Roll On: Lifting The Lid On A Lesser “Crisis”!

On the  lighter side, among the comparatively lesser things that Americans will remember about the coronavirus epidemic, and in hindsight, certain to be the only humorous part of the trauma, was the unanticipated early run, not on green beans, but on toilet paper.  Americans hoarded TP, for perhaps (and thankfully) the only time in modern history, when the supply of such has never ever been an issue (or tissue).

Perhaps some history, would be of little use, now that the shopping hysteria seems to be over, although apparently some stores still do limit the number of rolls one can purchase at a time.  You may be disinterested to learn that the very first commercially available toilet paper made its appearance in 1857, when it was introduced and sold by the American owner of Gayetty’s Medicated Paper in New York City.  The sheets were single-ply and flat, but they reportedly did contain aloe, which we can assume was helpful. Toilet paper rolls were patented in 1891.  Before you ask, two-ply was invented in England during World War Two (1942).

Of absolutely no value, but here it is anyway.  The average American uses about 141 rolls of toilet paper each year. However, in China, the average per person roll use per year is said to be just 49, raising a whole lot of questions, the answers to which we really don’t want to know.

Early on, Americans began to get worried, as news of the virus intensified, and that understandable concern increased TP sales here by a little over 50%.  Then, by the second week in March, as some states and municipalities began issuing business closings and shelter-in-place orders, the “run” on this sudden ‘Super bowl’ champion of a home staple began in earnest, jumping 845% over normal purchase rates.  Trust you found that information of no interest whatsoever.

Paper products on the nation’s store shelves are once again in view, although there remain individual store-imposed purchase limits.  Recent scarcity in mind, an anonymous writer confessed the following: “I used to spin that toilet paper like I was on Wheel of Fortune. Now, I turn it like I’m cracking a safe!” With TP shortages and in-store tug-a-wars between desperate mom’s now over, we can go back to worrying about things that really matter, like the very future of our lives and that of our nation.  Gone are the days, we hope, when our primary household goal was aimed solely at achieving a proper Royal Flush.


(Toilet paper development stats via The Wall Street Journal, Andy Kessler, 4-6-20; Toilet paper “run” stats via, Associated Press, 4-9-20).