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Toilet Paper Panic Buying Is Due To Kiasu Mentality As It Gives People Sense Of Security, Says Expert

Toilet Paper Panic Buying Due To Fear Of Losing Out Rather Than A Necessity

By now, you’ve probably seen the photos and videos of people worldwide panic buying due to the fear of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Singaporeans were one of the first to do it, but the “disease” has now spread to many countries like South Korea and Indonesia, and even further to the United States and New Zealand.

While clamouring for basic food items is understandable, one surprise hot commodity that has emerged is a household item that has been fairly innocuous until now — toilet paper.

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While people are scratching their heads over the popularity of toilet paper, various experts are honing in on this issue.

Among the replies is that people are buying because they see others buying — classic kiasu mentality.

Toilet paper panic buying leads to altercations

We may think we are crazy about toilet paper here in Singapore, but in Australia, everything is bigger and badder — even the insane toilet paper rush.

It has led to a violent brawl over toilet paper that resulted in two women being charged, according to Reuters.

A posted on Twitter shows the women shouting and pulling each other’s hair next to a shopping cart overflowing with toilet paper.

Scarier still, during a toilet paper fight in Sydney, a woman pulled out a knife, reported the Daily Mail.

Limiting toilet paper purchases

The situation has gotten so bad that some stores in the country have limited purchases of toilet paper.

For example, supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles started to allow only four packs of toilet paper per person, reported CNN.

Costco Australia also put restrictions on the purchase of toilet paper by customers, along with disinfectant, rice, milk and eggs.

Witty reactions to toilet paper panic buying

Amid the chaos, some enterprising ideas have come to the fore.

You know how some people joke that some print newspapers are only fit to be used to wrap nasi lemak or as toilet paper?

Well, now print newspapers, which many say are going obsolete, can finally be an integral part of people’s lives.

Australia newspaper NT News has kindly printed extra blank pages in its print edition, what it termed as “toilet newspaper sheets”, which readers can use to clean themselves in the loo.

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Check out the video here to see just how many pages there are:

We think this move is genius. It improves the paper’s popularity with the public through this show of goodwill, while providing timely, tongue-in-cheek commentary of the sudden importance of paper.

Also, this might actually be a good idea to drive up the flagging sales of print newspapers worldwide!

Pranks and jokes amid Australian panic

In what appeared to be a prank, an arcade claw machine filled with rolls of toilet paper was seen at a shopping centre in Victor Harbour in Australia.

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Note that A$2 (S$1.80) for a chance to snag a roll of toilet paper may be a bit pricey, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

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One shop even implied that toilet paper is more precious than diamond, by offering a free one carat diamond ring with the purchase of a A$3,999 roll of toilet paper.

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With a golden bow around it like that, it could even work as a proposal gift in place of the ring itself.

Hoarders have a kiasu mentality, says expert

Jokes aside, media outlets worldwide have been searching for answers as to why people are behaving this way, and have turned to a variety of experts for their opinion.

Associate Professor Jana Bowden, from the Department of Marketing at Macquarie University, told Channel NewsAsia (CNA) in an interview that people who hoard toilet paper have a fear of running out of the essential item.

Having a stock at home thus gives them a sense of security amid a crisis.

She also said that when people see others crowding at the supermarket for toilet paper, they would also join in for fear of missing out. The behaviour, termed the “herding effect”, is what many Singaporeans recognise as being kiasu.

She added that social media posts of empty supermarket shelves and restrictions on toilet paper only exacerbates the feeling.

You can watch her full interview here:

Other reasons for toilet paper frenzy

Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, an expert in consumer and behavioural science at the University College London, was quoted by Sky News as saying that toilet paper doesn’t really have an expiry date, is big and takes up more space in supermarket shelves, so people are “psychologically drawn” to it during a crisis.

The bigger they are, the more important we think they are… If we had an international sign for panic it would be a traffic warning sign with a toilet paper roll in the middle.

Psychologist Emma Kenny said the toilet paper hoarding shows that people are not that worried about Covid-19, but of losing out on “first-world comforts of being able to use the toilet”. Talk about first world problems.

She also attributed it, somewhat, to kiasu mentality, saying:

You’re not reacting to the virus, you’re reacting to the fear of what’s going to happen if people all panic buy and that’s creating the panic buying which feeds the whole cycle. And that’s a problem.

Don’t let irrational behaviour take hold

While the toilet paper panic buying may be laughable and ripe for meme making, it shows that people are fearful and prone to irrational behaviour, and doesn’t speak well of the human race as a whole.

We might imagine aliens, if they exist, looking at us and shaking their heads.

The only people this might be good news for are toilet paper manufacturers and retailers, who have seen demand shoot through the roof. At least one company, Who Gives A Crap, has seen sales go up by 8 times, reported Smart Company.

If there’s any lesson to learn from this, it’s that blindly following others isn’t always a good idea. Sometimes pausing to think is worth the time and effort.

Featured image adapted from Twitter.

Jeremy Lee

Analog person making do with a digital world.

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