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Here’s Why You Can’t Find Toilet Paper on Your Coronavirus Panic-Buying Shopping Spree

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Stocking up in an emergency is a familiar ritual, and while some purchases make sense, why do people reflexively stock up on toilet paper during crises like the coronavirus pandemic? Several outlets have taken a crack at explaining why supplies of all plys are being wiped out.

Some purchases seem to fit the emergence, like bottled water during a natural disaster, or hand sanitizer during an epidemic, but unless your crisis is an impending invasion of Klingons, why are you hoarding TP like a bear headed for a long trip into the woods?

CNBC’s Chloe Taylor reached out to a London psychologist to unravel some of the mystery, and he was flush with ideas:

Dimitrios Tsivrikos, lecturer in consumer and business psychology at University College London, toilet paper has become an “icon” of mass panic.

“In times of uncertainty, people enter a panic zone that makes them irrational and completely neurotic,” he said in a phone call. “In other disaster conditions like a flood, we can prepare because we know how many supplies we need, but we have a virus now we know nothing about.”

“When you enter a supermarket, you’re looking for value and high volumes,” he added, noting that people are drawn to the large packaging that toilet paper comes in when they are looking to regain a sense of control.

CNN reached out to several experts, who came up with five reasons, including a “lack of a clear direction from officials” and the fact that people see other people buying all the toilet paper and are afraid all the toilet paper will run out.

Plus, as Professor Frank Farley presciently asked, “If we run out of [toilet paper], what do we replace it with?”

If things keep going the way they are, some unlucky souls are going to have to figure out the answer to that question. But if that happens, they might want to consider hitting up the Australian woman who accidentally bought a 12-year supply of the stuff from an online supplier named “Who Gives a Crap.”

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