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This story originally appeared at Do You Remember by Lauren Novak.

If you’ve been shopping recently, you may have noticed that a few items seem to be perpetually out of stock. One of the top items that have disappeared from shelves is toilet paper. In fact, even many Costco locations are sold out or had to limit the quantities people are buying. It seems tied to the coronavirus outbreak…but why?

On social media, people are talking about it. The hashtags #toiletpapergate and #toiletpapercrisis have been trending. Yet, why are people obsessed with buying toilet paper and not other things like soap? People do seem to be stocking up on hand sanitizer, paper towels, and face masks.

Why are people buying mass quantities of toilet paper?

Empty shelves / Facebook

Experts say that the trend is likely caused by social media and the news. Toilet paper packs are rather large and when they are off the shelves, people notice more quickly. This in turn leads to the mentality that if everyone is buying it, we must buy it as well.

Toilet paper / Wikimedia Commons

In China, there was another reason for toilet paper shortages. When face masks were selling out, people mistakenly thought they could make their own with toilet paper. However, in America the reason is down to fears of scarcity.

With the coronavirus on every news channel and the stock market going down, people are worried they will be stuck indoors. With that worry, they also have concerns that they will be left without their modern conveniences (and this includes toilet paper).

Toilet paper stock / Facebook

The University of Sydney’s Rohan Miller said, “We’re not used to shortages and scarcity, we’re used to being able to pick and choose what we want, when we want. So the rush to get toilet paper is just this sheep mentality to maintain that status. I think people want to make sure they have some comforts in their lives if they’re going to be shacked up with their family for a long time.”

Even if you aren’t that worried about coronavirus, you might see everyone stocking up and fear you’ll be left without.

Experts also say that a toilet paper shortage isn’t likely, so you can relax if you haven’t stocked up yet.

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