We Said Hello To COVID-19, But Goodbye To Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitizer


Brodie Curtsinger

Outline of toilet paper, and hand sanitizer, sitting on top of table. There have been many item shortages, due to the coronavirus, the most noticeable of which is toilet paper, and hand sanitizer; those two objects are missing from the photo, but they just left their outline. “We believe that everyone deserves to have access to fresh, affordable food, and essentials, especially in times of uncertainty. That’s why our teams are working so hard to keep our stores clea, open, and stocked. As trucks and products come in we are stocking to the shelves, and filling what we have available to us,” said Mount Washington Kroger Store Manager Mike Brentzel, “We will continue to see low stock on some limited items, as long as the demand is high, and customers continue to change their lifestyles. My associates, and management team, will continue to deliver the safest shopping environment with stocked shelves for our customers.”

Brodie Curtsinger, Staff Writer

We’ll see you again when the coronavirus is over. 

Due to the coronavirus, there have been shortages of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. 

These shortages, along with a few others, started when people started to buy a large amount of them, and then other people followed in their footsteps. Many stores are running out of certain supplies, with everyone buying everything that they got. Most people are experiencing the struggle of not having enough items, but some people are actually feeling as if they do have enough supplies. 

Now, as we all know, Hong Kong was one of the very first countries of the world to experience a coronavirus outbreak. That meant that buying an overload of particular items, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, was soon to come. 

One of the very first times someone bought an overload of toilet paper was Feb. 17, in Mong Kok. A particular gang stole around 600 rolls of toilet paper, according to Mong Kok’s local media. (This was worth around $130 of toilet paper, in total). 

Many authorities have come out to say that the panic behind buying toilet paper was not because people were running low. Authorities put the blame on incorrect online rumors, for the odd outburst to get toilet paper, according to the BBC.

There is no common symptom of the coronavirus, that says that you will have to use the restroom more. So, the point of people buying toilet paper is primarily just because of the way that the media has portrayed the need for toilet paper. 

Now, another common thing that stores seem to be running low on is hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer kills germs, and the coronavirus,  most of the time, starts from germs. 

Although, hand sanitizer is not equivalent to hand washing, with soap. Everyone is seeing people telling people to “wash their hands,” because it is superior, compared to only using hand sanitizer. This has made some people question why hand sanitizer is running short, but why isn’t soap running short. 

There have been many shortages, like certain types of food, certain cleaning supplies, and overall, household essentials. Although, the two things running the lowest, and getting the most talk, is hand sanitizer, and toilet paper.

Mount Washington Kroger Store Manager Mike Brentzel has noticed the high demand for toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and even some other things at the beginning of COVID-19, at his store. “The hand sanitizers, and toilet paper products, are in very high demand with the increased focus on cleaning, and the measures all people are taking to social distance, and stay safe. Many of the manufacturers of these products have seen tremendous increased demand from retailers, and medical organizations, like hospitals and doctor offices,” said Brentzel, “In the beginning, we had low stock on meat, eggs, and canned vegetables; those supplies have slowly increased, and the store has been able to keep up with the demand.” Brentzel also is seeing an increase in the sales of soap, as well as hand sanitizer. 

Brentzel used to receive multiple questions a day, before customers understood what was going on. So, those questions have subsided these past couple of weeks. “We receive shipments of toilet paper, every night, and typically run out by the evening. In the beginning of this pandemic, we would receive multiple questions a day, about toilet paper; the past two weeks, those questions have subsided,” said Brentzel, “In the beginning, we would receive numerous questions a day, but have seen those questions drop off, as customers understand what is going on.” 

Brentzel would actually estimate that they have seen the sales of toilet paper, and hand sanitizer, triple, since before COVID-19. Also, Brentzel knows that they are receiving more toilet paper, than hand sanitizer, but both commodities are limited. Also, Brentzel believes that his team is doing a good job to provide the needed supplies for customers, and himself. “The company has done a good job providing the needed supplies for the stores to continue to serve our customers, and take care of our associates. Just like the customers in Mt. Washington, I purchase groceries, and toiletries, on my shopping trips, and get what I need,” said Brentzel. 

Brentzel, and his Kroger store, has strong supply chains that are definitely keeping up with the demand of the items that are being bought fairly quickly. “We have strong supply chains that are currently keeping up with demand. When there is an unprecedented event, like this, you have to move rapidly to implement a new plan quickly,” said Brentzel. 

Now, Brentzel, and his team, believes that everyone should have access to what they need. “We believe that everyone deserves to have access to fresh, affordable food, and essentials, especially in times of uncertainty. That’s why our teams are working so hard to keep our stores clea, open, and stocked. As trucks and products come in we are stocking to the shelves, and filling what we have available to us,” said Brentzel, “We will continue to see low stock on some limited items, as long as the demand is high, and customers continue to change their lifestyles. My associates, and management team, will continue to deliver the safest shopping environment with stocked shelves for our customers.” Brentzel, his associates, and management team, are working hard, to make sure the customers are getting the best experience possible, and to make sure the shelves are stocked.

Alex Ware is one of the many people that were once running low on items, because of the coronavirus, but he was running low on items at the beginning of COVID-19. “Yes. Hand sanitizer, I think that my family had enough. We don’t use it constantly, because we’re at home, you know, most of the time, we’ll wash our hands, and we’ll save the hand sanitizer for times that we’re out, or away, or times that we need to use it, versus using our soap and water, which obviously goes a really long ways with even just one bottle. So, we did have a time towards the beginning of, what is called the pandemic, that we didn’t have quite enough toilet paper, but we went to a couple different stores, because they were rationing it. So, we got a couple (of toilet paper packages). We went to a couple different stores, and got a pack, and we’re good on it now; have been going on it for a couple weeks,” said Ware. Ware believes he will run out of toilet paper, before he runs out of hand sanitizer.

The reason behind why Ware believes that hand sanitizer is getting bought more of, compared to soap, is because hand sanitizer is affordable, and can be used more often. “Well, I think it’s again because hand sanitizer is, you can use it anywhere, anytime, in any environment, and anybody can. It’s very easy to use; no mess. It’s very effective. So, I would, in my opinion, it’s probably more effective, but you have to pretty much have a sink, to use soap, or at least a water hose, or something with running water; which you usually can’t have in a car, on the road, or if you’re out working somewhere, or even if you’re out just doing your job, like sitting at a desk, or greeting people, or for going through the aisles at Walmart, and you pick up something that somebody else may have touched. You aren’t going to have a sink right there, so, a lot of people are buying more hand sanitizer,” said Ware. Although, Ware does believe that just using hand sanitizer is not equivalent to hand washing. 

Although Ware understands why hand sanitizer is getting bought a lot of, he does not understand the obsession on buying toilet paper confuses him. “Well, for hand sanitizer, it’s the ease of affordability, and being able to use it anywhere, at any time. Anybody can use it, and it’s effective. So, it makes sense, especially when, with a virus that experts are telling us, ‘You need to be clean. You know, kill the virus, if you touch it, or whatnot, you know, touching surfaces, or door handles, or a gas pump.’ Anything that you touch, they want you to make sure that it’s clean, so that you won’t get the virus. It makes complete sense to me. The toilet paper I don’t really understand. I haven’t figured that out. I don’t know why it was such a big scare. Everybody was buying toilet paper. I mean, I understand the necessity of it, but I don’t know what sparked, with this virus, everybody wanting to buy toilet paper,” said Ware. 

Ware also believes that there is more hand sanitizer in this world, than toilet paper, because of all the places producing it. “The reason being, is because, even some of the bourbon distilleries, have started making hand sanitizer. Just, it’s basically alcohol, and it’s very liquid-y, they haven’t mixed it with aloe. But numerous distilleries, especially in this area, we have a bunch around Bardstown, and even in Bullitt County; Jim Beam is in Bullitt County, and a couple others. And they have started making hand sanitizer, to give to different government, local government agencies, organizations, and even other various community groups, I’ve heard they’ve given some to. So, that’s a lot that they’re pumping out, as well as normal hand sanitizer companies are obviously trying to meet the demand as well. So, it’s easier to use a lot more hand sanitizer, when you’re trying to be clean, whereas most people aren’t going to use more toilet paper, than they normally would. They just want it stocked up in their homes,” said Ware. 

Ware does believe that these item shortages could possibly stop here soon, because everyone will be stocked up, and people won’t be having to worry about it, and buying a lot of it. “Possibly. I mean, eventually, you know, a bunch of people have already went, and stocked up on these things. And, there comes a point in time, where you don’t need that much, you know. And these companies are still producing these things; actually, are working overtime to produce these things. Eventually, they won’t be selling like they were, because people will have enough,” said Ware.

Now, on the other hand, Karen Foster are one of the few people that actually have enough items to last them throughout the coronavirus, which she is very happy with. “I always have several packages of toilet paper, on hand, so I feel pretty sure I will have enough, until the stores start keeping this on the shelves. I only have a small quantity of hand sanitizer, and wet wipes. So, I’m trying to use them sparingly. Masks are another story. We all should be wearing them, but they are almost impossible to find. Food is not a problem,” said Foster, “I have always bought several packages of toilet paper, when it was on sale. I’m sure glad I did. I wish I would have kept more hand sanitizer, and wet wipes, on hand, but we will make due with soap and water.” Foster believes that she has the most of toilet paper, and not enough hand sanitizer, but toilet paper is the main thing that people are running out of, so she does consider herself to have enough items. 

The reason why Foster believes that hand sanitizer is getting bought more of, compared to soap, is because hand sanitizer is more convenient. “Hand sanitizer is convenient. You can have it with you at all times,” said Foster. 

Foster believes that people need to stop hoarding, so other people can get the items that they need, when most of the people that are hoarding, aren’t even going to use all the products that they are hoarding, probably. Therefore, because of that, Foster is deciding to use her items more carefully. “We are trying to use these items sparingly. I’ve never thought about how much I use, until now,” said Foster, “People should only buy what they need. Stores are putting signs out limiting certain items, but I don’t believe they are enforcing it.”

Foster believes that there will soon be more toilet paper, than hand sanitizer, for consumers, but she believes that that will happen in the future, not right now. Foster also hasn’t noticed stores running low on anything, which leads to her being thankful. “I feel there is going to be more toilet paper, for consumers, in the near future, but I think hand sanitizer will be hard to find for a long time. Hand sanitizer is being given to health care workers first, as it should be,” said Foster, “I haven’t noticed stores running low on anything else, thankfully.”

Foster overall hopes that a vaccine can soon be found, so everything, such as item shortages, can soon go back to the way that it used to be. “I just hope, and pray, that a vaccine can be found, so that people will stop getting sick, and dying. Hopefully everything will get back to some sort of normal soon.”