Service of Hoarding II

March 16th, 2020

Categories: Hoarding, Panic, Retail

The morning after the August 2003 Northeast blackout I visited D’Agostino, a grocery store. We were going on vacation, the cupboard was bare and a friend on business in NYC was locked out of her hotel room so she was roosting at our apartment. I waited in line on the street and staff let two or three of us at a time in the darkened store. My mission: Bread and cheese. The numbers of other customers with grocery baskets filled with toilet paper eight-packs was remarkable.

A run on toilet paper is happening again these days. I can understand stockpiling food should we follow Italy, France, Israel, Spain and other countries closing everything down. But toilet paper?

Several places online report that the average person uses 100 rolls of toilet paper per year (over 20,000 sheets). Does this match your experience? Eight rolls a month seems like a lot to me unless the rolls are minuscule, you are extremely ill, you use the stuff for other things–the way we use baking soda for far more than cooking. Or maybe the national toilet paper association, if there is such a thing, spread the word in the hopes that people try to meet the statistic.

Trader Joe’s NYC 3/14/2020, 8:40 a.m.

The behavior–hoarding such paper goods–doesn’t match’s definition: “Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.” I had a friend with the disorder and have seen it in action.

The symptom, as reported on the website, is a little closer to what’s happening: “Getting and saving an excessive number of items, gradual buildup of clutter in living spaces and difficulty discarding things are usually the first signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder, which often surfaces during the teenage to early adult years.”

People with houses have plenty of room for all those extra rolls but in a typical NYC apartment an excessive number would likely be incorporated in the decor.

Everybody asks why people hoard toilet paper and I’ve not heard a valid answer. When anxious, people apparently need to have excessive amounts of it–why? Are you hoarding anything at this stressful time?

Trader Joe’s NYC 3/14/2020, 8:41 a.m. NYers don’t eat artichokes.

14 Responses to “Service of Hoarding II”

  1. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie on Facebook: As part of my Girl Scout training (be prepared), I always have extra toilet paper in the house at least 12 rolls before I feel compelled to purchase more. I have limited storage space so I try to be strategic about what I have at the ready (if there were to be a big snow storm). That’s it. Milk, coffee, butter, olive oil, eggs, garlic, pasta and a few canned goods. 🙂

  2. Peggy Coppola Said:

    Peggy wrote on Facebook: Buying few extra packages of TP right now is a good idea, especially families with children out of school but the crazy hoarding is what is causing the shortage. There should have been store and online ordering limits set a few weeks ago.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I have four double rolls of TP and two regular size ones that friends gave me yesterday and consider I have a riches!

    I realized this morning that I don’t have a whole lot of the coffee I like and as time goes on I’ll discover other things, but will deal then.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree re. putting limits on items once a retailer recognizes outrageous buying patterns unless he/she knows there’s much more in the warehouse which clearly hasn’t been the case. The same should go for ice melt in cold climates with an anticipated ice storm forecast. Maybe a trigger will be installed in future cash registers.

    I’ve tried to find hand sanitizer–as you know–and also couldn’t find the ingredients you’d recommended to make my own. Shortages like this shouldn’t happen in the USA.

    Hoarding under stressful conditions is due to a lack of trust in addition to panic which is also probably related to lack of trust.

  5. Francine Ryan Said:

    Francine on Facebook: I am one of those people who worried about not having enough TP and actually called Costco yesterday and was told to call them again this morning to see if they had it – and they did and I zoomed over and waited on line to get into the store and then there was a limit on the number of packages I could purchase (1) but I came away with the package of 30 and feel relieved (no pun intended) 💩

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    OK, now I wish I had a psychiatrist in the family. There must be something about one person happy with 6 rolls [me] and another with a dozen [Debbie above] and a third 30 [you]. Hmmmmmmmmm. I know whose doors to knock on should I run out!

    I’m impressed that Costco had what it promised. I have tired of returning to stores that promise hand sanitizer and nary a drop to be found–or of alcohol and aloe to make my own–when I show up the next day as advised.

  7. Francine Ryan Said:

    Francine on Facebook: Well, they were smart enough to limit the number of packages any person could purchase to just 1. Which I’m sure helped – and the fact that I was literally in the store by 9:15 this morning. The store was mobbed but people were behaving well, for the most part.

  8. Ramona Flood Said:

    Ramona on Facebook: People overbuy TP in a time like this simply because it is something that they control when they cannot control the bigger emergency. Of course, its something that everybody needs. I always buy a pack of six rolls and when I get down to the last roll or two, I restock. Yesterday, I was on the Fresh Direct website and they were completely out of TP and paper towels.

  9. Francine Ryan Said:

    Francine on Facebook: It is definitely a “circle the wagons” mentality – we can’t control the virus but we can be ready for anything with enough TP.

  10. Ramona Flood Said:

    Ramona on Facebook: Glad you got to Costco, FER. My mother used to buy TP by the case. A huge box that must have had sixty rolls in it. 30 rolls should hold you for a while!

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I was at Trader Joe’s on Third Ave and 32nd Street at 8:15 on Saturday morning and was too late–should have arrived before the 8 am opening. Huge mob. Long story but finally, after total chaos, the manager closed the store so more people couldn’t enter and the gargantuan tangle worked itself out with the help of a few overwhelmed TJ staffers. We were not 6 inches from one another much less 6 feet. I kept thinking of that.

    That said I think some people are hoarding so that they can sell something that’s hard to come by at a tidy profit. Amazon already caught a few nasty people who did just that with hand sanitizer. May they be stuck with their inventory for life.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Valid reason to make sure you have enough TP but then there’s the question of how much is enough to be able to relax?

    In normal times like you, TP goes on my shopping list when I have installed the last roll. So my having 6 rolls is lovely. Your mom had 60 rolls! WOW. I have no idea how many my mom had at any time but I’d guess a couple at most.

    Surprised about Fresh Direct being out of towels and TP.

  13. Lucrezia Said:

    Eight rolls of toilet paper a month? Incredible! I hoard it since packages are large and I want to shop for it as infrequently as possible. The best strategy is to wait for it to go on sale…..then pounce! Same with paper towels. Such items are not to be confused with clutter, since they are always in use. Under present circumstances, hoarding pays off.

    Today’s virus, because of possible longevity, presents a new ballgame. Enter the scary specter of food and medicine shortages which will haunt should transportation come to a standstill. There will be nothing around to buy, let alone squirrel away, and nobody left to reveal how they managed during the Asian flu of 1918!

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Re: the 8 rolls figure, I’m convinced that people must be using toilet paper for more than the obvious.

    I get the feeling that businesses big and small got the message and to their best ability won’t leave us in the lurch and will get food and other essentials to our stores.

    The following is happening in France and I wouldn’t be surprised if American corporations similarly rise to the occasion. The quote is from the LVMH website. Dior and Tiffany are just two of the brands LVMH owns.

    “Major luxury brand company LVMH is converting its perfume and cosmetics factories to instead produce hand sanitizer during the coronavirus outbreak, which it plans to give free to French authorities and France’s largest hospital system.”

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