange yet understandable and very easy, way.

Overall, I find this whole shortage to be foolish and illogical. In fact, I find this to be morbidly humorous. If you catch the virus, you are going to need much more than just toilet paper. If people stocked up on vitamins to strengthen their immune system (such as vitamin D and garlic complex), perhaps they would be better set for the worst.

But no, people are buying toilet paper—which in the long run will prove to be as helpful as a Band-Aid to internal bleeding. Yet people are still buying stacks of toilet paper daily until it goes missing. Some stores have even put up signs setting limits on how much toilet paper can be taken at a time.

I would even argue toilet paper would be useless, and this is coming from someone who has had allergies on and off for years and who blows his nose in Kleenex nearly every day. If you want toilet paper as a moral encouragement in these hard times, then how messed up are you to be taking a necessity away from others?

People do stupid things when they’re afraid—don’t be one of them. Toilet paper is too valuable to be bought by people who don’t need it and probably won’t use it. Don’t waste this valuable item to feed your ego, please.

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