Why stock up on loo roll?

The one thing which has puzzled me about the Coronavirus panic is why people are stocking up on loo rolls. After all it’s flu were expecting, not cholera. Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, an expert in consumer and behavioural science at the University College London, told Sky News that toilet paper is a sign of ‘general panic’ rather than ‘disaster panic.’

“In public health issues we have no idea about the time or intensity and we get messages on a daily basis that we should go into panic mode that we buy into more than we need to. It’s our only tool of control.”

Chiswick residents have followed the pattern of the rest of the country, emptying the shelves in supermarkets of hand sanitiser and toilet rolls, but also feminine hygiene products and food staples with a long shelf life. A quick poll of four stores on Monday showed only Poundland was completely out of toilet rolls, with the two Sainsburys stores and Tesco showing much depleted shelves but none completely empty.

Images above: A snapshot on Monday afternoon showed no toilet rolls available at Poundland but plenty at the big Sainsburys at Essex Place. 

Alan from Sainsburys customer services told me the phone lines had been swamped. As yet they’re not having any trouble getting hold of supplies, he said, but they are having difficulty keeping the shelves stocked, as goods are disappearing off the shelves faster than they can replenish them. As we spoke I told him they only had a handful of hand sanitisers left on the shelf in the main Sainsburys. He said he could see on the computer system that the bigger of our two Sainsburys was expecting a delivery today (Tuesday 10 March).

I asked him if he would describe the public’s response as ‘panic’. He had no hesitation in agreeing that it was. Long life food staples such as pasta and tinned food are flying off the shelves. The people calling their consumer helpline were worried, some were upset but many others were calling because they were angry that Sainsburys is still allowing people to buy as much as they can take away with them. Sainsburys have had a lot of angry callers arguing that they should prevent people stockpiling by limiting how much they can buy.

If you’re thinking you’ll avoid the germy public by ordering online, that also may prove trickier than you think. Waitrose deliveries are all booked up for the next few days.

Images above: A snapshot on Monday afternoon showed feminine hygiene products, hand sanitisers and soap dispensers scarce at the big Sainsburys at Essex Place and toilet rolls running low in the Sainsburys local at Thornton Avenue.

While the supermarkets are making more money and can’t restock fast enough, some other local businesses have been very badly hit financially. One which deals in toys has done no trade with China for months. Previously the trade with China formed a large part of their business.

Embassy Cars – wiping down between passengers

Manoj Teji, who runs Embassy executive cars, told me the only emails he’s getting at the moment are cancellations. 70% of their work is usually airport related. He would like his customers to know that if they are thinking of avoiding public transport and using a private hire for getting to meetings in and around London, Embassy executive cars are a hygienic option.

“Here at Embassy Cars we take the safety and comfort of our clients very seriously, in this time of uncertainty with the COVID-19 and how it can be spread, we have taken our time and investment in our clients by providing Embassy driver with Anti Bacterial spray to clean our vehicles after each use so this can be used to secure the confidence of our clients who do not wish to travel via public transport.

“In this critical time we ask clients to consider our services to travel to and from work or even meetings that you may have in London or UK wide that cannot be avoided.”

Embassy executive cars charge £35.00 to locations within W1, which includes the congestion charge contribution.  London EC prices vary from £45.00 upwards depending on the area. They offer Chiswick Calendar Club Card holders a 10% discount off those prices.