Everyone goes, but no one goes like that.
The world is in a state of panic. One leader is telling us things are under control, while the World Health Organization declares it a pandemic. As a result, the world has no idea how to react other than to head to that grocery store and clear out those shelves.
In affected countries like the US and UK, people are stocking up on what they feel is essential to fend off the virus in case of some sort of zombie apocalypse. Some major stores have even put a limit on how much people can buy to avoid anyone not getting what they might need to feel safe, which includes hand sanitizer, non-perishable foods, and…toilet paper?
That’s right, no one can seem to get their hands on any toilet paper, of all things. In a period where we all just need to wash our hands and cover our mouths when coughing, nope! People feel that what they need to stock the eff up on is toilet paper. But why? What about this product makes people feel secure and safe from the coronavirus?
CNBC took a deep dive to discover just why these rabid consumers feel they need to stock up on years worth of toilet paper and what drives them to do so. Psychologists and professionals dissect what sends everyone into panic mode where they need to buy everything they see no matter irrational it may seem.
Paul Marsden—consumer psychologist at the University of the Arts London—explains that it’s good, old-fashioned retail therapy. He says: “It’s about ‘taking back control’ in a world where you feel out of control. More generally, panic buying can be understood as playing to our three fundamental psychology needs.” The three he explains are:
autonomy – the need for control
relatedness – the need to be doing what everyone else is doing
competence – the sense of fulfillment
Basically, it’s looking like people aren’t making these decisions on their own initiative, but are most likely to be more effected by their environment and what is going on around them. Kind of like a monkey see, monkey do scenario.
Another psychologist, Peter Noel Murray—who is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Consumer Psychology—feels that we tend to ‘overemphasize things that are recent and vivid.’ What he means by this is that when something goes wrong, everyone is quick to jump to conclusions and abandon rational thought. He too, however, feels that our emotions immediately seek self-affirmation or self-control. He says:
“There’s an over-representation of fear and people’s minds need to respond to those kinds of feelings, and that drives us to do unreasonable things like buying a year’s worth of toilet paper. It overwhelms the knowledge that we don’t need to be doing that,” he tells CNBC.
If you’re reading this standing next to your hoarded pile of toilet paper you just purchased, don’t feel bad—it’s not entirely your fault! You’ve been to influenced by the people in your local supermarket, and that’s okay in some situations…but, do you think you could return a few rolls to the store? We could all really use some. You know, for those regular morning flows.