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„Loo-crative“ business with the „business“: Why toilet paper is rare and expensive right now

„Loo-crative“ business with the „business“ : Why toilet paper is rare and expensive right now

In the Corona crisis, toilet paper has become a sought-after commodity. The factories are pushing extra shifts, but are not keeping up with demand. Why do consumers in many places have to pay more, even though the prices paid by industry have remained the same?

A roll of toilet paper for one Euro. And then not even multi-ply, but harder tissue and recycled paper. Several GA readers have complained in recent days about the horrendous prices, call them "usury". Business with the „business“ seems to have become so lucrative that even bakeries have the rolls on display. But apparently others are making the money without the consumer even noticing.

A Turkish supermarket in Bonn's old town. A packet of toilet paper costs just under ten Euro here. "We pay 36 Euro ourselves for four packages at the Cologne wholesale market," explains an employee. Elsewhere, this time in a Rewe store in the north of Bonn, a similar picture. 4.99 Euro is written on the self-printed slips of paper on the shelves, the spartan toilet paper has no label but looks just like in a wholesale store. And here, too, a senior employee assures: "We don't earn much from it. We are glad we got something at all, because the customer expects it from us."

The large central warehouses have not supplied shops with toilet paper for days. "If we didn't take care of this ourselves, our shelves would be empty." The price of toilet paper fluctuates almost daily, depending on where it was purchased. "All that is certain is that it will be gone the same day. That's why we only put the pallets in." However, the higher prices would have one advantage: "People think about buying it, they deal with it more carefully. Another way to make the toilet paper last longer is to refill the shelves several times a day, but not with the complete delivery.

If a service is offered at a price that is clearly disproportionate to the service offered, according to the Criminal Code it’s usury. Such cases are not yet known to the city of Bonn. "This would have to be checked by the responsible public prosecutor's office in each individual case when a report is made," explains Isabel Klotz from the press office. It is not forbidden for bakeries or butchers' shops to offer goods that are not part of their normal range. "Especially in locations where the nearest supermarket is further away, this kind of thing has always happened.“

How much a roll of toilet paper is worth is determined by supply and demand. At the wholesale market in the south of Cologne, this rule determines everyday life. "We get calls every day from merchants looking for toilet paper," says one wholesaler. He is one of around 200 who offer their goods there. "Because the demand is so great, the market naturally reacts." Meaning: More and more trying to speculate and earn money with it. Maybe it's not the grocer who specialises on one particular area of food or supplies. "But those who were already involved in packaging, for example, are now pouncing on it and making a good deal." Whoever delivers, no matter where from, can charge high prices.

This has already been noticed by the Bonn-based Association of German Paper Factories. The German toilet paper market has a delicate balance. "And that has been completely thrown off balance by all these insane hoarding purchases," explains spokesman Gregor Andreas Geiger. About 750,000 tons of toilet paper are produced and also consumed in Germany at a fairly constant rate each year. But now a pallet no longer lasts three days, but only ten minutes. The factories would no longer be able to keep up, although they had increased production by working 24-hour shifts, for example. "They are even reducing the product range to ease the logistics burden." The basic prices are the same as before the crisis. "The industry is not lining its pockets nicely," says Geiger (and not with toilet paper either). He predicts: If the bulk buying stops, the supply bottleneck would be over abruptly.

(Original text: Nicolas Ottersbach. Translation: Mareike Graepel)