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Workers ration toilet paper to one package per Costco member in an effort to stem hoarding due to fears of coronavirus, at a Costco store in Toronto, March 14, 2020.

CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

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From the Comments is designed to highlight interesting and thoughtful contributions from our readers. Some comments have been edited for clarity. Everyone can read the comments but only subscribers will be able to contribute. Thank you to everyone furthering debate across our site.

Readers respond: Hoarding is despicable, but those stocking up on toilet paper are misunderstood

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Buying an extra pack of toilet paper is one thing. Walking out of Costco with three pallets of Lysol wipes is another. Those people need to be stopped. –Adrian Pooley

Trying to spin the selfishness of these individuals as somehow altruistic is like commending people who trample others in their rush to leave a burning building, rationalizing they were just trying to create space so others could leave too. They are inconsiderate jerks, nothing more. –TheHawk99

Being prepared is one thing, but clearing the shelves of essentials is indeed a greedy, selfish pursuit that disadvantages others. –Keya2

People only need to buy for 14 days’ use of anything. Buying more than that is irresponsible and doesn’t help anyone. –bluelief

Such a blatant exhibition of selfishness is appalling. If everyone would simply shop for groceries in the normal fashion, there would be lots for everyone. It is at times like this that the human race (or at least one part of it) borders on being truly contemptible. –roger36

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A loader moves products, including toilet paper, at an Associated Foods Stores distribution warehous on March 20, 2020, in Farr West, Utah.

Rick Bowmer/The Associated Press

I don’t see it as selfish, apart from those buying for resale. People are being told to get prepared in case they have to self-isolate or quarantine themselves. This could go on for a while if one person in a family gets the virus and the rest get it in succession.

People over 60 are also being told to avoid going out. The more they stock up while the amount of virus circulating is assumed to be small, the better prepared they will be when it becomes more dangerous to shop. –res ipsa loquitor

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Many of those "hoarding" are merely doubling or tripling their normal purchases in order to reduce the number of visits they have to make to the store, in order to reduce their exposure to others who may have the virus, and the risk that they are handling a product that has been handled by someone with the virus.

To me, this is only prudent behaviour for anyone who has regular exposure to their parents or the elderly (say health-care workers) or if they have someone in their family with a compromised immune system. It could also be that they are pregnant or are married or closely related to someone who is pregnant.

Pity expectant first-time moms: They have not only themselves but the fetus to worry about and – probably – a shortage of health-care workers, facilities and supplies at the scariest moment in their life, and will be bringing an infant into the world in the riskiest of situations.

Compound that with the fact that Canada is only half as prepared as the United States with respect to respirators, and can you really blame people for doing everything they can to reduce their exposure? –GWiz2038

There is a huge difference between stocking up and hoarding. Stocking up is sensible; I’m preparing soups, my elegant pasta sauce, buying some basics like eggs, flour, a few things for the freezer. But elderly people, the disabled and other vulnerable groups can’t win the toilet-paper race, the baked-beans race, etc. A friend encountered a guy in a store grabbing toilet paper by the armful who told him that it’s “survival of the fittest.” No. It’s beggar thy neighbour, to hell with you, up yours. Co-operation always leads to better results. –Magnus Eiesegrim

Hoarding while the events are rapidly accelerating to the point of bare shelves isn’t commendable. Always being adequately prepared for a disruption of a few weeks is. Look to your elders that lived through wars and depression, when this was common sense. Our culture of just-in-time next-day delivery, quick-serve restaurants and 300-square-foot condos has weakened this important civil resilience that used to be almost a given. Maybe when we emerge from this, we’ll have a better appreciation for this and the other ways our hyper-consumptive culture is actually a threat to us. –CdnDave

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I use one roll of toilet paper per month. Because: bidet. I have not bought toilet paper since last year, and only a small supply. –Angus S Miskers

Wade Warner picks up a toilet paper roll at a Stop & Shop supermarket in North Providence, R.I., on March 19, 2020.

The Associated Press

We bought a small island property more than five years ago. We found so much toilet paper and paper towels that we took most of it home. At home, we ran out of island paper towels last year. The toilet paper we brought home lasted about eight months.

The island still to this day has about two years’ worth of both. Sometimes people get carried away with Costco. –Albert74

Stores should have put a limit on purchases much earlier. We did our monthly trip to Costco, and there was none left. So we went again a week later, and still nothing. All the other stores in my city – nothing. It comes in to be stocked during the day when I’m at work. Gone in an hour or less. So I have a two-week supply on hand that is dwindling. People buy in case they are house-bound and can’t get out. To me this makes sense. But I also get why the over-buying is a problem, too. In everything, moderation. –MzZoe

When the toilet-paper manufacturers were in the paper today saying there are no supply issues on their end, it seems rather pointless to be rushing out to buy four or five packages of the stuff. And the grocers should be limiting people to two. –p cuevas

The point is that people should be prepared to stay home for two weeks or more, maybe a month or more, to try and stem this curse of a virus. It makes sense to buy what you need and stay there. Judge your food needs accordingly. –Redmaple

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Being prepared is fine. But many people have crossed the line, with "prudence" having given way to "full-blown panic."

Today at the grocery store, I see a guy load up two grocery carts with cases of water. Soon, others see him, and they’re loading three, four cases of bottled water into their own carts. Why? So far as I know the tap in the kitchen still works.

People are hoarding potatoes. Why? The grocery store will have more of them next week when their delivery arrives. It's not like there won't be another delivery.

Some people have lost all common sense and given way to complete and total hysteria. –CDRCA

A shopper looks at a cleaned-out toilet paper aisle in a Phoenix Walmart Supercente on March 20, 2020.

Bob Christie/The Associated Press

Those stocking up on toilet paper misunderstand: COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, not an intestinal illness. –linda dial

Yes, it’s silliness. Toilet paper is not a life-and-death matter, it’s just a matter of convenience. But maybe it will help the forestry and paper industry, which I understand has been suffering big time.

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I'm hoping Canadian farmers get a big benefit out of this too. Pork and canola farmers lost the China market, and I've noticed really cheap prices on chicken in the last few months. Maybe this run on staples will help shore up their finances. I was at the farmer's market early this morning and everything was flying off the shelves. Usually it's really quiet until at least noon. Fuel is cheap too.

Silver linings! –freshycat

If shoppers need that much toilet paper, I would suggest that they have a more serious medical issue and should see a doctor. Saw a guy in the liquor store who said he was buying gin instead of toilet paper – good call. –Calgarian6

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