What does CORONA have to do with toilet paper? – An attempt at an anal -ysis (Part 2)

Let’s start with a neutral version of the smart-ass, the know-it-all. Basically, the same applies here: Nobody likes know-it-alls! Unless he is a „Bezzerwizzer.“ Because Bezzerwizzer (corrupted German for “know-it-all”. Mattel couldn’t come up with a better name in English.) is a family game published by Mattel at the beginning of the new millennium. It is a knowledge game based on games like Trivial Pursuit or shows like “Who wants to be a millionaire? We realize that wise guys and bezzerwizers are not marginalized, they are a mainstream of our time.

But even if we go back in history a little, the term has negative connotations – but it was socially acceptable and somehow also popular. Sapere aude! – what does that mean? These two words gained popularity in the 18th century through the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who elevated this phrase to the motto of the Enlightenment. Kant translated these Latin words with “Have the courage to use your own intellect!” –  Wikipedia translates the German as: “Dare to be wise!“ But even if these fine words are mainly associated with Kant, in fact they go back to one of the most important Roman writers, namely Horace (8 BC).

It is easy to conclude that for at least 2000 years there has been a noticeable deficit of intellect and courage in society for smart Bezzerwizzers – not only since CORONA. You could also speak comprehensively of a still recognisable lack of civil courage, not “heads down and hang the consequences”, but ”use your intellect and do something!“

But in spite of the century of enlightenment, Coca-Cola and digital watches, not much seems to have changed, because when the first frightening reports about CORONA prowled through the media jungle – modern smart alecks fought for THEIR toilet paper worldwide! But why? Stocks had been depleted for weeks, even though practically all governments had called for an end to “panic buying”.

Well, I personally don’t know of any reliable explanation. But there is the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, which in March 2020 took a serious look at this question and came to the conclusion: toilet paper stockpiling could be related to personality traits! For the survey, the researchers interviewed 1,029 adults from 35 countries. As a result, people who feel more threatened by COVID-19 and whose personality is characterised by a particularly high degree of emotionality and conscientiousness were more likely to hoard toilet paper than people who do not have these characteristics. Who would have thought that?

Other observations were that older people hoard more toilet paper than younger people and that Americans hoard more toilet paper than Europeans. With a self-confessed know-it-all at the top, hardly surprising…

The researchers point out that the variables studied explain only about 12 percent of the differences in toilet paper hoarding, suggesting that some psychological explanations and situational factors were probably not taken into account. “We are still far from a comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon.” Nevertheless, a few things have been published …

Here the link to the original article: : Die Psychologie des Toilettenpapier-Hamsterns

Perhaps the phenomenon can also be explained much more simply, without gene evolution, but just with simple logic. After all, perhaps it is not the character of individuals that is the decisive factor, but rather the government measures for/against the threat of the new virus. Briefly this is the background:

As in other areas, logistics chains are specialised in the needs of THEIR customers. The problem here is that the commercial and private toilet paper markets function largely independently of each other. It is simply not possible to buy or sell toilet paper intended for bulk buyers in supermarkets. No facility management company is going to fill its shopping trolley at Lidl or Aldi. Packaging and paper quality are different, the rolls are perforated differently, and the paper is sold in pallets rather than in handy packages. Because toilet paper is cheap but takes up a lot of space, commercial supply chains are optimised for productivity and time. There is little leeway.

Now when businesses and public institutions are closed for weeks and people (have to) stay at home, they go to the toilet just as often, only in a different place. With the closure of schools, universities, restaurants, airports, businesses, shops and office buildings, demand has suddenly shifted from the commercial to the private part of the overall toilet paper market. Manufacturers estimated that twice as much toilet paper was used at home during the shutdown – as far as it could be bought.

With this background, even apparently irrational behaviour can still be interpreted logically. However, this would only apply to the first days of the shutdown, because … oh never mind, somehow there is always a smart-ass involved.

Original text: UTO
English translation: BCO

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