The Real Reason Stores Are Out Of Toilet Paper

“You will survive without our assistance.” – 9-1-1 operators to citizens reporting that they are out of toilet paper  

Out of t.p.? 9-1-1 says you’re crap-out-of-luck

Cops beg people to stop calling 9-1-1 when they run out of toilet paper 

Mar 20, 2020

phys.org – Times of crisis can bring out the best in people.

It can also reveal the strangest parts of human nature.

While restaurants in six states are offering free toilet paper to those in need in response to the barren toilet paper shelves in many local grocery stores, USA Today reports that a police department in Newport, Oregon, issued an urgent request for residents to stop calling 911 when they run out of toilet paper.

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“You will survive without our assistance,” the department stated.

Meanwhile, as the New York Times reports young people are continuing to travel despite restrictions and state and local governments are closing businesses to prevent people from congregating in public, groups of older adults, including an enclave of retirees in Florida and the parents of one New Yorker writer, are largely resisting the very social distancing behaviors that may protect their health.


“This outbreak is a classic example of a social dilemma,” says Stephen Drigotas, a teaching professor and co-director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins.

He is an expert in social psychology, and he says he’ll likely draw from these news reports for material to include in his introductory course.

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In the case of people panicking about toilet paper shortages, there are two phenomena in play, Drigotas explains.

First, panic buying during a pandemic is a classic example of a social dilemma: an inherent conflict between a person’s individual self-interest and the good of the group as a whole.

In this case, stockpiling goods is an example of the commons dilemma, which is based on 19th-century accounts of farmers who overgrazed public land set aside for their use by the government. Farmers could bring as much livestock to graze as they wanted, but many farmers came too often or with too many animals, and soon the land was stripped, requiring a season of no grazing in order to regrow and replenish. Read more. 

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