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Canberra Times: The great toilet paper rush rolls on

Posted on March 19 2020

Canberra Times: The great toilet paper rush rolls on

As the great toilet paper rush rolls on, wholesalers predict disposable gloves will be next…

It's the baffle of the bog roll, the conundrum of the Caroma and the puzzle of the poo tickets all rolled into one great mystery contained within the smallest room in the house. "Honestly, what are people thinking?" asked bewildered Canberra paper products wholesaler Jackson Barnes as another truck pulled up at the Chemworks warehouse in Mitchell, waiting to be loaded with toilet rolls.

"We have two kids at our place and 48 toilet rolls will do us for well over a month. "But people are buying boxes and boxes; that's like years of supply. No-one can possibly need that much dunny paper."

For wholesalers like Chemworks, the great toilet (b)rush, or the Apoocalypse as some call it, started early last week as public concerns around the COVID-19 virus ramped up. Retailers began asking for a few extras, then a few more. Then, as if someone pulled a chain somewhere, the rush began.

"We had 900 pallets or 12 months' normal supply of toilet paper here in the warehouse 10 days ago. Now we have 50 [pallets] left and I guaranteed they will all be gone by tomorrow," Mr Barnes, the company's business development manager and co-director, said. "That's more than half a million rolls in just over 10 days. It's crazy. It's unbelievable." More extraordinary was the sight of people queued up at the wholesalers' front doors before opening time, flushed with anxiety.

"They were mostly people from other businesses around here in Mitchell who knew we stocked cleaning and paper products," he said. "They couldn't get any [toilet paper] at their local supermarkets so they came here. We don't usually sell retail from here but we couldn't really turn them away." While the initial run began and still rolls on with toilet paper, it quickly shifted to hand sanitiser and wipes.

He expects the next demand will be for disposable gloves. Stocks of filter masks ran out more than a month ago when the family-run company in Mitchell donated to bushfire relief. Chemworks supplies to hospitals, government departments, major retailers, child care centres and even the Junee prison. This is the biggest run on toilet paper the company has seen in more than 20 years of wholesaling. "We had government departments ring up and triple their normal orders," he said.

"They think public servants are knocking off the loo paper and taking it home." Then a call came from out of the front office: "Sydney's on the phone, asking for a semi-trailer load!" Psychologists believe that the toilet paper sales rush is a way in which people are endeavouring to take charge of their lives after being confronted with a threat that is growing in momentum.

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