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Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:16 PM

What Everyone's Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage

https://marker.medium.com/what-everyones-getting-wrong-about-the-toilet-paper-shortage-c812e1358fe0

There’s another, entirely logical explanation for why stores have run out of toilet paper — one that has gone oddly overlooked in the vast majority of media coverage. It has nothing to do with psychology and everything to do with supply chains. It helps to explain why stores are still having trouble keeping it in stock, weeks after they started limiting how many a customer could purchase.

In short, the toilet paper industry is split into two, largely separate markets: commercial and consumer. The pandemic has shifted the lion’s share of demand to the latter. People actually do need to buy significantly more toilet paper during the pandemic — not because they’re making more trips to the bathroom, but because they’re making more of them at home. With some 75% of the U.S. population under stay-at-home orders, Americans are no longer using the restrooms at their workplace, in schools, at restaurants, at hotels, or in airports.

Georgia-Pacific, a leading toilet paper manufacturer based in Atlanta, estimates that the average household will use 40% more toilet paper than usual if all of its members are staying home around the clock. That’s a huge leap in demand for a product whose supply chain is predicated on the assumption that demand is essentially constant. It’s one that won’t fully subside even when people stop hoarding or panic-buying.

If you’re looking for where all the toilet paper went, forget about people’s attics or hall closets. Think instead of all the toilet paper that normally goes to the commercial market — those office buildings, college campuses, Starbucks, and airports that are now either mostly empty or closed. That’s the toilet paper that’s suddenly going unused.


I enjoy reading up on supply chains, economic principles, and how to get stuff where it needs to go. The commercial paper argument definitely makes sense and I'm sure more than a few folks have tried to steal from offices before they disabled badge access for mandatory remote work. There is a ton of hand sanitizer in offices too, for the record. They are the type that goes in the automatic machines that dispense them as well as the giant pumps.

More than a few local restaurants are selling TP and groceries along with takeout. And at least one local nonprofit actually gives out TP in exchange for donations.

I respect that hand sanitizer is being reserved for hospitals and government agencies and anything that makes it to stores is used by the store's employees.

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Arrow 14 replies Author Time Post
Reply What Everyone's Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage (Original post)
IronLionZion Apr 2020 OP
genxlib Apr 2020 #1
3catwoman3 Apr 2020 #2
msongs Apr 2020 #10
treestar Apr 2020 #3
IronLionZion Apr 2020 #8
tavernier Apr 2020 #11
treestar Apr 2020 #14
tinrobot Apr 2020 #4
elocs Apr 2020 #5
Kaleva Apr 2020 #6
IronLionZion Apr 2020 #9
customerserviceguy Apr 2020 #13
Quixote1818 Apr 2020 #7
ProfessorGAC Apr 2020 #12

Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:24 PM

1. So all those people stealing from public bathrooms before they shut down

Were just proactively redirecting the supply chain.

There is certainly some truth in this theory. Presumably, the distributors will catch up and get it to the right place.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:28 PM

2. A very valid point about increased home use - interesting.

There will also be a gender use influence. Women use more TP than men, because we need it every time. Other factors will be medical conditions that influence frequency of commode use - GI problems, over active bladder syndrome, etc, etc.

Just for the hell of it, I am tracking how long a roll lasts. My husband I use separate bathroom, so that makes it easy to monitor my own consumption. I started this on 3/21. So far, 3 days per large size, 2 ply roll.

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Response to 3catwoman3 (Reply #2)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:44 PM

10. 4 squares per use oughta do it nt

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:30 PM

3. Noticed this on a small scale

We are stocked up at a small office. No one coming in here but me. I've left it alone so far, only might borrow some if it got to be we had none at home. Now it looks like that might not be a problem.

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Response to treestar (Reply #3)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:41 PM

8. If you borrow TP

don't return it after using

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #8)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:46 PM

11. Good point.

“Borrow” might not be the best word.

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #8)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 03:07 PM

14. LOL indeed I will not!

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:35 PM

4. Ive seen those giant rolls in stock on commecial office supply sites

You usually have to buy a case, however.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)


Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:40 PM

6. This explains the shortage of dried beans. Can't get them at work anymore.

People are now soaking them overnight and cooking them on the stove top for 2-3 hours at home instead of at work or Starbucks.

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Response to Kaleva (Reply #6)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:43 PM

9. Everyone has an instant pot these days

great for dried beans or softening the cheapest cuts of meat

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Response to IronLionZion (Reply #9)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 02:36 PM

13. They are indeed great

My lady bought me one about a year and a half ago, and I love the thing.

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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:41 PM

7. I stocked groceries in my 20's. A case of toilet paper is like 6 packages.

A case takes up a HUGE amount of room. So it just takes a few extra people buying a normal amount to clear the shelf. Compare to canned goods for example. A case of soup can have 24 and even 48 cans and take up very little space.

This has always been way over blown.



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Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:48 PM

12. This Guy Is Nuts

He's tossing around buzzwords & a few disjointed stats, but his conclusions make no sense.
Loading a different truck is two days or work by two logistics people at a site. The trucks, warehousing, and sales routes are already established.
This column in nonsense.

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