By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Talk about TP!

Marcus Larson  / News-Register##Toilet paper is on everyone s minds -- but not on many store shelves -- these days.
Marcus Larson / News-Register##Toilet paper is on everyone's minds -- but not on many store shelves -- these days.

Toilet paper usually isn’t a subject for the dinner table, the water cooler or even tweets and Facebook posts.

These days, though, it seems like it’s all people can talk about.

“How’s your supply?” they ask on Facebook. “Do you have enough? Too much?”

And, most important, “Where can I find some?”

TP has even become currency. We’ve heard about a babysitter being paid not in cash, but in rolls of double ply.

One woman posted a photo of a shelf full of Charmin in a local grocery over the weekend. A couple hours later, another Facebooker reported she’d raced to that store and found the supply wiped away.

The situation changes in a flash. Or flush.

According to the Forbes website, toilet paper and other paper products aren’t actually in short supply. They may be hard to find in stores right now, but they’re still being produced in large quantities.

The paper in our bathrooms is made mainly in U.S. factories, rather than shipped from overseas. Only about 5 percent of the toilet paper used in the U.S. is made in China, the magazine reports.

In addition, Forbes reports, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based Proctor & Gamble spokesman said the company’s  factories are running at “record-high levels.” The company makes Charmin, as well as Bounty paper towels and Puffs facial tissue.

Forbes says economists predict an oversupply this year after shopping panic eases.

It’s not the first panic over bathroom paper.

In late 1973, a year for shortages of fuel and other products, consumers rushed to stores and carted out piles of toilet paper. They worried they wouldn’t be able to find more, or that they’d have to line up for a four-pack just as they’d lined up to buy gas.

Historians say there never was real shortage, just one created by panic buying. And they credit a congressman and a comedian with having caused the panic.

After hearing a report that Japan was short on TP, Harold Froelich of Wisconsin released a statement saying a shortage could happen here, too. And popular late-night host Johnny Carson picked up on it, moaning that after all the other shortages, now Americans needed to be concerned about “an acute shortage” of toilet paper.

Just as Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” fooled people into thinking aliens were invading, Carson’s joke felt a bit too real. The next day, stores began witnessing a run on paper products.

My father, born in 1914 and veteran of the Great Depression, stacked four-packs two-high down the hallway of our house. I was an adolescent at the time, and I’d always thought he’d succumbed to the panic.

Not so, my older brother told me recently. “Dad was always like that,” he said.

Now, fearing confinement to their homes, shoppers are scouring the shelves in McMinnville every day, looking for more TP.

Some find it. Some wait for it after employees promise a semi-truck is on the way.

Some turn to the internet, where an advertisement proclaims: “Toilet Paper on ebay. Seriously, We Have Toilet Paper‎.” And the auction site offers numerous packages to bid on or buy immediately; all you need is a credit card with a high limit and faith in a nationwide delivery service.

You may not see any TP ads on TV, though. The Charmin bears and other brands’ cuddly creatures have disappeared for the time being.

On the internet, you’ll also find a variety of humorous photos and cartoons, including one that implies the Charmin bears caused coronavirus to sell more product.

Another cartoon, “How to Catch a Hoarder,” reveals a giant mousetrap baited with a roll of TP.

Still another brags about a completed “panic room,” its walls lined with toilet paper dispensers, all of them full.

Others show people sawing rolls of paper towels in half, or rolling store receipts onto a cardboard tube to create a usable, although scratchy, supply.

Here’s another idea for a cartoon: A 30-something man stops an older woman entering a grocery store during the early hours for seniors. Just like a college student asking an adult to buy him beer, the man offers a $20 bill and whispers, “Buy me some TP, lady?”

To reassure yourself — or motivate you to redouble your search — go to the website Plug in how many rolls you have and how many times your toilet is used each day, and it will tell you how many days your supply will last.

A British software developer, Ben Sassoon, and artist, Sam Harris, created the site after discussing the run on toilet paper during the pandemic. They concluded people who rushed to the store and bought up everything in sight now have 500 times what they will need.

Those who waited just a bit too long, though, are left high and dry. So to speak.


Web Design and Web Development by Buildable