Friday, May 14, 2010

Don't wipe out your toilet paper supply!

The idea of stocking up — REALLY stocking up — on toilet paper probably seems ridiculous past a certain level of inventory. After all, storage space is valuable, so how much do we need to stock of just one product? Well, that’s all fine and dandy when it comes to substituting one product for another nearly equal product, but the one thing you really can’t live without is toilet paper. And as anyone realizes when they sit down on the toilet only to find that there’s no paper, if you don’t have it, you-know-what can really hit the fan.

And the lack of toilet paper can, um, wipe out public health as we know it.

There are any number of jokes that could be made about toilet paper or the lack thereof, but suffice to say that not having it becomes an emergency to the person who doesn’t have it. Multiply that times, oh, 6.5 billion people and you have a public health emergency. Even if you have a working sewer system after TSHTF, pretty soon the lack of paper can be pretty dicey. Multiply that personal SHTF situation by millions of people and you have a public health emergency.

“But stores NEVER run out of toilet paper…do they??”

Many of you who are old enough probably remember the bogus toilet paper shortage that Johnny Carson joked about in 1973. The next day, according to reports, stores across the country were stripped clean of toilet paper amid worries of an impending shortage. A few nights later Carson retracted his statement, but it still took weeks for the supply of toilet paper to return to normal on store shelves.

At this moment I have about 120 rolls of toilet paper on hand — probably more than a year’s worth for the average person under normal circumstances — and by “normal circumstances,” I mean a lack of extra toilet paper usage that comes about through, let’s say, intestinal distress. Or long-term guests. Or just plain forgetting to buy more. Or the cat learned how to paw open the cabinet where the toilet paper was stored and turned the paper into confetti. (All of these scenarios have happened to me; don’t think they can’t happen to you.) All it takes for things to hit the crapper is for the so-called “just in time” inventory supply lines to be interrupted to bring about problems keeping grocery items on the shelves. I can (maybe) do without coffee for a day or two if something catastrophic has occurred and there’s no chance of my being able to buy coffee. (But I’ve planned ahead and stocked up, just in case.) But I really can’t imagine what would happen if I run out of toilet paper. The health problems that can arise from contact with fecal matter are even worse than the contact with fecal matter itself.

(If you like being around fecal matter in the first place, you have much bigger problems than just a lack of toilet paper. And almost as much common sense as public-health expert and singer Sheryl Crow, who said people should be restricted in how much toilet paper they are allowed to use.)

To badly mangle a quote by the great patriot Thomas Jefferson, who had his share of SHTF situations, we hold these truths to be self-evident that not all toilet paper is created equal. Just because you have two equal-size packages of toilet paper doesn’t at all mean that you’ll get equal benefit from them. Let me illustrate:

Exhibit No. 1 is the POM 40-roll case of Quality Bath Tissue from Sam’s Club:

Exhibit No. 2 is the Member’s Mark 36-roll package (well, technically it’s 4 9-roll packages in a larger outer-wrapped package) of Ultra Premium Bath Tissue, also from Sam’s Club:

Can you tell which brand is which?

A case of POM as of this writing is 18.88 for 40 rolls, or 47.2 cents per roll; a multipack of the Member’s Mark TP is 14.98 for 36 rolls, or 41.6 cents per roll. So you should get the Member’s Mark TP, right?

Not so fast there, pilgrim. Look at the small print:

Each roll of POM has 450 2-ply 4-by-4.5-inch sheets:

But each roll of the Member’s Mark has less than half of that — a mere 200 sheets per roll!!

Technically, you’re saving 5.6 cents per roll when you buy the Member’s Mark TP. But your savings goes down the crapper because you get less than half of the TP surface area from the Member’s Mark than from the POM. But even more unsettling than the higher per-sheet cost of the Member’s Mark TP is that you use it up more quickly and can deplete your toilet paper supply much faster than you might expect.

And that would be a very, very bad thing.

Plan ahead. Stock up. Pronto. Because your life depends on it.

Three cases of POM toilet paper take up less space than that big-screen TV you made room for. And I don’t think you’ll care about the TV when nature calls and you’re out of paper. And as you sit there at some point looking at the last empty cardboard tube on the roll with no paper left in the house, I’m pretty sure nothing else will matter. Anyone who says you can have too much toilet paper is just full of crap.

A couple notable comments on this post from my old site:

One reader wrote:

If truly without toilet paper, one can wash instead, using a plastic bottle with a top that allows you to pop it up and expel the water by squeezing the plastic bottle. Many women will understand what I am talking about, as they are widely used in hospitals after childbirth for using comforting warm water on the perineal area as well as washing. You could then dry with the flannel cloths–at least then washing them wouldn’t be so gross. Kind of a simple version of the European bidet.

I replied: 
Blogger Kellene Bishop posted a great article a couple months ago about the necessity of toilet paper and the inadequacy of anything else for the task. It’s excellent reading:

And from a purely practical standpoint, it's very, very foolish to think of using potable water for something such as a bidet if you're in a prolonged grid-down situation. I'd rather have hundreds of rolls of toilet paper that I'd have to burn as I used them than to use my only drinkable water for toilet-related cleansing and then suffer from chronic thirst. Prolonged dehydration poses its own set of problems. You don't want to make things any worse than they have to be.

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