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The real reason you're stocking up on toilet paper at the grocery store

As grocery shortages surge, psychologists say your need to stockpile is a form of retail therapy.
Credit: eldarnurkovic - stock.adobe.com
Woman couple with mask and gloves panic buying and hoarding toilette paper in supply store.Pathogen virus pandemic quarantine.Prepper buying bulk cleaning supplies due to Covid-19.Focus on the paper

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Grocery store shortages are happening ... again.

If hearing that gives you flashbacks to the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 when the bathroom necessity seemed to be more valuable than gold, we're here to tell you: Do not panic.

And please, don't go out and buy every roll of toilet paper you see.

So why are there shortages right now at grocery stores?

First, there's still a labor shortage. The so-called “Great Resignation” has also impacted grocery stores. In fact, the National Grocers Association recently surveyed grocery owners and found many companies are operating stores with just half of their usual workforce. 

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Many employees stores have retained during the pandemic are becoming infected by the highly contagious omicron variant

There are also trucking and supply chain issues. Just like grocery store workers, there are reports of fewer truckers on the roads

And supply chain issues that have disrupted pretty much everything since early 2020 haven't gone away, either. Weather-related events like recent snowstorms in the Northeast have slowed product availability. 

Experts say even with these current issues, there's no reason to stockpile supplies. They say it isn't necessary to panic buy toilet paper, canned goods, bread or milk. 

That doesn't mean some people won't, and there's a reason why controlling the urge is so difficult: Our brains are wired for it. Psychologists say panic buying is a form of retail therapy

RELATED: Shopping a challenge for many as winter shortages hit

While it may not seem exciting to rush out and buy a bunch of bread, milk and eggs, it gives people the feeling that they're in control. Psychologists say stockpiling supplies is our way of preparing and looking out for friends and family who may need something later. 

Experts say the hoarding "evens out" our emotional state even if we don't realize it. 

And the winter weather doesn't help, either.

With folks preparing for the winter storm, some hardware stores are seeing empty shelves as well after customers bought them out of needed tools. 

"Nobody ever thinks ahead, like oh, 'I'm gonna get this before the storm'," Jim Wilkerson, the owner of Blackhawk Hardware off Park Road, said. "It's always the last minute and everybody wants the same thing."

After the first mention of a winter storm earlier in the week, he said the store sold $400 worth of ice melt in an hour. 

After a few days of people preparing, many of his shelves are empty where winter tools once stood.

Sleds and ice melt are sold out and he doesn't expect to get any more before the storm. 

"Unfortunately, with the supply chain being like it is, we went to order in and there was nothing there," Wilkerson said. 

As for the pictures you see on social media of empty store shelves? They only make it worse, creating the illusion that stores have nothing. Psychologists say seeing pictures of all those empty shelves doesn't help our urge and makes us feel like we need to stock up, too. 

So next time you're at the store, fight the urge and only buy what you actually need. 

RELATED: Supply chain economists: Supermarket shelves to be full again by end of 2022

Contact Carolyn Bruck at cbruck@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and InstagramContact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.