Earlier this morning, Rob McNealy pointed out on Twitter that while toilet paper is back on store shelves, it appears to be 20% smaller than before. I was in a perfect position to test this. I had some toilet paper rolls bought back in March to compare with recently-purchased toilet paper of the same brand and packaging. So I put the rolls side by side.
Could companies really be shorting us on toilet paper and other essentials to meet demand? Is the supply chain in that much trouble?
The short answer: yes.
It’s nice to see that TP is back on the shelves. However, did you notice that the rolls are about 20% narrower?
— Rob McNealy ($TUSC Safari Guide 🐘) (@RobMcNealy) May 26, 2020
Before panic buying started, we ordered some toilet paper from Sam’s Club. We were able to order more just last week. Both rolls were the Member’s Mark brand, a Sam’s Club private label.
I put the rolls side by side. To my shock, the new roll was indeed smaller.
I decided to measure them both with a tape measure. The results:
- The “old roll” was 5 1/2 inches wide.
- The “new roll” was 4 3/4 inches wide.
So what’s the deal?
Let’s compare the packaging of the “old stuff” to the “new stuff.” The old pack advertised 275 sheets and a total of 293.6 square feet, while the new pack only claims 235 sheets and 250.9 square feet. Crucially, both packs cost exactly the same. So Member’s Mark appears to be quietly changing the number of sheets per roll.
While this isn’t evidence that the supply chain is melting down, it is a clear reflection of COVID-19-related supply chain issues. It’s possible that companies are reducing toilet paper roll size to expand supply and meet growing demand. Or, maybe manufacturers are just taking advantage of the toilet paper shortage to boost their margins.
There are two ways to raise unit prices during supply chain issues: higher package prices, and smaller packages. When it comes to toilet paper, Sam’s Club opted for number two.
We’d love to know if you’ve also noticed differences in quality or quantity since the pandemic began. Please share examples with us in the comments.