June 2021


In defense of the hamster.

Last year, during the initial lockdown, there was that run on soap and on toilet paper.

Both puzzled me: I always have enough soap on hand to get me through at least the next three months – and, more to the point, were these people not washing their hands before the pandemic? Did it take a pandemic to get people to wash their hands after using the toilet?

Wait… I have seen many men piss then not wash their hands in public toilets. Yuck.

As for toilet paper – that’s one thing I always have more than enough in stock with. As a kid, growing up in a family of six, we would always stock up whenever toilet paper went on sale, buying enough to last us six months at a time.

I’ve always made it a point to have at least one unopened six pack of Happy End toilet paper on hand in the event that I didn’t buy more in time.

In Germany, people who buy more than they need for the next week are accused of “Hamstering” – that is to say, like being a hamster. During the lockdown, hamstering was discouraged: purchases of toilet paper were limited to one package and signs told people to not hamster any other goods.

Now that I live in a slightly larger apartment, I will confess that I am, to a reasonable extent, a hamster: I make it a point to always have enough toilet paper, paper towels, dishwasher salts, hand soap refills, detergent, dish soap, and more on hand.

Some of this is strategic: since moving, the closest main-stream supermarket is roughly a 25-minute walk away. While I can get many supplies at closer low-cost supermarkets, there are some things where I am brand loyal – like my wonderful smelling unscented laundry detergent.

So I buy these things in bulk via Amazon or from the supermarket that delivers to me. The prospect of carrying one bottle of laundry detergent alongside a week’s worth of groceries – no thank you! Put it all in a cart and let somebody else drive it to my apartment: excellent! Plus the detergent is on sale? Make it two bottles and I won’t need to buy it again until October or November. No need to cart home dishwasher salt on my back – buy a case and I won’t need to think about it again for a year!

Thanks to a tip from a friend, I now buy rice in bulk: 7kg of Jasmin rice delivered to my door? Absolutely – far easier than buying it 7 separate times and carrying it home in a backpack along side other groceries.

Hamstering is good – stocking up is good – not everything is worth stocking up on, but having essential goods on hand so that you’re not scrambling to buy the last package of toilet paper when everybody else is panic buying is a good idea.

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