Around the world, in countries affected with the coronavirus, stores are sold out of toilet paper. There have been shortages all over America. And we all know who is to blame: hoarders as well as panic-buyers. Story after story indicates that the toilet paper shortages as a sort of fluke of consumer  irrationality. Unlike hand sanitizer, N95 masks, or hospital ventilators, it is noted that toilet paper serves no special function in a pandemic. Toilet paper manufacturers are cranking out the same supply as usual. It's not like people are using the bathroom more often, right? Could it be that we are just filling up our closets with it.?

Faced with this mystifying happening, media outlets have turned to psychologists to rationally explain why people are cramming their shelves with a household good that has absolutely nothing to do with the pandemic. Most outlets agree that the spike in demand will be short-lived, subsiding as soon as the hoarders are satisfied.

There is no doubt that there has been some panic-buying, particularly once photos of empty store shelves began circulating on social media.Also there has been a handful of documented cases of true hoarding. However, you should not assume that most consumers are greedy or irrational to understand how coronavirus would spur a surge in demand.You can also stop wondering where people are storing all that Quilted Northern.

There is a logical explanation for why stores have run out of toilet paper, one that has gone overlooked in the vast majority of media coverage. This explanation has nothing to do with psychology and everything to do with supply chains. It helps to explain why stores are still have difficulties keeping it in stock, weeks after they began limiting how many a customer can buy. To make a long story short, the toilet paper industry is divided between two markets: commercial and consumer. The pandemic has essentially moved a large share of demand to the latter. People actually do need to buy more toilet paper during this event, not because they're making more trips to the bathroom, but because they're making more of them at home. Currently, with over 75% of the United States population under say-at-home orders, Americans are no longer using the restrooms at work, schools, restaurants, hotels, or in airports.

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