‘It’s that bad’: Shoppers, store owner react to shopping craze that’s stripping some stores of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and more

photo by: Lauren Fox

The CVS at 2300 Iowa St. had a sign labeled "Attention" at the entrance of the store on March 16, telling visitors they are out of face masks, hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, rubbing alcohol, thermometers, disposible gloves and toilet paper.

People don’t need to scour the CVS at Iowa and 23rd streets in search of toilet paper, hand sanitizer or face masks. A sign in the entranceway alerts visitors with red block letters spelling “Attention” that they are out of those items, plus sanitizing wipes, rubbing alcohol and gloves, among others.

Due to the spreading coronavirus, people nationwide have been stocking up on non-perishable food and cleaning supplies to prepare for the possibility of quarantine, and Lawrence is no exception.

On Monday, this Journal-World reporter visited five local grocery or convenience stores. Only one — and shockingly enough, the CVS with the cautionary poster — had toilet paper.

Perhaps the store got a small surprise delivery of the coveted items that made their sign momentarily false. But if this reporter’s experience at the other stores — Dillons, The Merc Co-op, Checkers and Walmart — was any sign, those are likely now long gone and the poster once more factual.

Whitney Ashley was at Walmart, 550 Congressional Drive, on Monday morning and said she decided to look at the paper product aisle to find out if the situation was as bad as she had seen via social media platforms such as TikTok and Facebook.

“It’s that bad,” she said.

The aisle was completely bare of any products: toilet paper, paper towels and more.

photo by: Lauren Fox

The bathroom tissue aisle was completely empty on March 16 at Walmart, 550 Congressional Dr.

The City of Lawrence said in a public message on Friday that toilet paper is the only thing that should be flushed down a toilet.

“Facial tissues, paper towels and even ‘flushable’ wipes should NOT be flushed,” the post read. “Flushing these products could lead to costly problems with your plumbing and possible backups — and it could also cause problems to the City’s wastewater infrastructure.”

Ron Schmidt, who also stopped to look at the bare paper product aisle, said he doesn’t understand the “panic” about toilet paper.

“It looks like people are stocking up to stay away for six months,” he said.

Managers at the Walmart, Dillons and CVS this reporter visited declined to answer most questions about the low supply of certain products and instead suggested the corporate communications team.

Linda Cottin, owner of Cottin’s Hardware and Rental at 1832 Massachusetts St., however, did speak to the Journal-World about the difficulty of getting certain supplies.

She said that, for the hardware store, it’s been difficult to get the products which have run out or have a low supply. She said that as far as she’s heard, manufacturers of dust masks, hand sanitizers and other desired items are prioritizing health care facilities, hospitals and nursing homes.

“I feel sad that we didn’t have more on our shelves to help our customers, but I completely understand why the supply chain should be prioritizing hospitals and health care providers,” she said. “As a hardware store, I believe we are pretty low on the supply totem pole.”

Cottin said their supplier has been out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes for the past two weeks, and that dust masks have been on backorder since January.

“We really don’t know when we will get any more of it in,” she said. “The good news is that some of the grocery stores are able to get some of it in.”

Bigger grocery stores in the area have distributors with better connections to the supply line, she said.

At Checkers, 2300 Louisiana St., eggs were in short supply, as was bread. The Merc Co-op, 901 Iowa St., was largely stocked, save from their paper product section. At the Dillons at 1740 Massachusetts St., aisles including items such as bread, pasta and canned meat were more sparsely stocked.

photo by: Lauren Fox

The bread aisle at Dillons, 1740 Massachusetts St., was less than half full on March 16.

Tina Lescher went to the Massachusetts Street Dillons Monday morning, and while she was there, decided to look for toilet paper. She said her mom had told her she’d found some there the day before.

But, by Monday morning, there was no toilet paper left. A sign in the empty aisle said that “to support all customers, we will be limiting the number of toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissue products to 3 each per customer.”

Lescher said she still had some toilet paper at home, and so she wasn’t in dire need.

Still — “It’s overwhelming,” she said.

More coverage: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As the pandemic continues, the Journal-World will be making coverage of COVID-19 available outside of the paywall on LJWorld.com.

Find all coverage of city, county and state responses to the virus at: ljworld.com/coronavirus/


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