Essay Sample on Coronavirus Cases

Published: 2024-01-11
Essay Sample on Coronavirus Cases
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  University Covid 19
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 968 words
9 min read


The upsurge of coronavirus cases created a lot of anxiety across the globe. Fearful of extreme quarantine and total lockdown measures, university students in Montreal started to stockpile toilet paper in fear of shortage and unavailability due to supply chain disruptions.

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This literature review will conduct extensive research on the factors that influenced Montreal university students to panic buy toilet paper during the pandemic outbreak. To do so, we will explore four key economic concepts pertaining to student’s consumption behavior: bank runs (known as toilet-paper runs), hoarding behavior, self-fulfilling prophecy, and the bandwagon effect.

Economic Concept

The first economic concept illustrating Montreal students’ consumption behavior of toilet paper is bank-runs, which Brown, Trautmann & Vlahu (2014) define as a phenomenon occurring when depositors withdraw their money from banks in fear that the bank might collapse. Generally, a bank holds a fraction of customer deposits in its reserves; if all the depositors decide to withdraw their money, the bank is likely to crumble. A similar supply demand shock phenomenon occurred in mid-April 2020 with a rather peculiar commodity: toilet-paper, which Payolo coined toilet-paper run (Paloyo, 2020).

In his piece, Payolo finds that the fear of missing out conditions people’s toilet paper fever and their erratic consumption behavior (Payolo, 2020). Similar to traditional bank-runs, toilet-paper run occurs when people question the solvency of grocery stores as they are uncertain of how the pandemic will eventuate in the near future.

In Montreal's case in mid-April 2020, COVID-19 cast doubt and uncertainty in the minds of university students, who ignored how Montreal’s officials would react vis-à-vis a ramping shortage of toilet paper. Students’ uncertainties translated into a loss of confidence in grocery stores and their toilet-paper solvency capacity. This behavior we observed in university students in April corroborates Payolo’s findings of the fear of missing out on a commodity.

Hoarding Behavior

The second concept explaining Montreal students’ consumption behavior of toilet paper is hoarding behavior, which Samuels and Bienvenu define as acquiring large quantities of seemingly useless objects (Samuels and Bienvenu, 2008).

In their piece on toilet paper stockpiling, Garbe, Rau, and Toppe (2020) explain that in times of crisis (e.g., COVID-19 pandemic), people regarding the virus as a threat have a proclivity for stockpiling behaviors. While some may argue that this rationale is motivated out of self-interest, one might say it is logical that even the most self-disciplined person, who feels threatened by the virus, would act erratically and stockpile toilet paper (Garbe et al., 2020). Garbe et al. argue that an unprecedented and uncertain near-future exacerbates consumer hoarding of toilet paper.

In Montreal in mid-April 2020, this hoarding behavior could be observed amongst university students who, uncertain about the future and threatened by the Coronavirus, stockpiled large quantities of toilet paper. This behavior supports Garbe et al. findings on a connection between perception of threat related to a stockpiling behavior of toilet paper.

Self Fulfilling Prophecy

According to Petalas, Schie &Vettehen (2017), a self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when individuals take up a belief to the extent that it becomes a reality. This is spurred by fears of scarcity. The media speculations caused people to believe that there would be a shortage of toilet paper. As a result, people rushed to the grocery store and snatched up the remaining stock. Just as expected, toilet paper compulsive stockpiling led to a serious shortage in the market.

In their piece of Forecasted Economic Change and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in Economic Decision-Making, Petalas et al. argue that news relayed from the media instilled a belief in people about the economy's direction, thus leading individuals to make economic decisions that will inadvertently self-fulfill this prophecy (Patalas et al., 2017). These findings partly justify why people resolved to panic buying to avoid being negatively affected by the perceived shortage.

In Montreal in mid-April 2020, many students on social media followed news of dubious provenance (e.g., Facebook or Instagram posts), which led them to believe in an increasing toilet paper shortage. Students responded to this seemingly shortage by stockpiling toilet paper themselves, which corroborates Patalas’s findings of self-fulfilling prophecy in economic decision-making.

Bandwagon Effect

Schmitt-Beck defines the Bandwagon Effect is the tendency of a person to join what they perceive to be existing expected majorities or dominant positions in society (Schmitt-Beck, 2015, 1). In other words, the Bandwagon Effect suggests that large groups of people condition the decision making of an individual, as they follow the group’s behavior in the mistaken belief that a group knows more than the individual.

Although Schmitt-Beck uses the concept of the Bandwagon effect to explain and account for voters’ behaviors in elections, we can safely extrapolate some of his findings to explain students’ compulsive consumption behavior vis a vis toilet paper. Schmitt found that situational circumstances play a role in voters’ actions. He explains that when information on a specific matter is scarce, voters take the majority opinion as “a proxy for the most intelligent choice” as they believe a majority of people is always right (Schmitt-Beck, 2015, 3).

Similarly, in Montreal, available information on toilet paper solvency in grocery stores to university students was scarce at best and misleading at worse. This uncertainty about toilet paper stocks resulted in students' panic buying the commodity, which corroborates Schmitt-Beck’s findings of the importance of situational circumstances and how a misconception of most people always being right influences students’ consumption behavior.


Since the research was focused on the economic, behavioral response of university students to the perceived toilet paper shortage during the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, of our respondents, 81.63% accounting for 40 students were from McGill University, 4.08% were from Concordia University, the University of Montreal was not represented, UQAM was represented by 2.04% while other universities were represented by 12.04%.

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