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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Coronavirus

Panic buying leaves shelves bare and does more harm to neighbors, friends


The toilet paper aisle at HEB wiped clean with just a handful of single rolls left to sell. When the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, people all over the United States began emptying grocery store shelves. | Katrina Martinez/The Cougar

The toilet paper aisle at  a local HEB wiped clean with just a handful of single rolls left to sell. When the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, people all over the U.S. began emptying grocery store shelves. | Katrina Martinez/The Cougar

People are stocking up on toilet paper, masks and hand sanitizers in obscene amounts due to the new coronavirus.

This leaves so many people without their basic necessities — like health care workers who are forced to treat patients without masks or families who can’t find toilet paper or soap. 

Some are even reselling toilet paper at $5 a roll in places. This hysteria around toilet paper is ridiculous and price gouging it is even worse, not to mention exploitative. No one should be stockpiling toilet paper in the first place, but if you have extras, give them away. 

To understand why people are stocking up, specifically on toilet paper, requires a bit of psychology.

Steven Taylor, a psychologist who wrote “The Psychology of Pandemics,” said simply washing hands does not feel like it’s big enough to take on the threat of COVID-19, the disease cause by the virus. So, people take extreme measures and start hoarding supplies like toilet paper even if it doesn’t make much sense. 

Hoarding supplies allow people to feel a sense of control when all their school events, classes and sports have been canceled. If they over-prepare, they feel like they are doing something substantial against the virus, even if they really aren’t. 

It is understandable to want to prepare during a pandemic. Although we should recognize many people actually need these supplies and we should not be hoarding them away. More so, we should not upcharge products that some need like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

The irony: The reason people cannot find these products in stores is because of those hoarding them.

We are in a pandemic. We shouldn’t see it as a business opportunity but a time to help each other. 

Many students support themselves and don’t have the money to pay $15 or more per roll. Additionally, if a student doesn’t have a car but lives on campus, they may have limited access to stores anyway.

As Cougars, we need to take care of each other. Of course, we still have to social distance from each other but with social media and technology we can check up on each other.

Check on anyone you know who is immunocompromised. Their dire need for quarantine may prevent them from getting all the supplies or even the food they need. If you are healthy, check up on them and ask if they need anything. There’s no shame in buying extras if you’re giving (not selling) them to someone else in need. 

First people bought out masks, then hand sanitizer, then paper towels and toilet paper. There’s no telling what will sell out next.

Instead of panic buying 200 cases of whatever it is, buy what you need. Then ask your friends, who might be more vulnerable, if they need anything and don’t charge them for it. Instead, just do something helpful for a friend. Students need to help each other during these uncertain times, not profit off each other. 

Anna Baker is an English sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]

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