SD Outlook: Heard the one about the differences between “commercial toilet paper” and “household toilet paper”? Yeah, it’s a bunch of crap. Here’s why…
For those who wish to ponder something slightly smaller than “is coronavirus a hoax” or “oh my God everybody’s gonna die”, but who are still looking for some understanding about the myriad perplexities of Covid-19, I have have some crappy news.
Toilet paper is still hard to find.
Why is that?
Well, if you listen to one camp, it’s because everybody simply turned into a panic-buying, closet preppers.
The other camp, the more refined, sophisticated camp will say that the reason we have no toilet paper is because there are essentially two supply chains – one for “commercial toilet paper”, and one for “household toilet paper”.
The commercial toilet paper is toilet paper that you find in use in places like malls, restaurants, public buildings and etcetera.
And while I’m not sure about you, I have seen household toilet paper in all of these places at one time or another.
Household toilet paper is the toilet paper you generally find in a person’s house.
Shocker, isn’t it?
Although I will say, I’ve seen a few rolls of commercial toilet paper in a household or two in my time.
But I digress.
Let us cast aside what I would call “hybrid toilet paper”, which is a beast all unto itself, because it has all of the characteristics of being household, yet, generally speaking, is commercial.
An example of hybrid toilet paper would be the toilet paper found in hotel rooms.
Now, I’m here to tell you that both camps are wrong.
As for the panic-buying closet preppers, it is simple to see that is not the reason toilet paper is still hard to find.
Here’s the thing: We’ve been using that excuse for a very long time now.
If the “market” can’t figure out how to get toilet paper to the store by now, many months later, to say that “half of small businesses in America have died and won’t come back” is an understatement.
Enter the more refined, sophisticated crowd: The “it’s complicated” crowd.
They’re smart people, but their explanation is crap.
What they will tell you is that toilet paper actually has two supply chains, one for “household” toilet paper, and one for “commercial” toilet paper, and the demand for commercial toilet paper has collapsed while the demand for household toilet paper has skyrocketed, and, after rambling, the conclusion they generally come to is “toilet paper manufacturers haven’t been able to shift production from commercial toilet paper to household toilet paper”.
Some will even take the argument one step further and say, “besides, they’re anticipating a return to commercial toilet paper production”.
Well, the refined, sophisticated “it’s complicated” people are simply wrong.
Let me explain.
First and foremost, there is the “paper price” of toilet paper and the “real price” of toilet paper.
This can be thought of much in the same way as the paper price of silver and the price for physical silver, in-hand.
That is to say, the price in-store, or online, may be, say, $9.99 for a 12-roll pack, but when you go to purchase that pack of toilet paper, it’s either out-of-stock, on back-order, or, as my luck generally has it, appearing to be in-stock, but when the time comes to prepare the order, or when the stocker gets back from “checking in the back”, the toilet paper’s never to be found:
That’s with “substitution” too, meaning if they didn’t have the exact, specific toilet paper I ordered (of various sizes too, I might add, as evidenced in two packs I initially purchased but were later removed from my delivery by Walmart), then they would substitute what I ordered for something similar.
My point is this: Just because you see toilet paper in-stock online, that doesn’t mean you can get it delivered to your door in a matter of a couple to several days for anywhere near a good price.
Said differently, it is one thing to have the appearance of cheap, plentiful toilet paper, but it is another thing to actually be able to buy it.
Furthermore, the pic above is a recent order of mine from Walmart, which my family has used several times now for home delivery of groceries.
And since we’re talking about household shopping for one second, if freakin’ Walmart can’t get ‘Ol Half Dollar some stinkin’ butt wipe after many, many attempts to purchase, both in-store and online, then much lesser retailers will not be able to.
Which is arguably every retailer, less eBay and Amazon, both of which have their own hoops, hurdles and availability problems.
One key point in the refined, sophisticated arguers claim is that there are “two supply chains”, and to that, I say, maybe in the past, but not anymore.
Why is that?
For several reasons.
First, how can we account for Sam’s Club, Costco, BJ’s, and other stores where households access the commercial supply chain and not only that, but pay money to access it?
Said differently, there’s not really two supply chains because people can buy commercial toilet paper and businesses can buy household toilet paper already.
In other words, to say there are two supply chains makes it sound like they never cross, when, in fact, the demand side crosses both supply chains at will.
Another thing you’ll here the refined, sophisticated crowd say is that manufacturers who make commercial toilet paper can’t make household toilet paper, and to that, I say that’s a crock-o-crap!
And they’ll say, “no, but it’s true, and if they spend all of that time and energy converting the commercial toilet paper factory into a household toilet paper factory, they’ll lose out when the demand comes back for commercial toilet paper because they have to convert back”.
There are several problems there, including the fact that it is much easier to convert to making household toilet paper from making commercial toilet paper than the refined, sophisticated arguers would lead you to believe.
I mean, it’s not like a factory making whitie-tighties switching to making turbo-chargers for space-ship fuel delivery systems.
In other words, it’s a tweak here and a tweak there, but it ain’t no dang rocket science, much less rocket production.
Besides, this is under the assumption that there will be a “V”-shaped recovery, which will not be the case, in my opinion, so waiting on anticipated demand to return to the commercial toilet paper market is, to put it bluntly, missing out on the opportunities in the household toilet paper market all the while not seeing the demand return, and, to make matters worse, the competition has adapted, putting those who do not adapt at a disadvantage.
Finally, because I didn’t realize I’d been rambling for so long, just a couple of random points.
- Toilet paper is, at the very minimum, a hedge against inflation, and, I think at a bare minimum, people say, “it may be hard to find anyway, and it will probably have gone up in price by the time I do, so I might as well buy this pack here while I have a little extra money”. And, just like we see with real, physical gold & physical silver, when push comes to shove, people will take anything, and in the case of toilet paper, that means purchasing commercial grade.
- It is easy for retail outlets to simply purchase and stock commercial toilet paper for their customers. Commercial toilet paper, contrary to popular belief, is nothing special. It’s really marketing, and, some standardized rolls for certain use-case scenarios. In other words, it’s not like a human medical doctor saying, “well, I know I need to give you this medicine, but I can only find it available at one Veterinarian’s office and for canine use, so I’m not sure I can give it to you”.
- Toilet paper isn’t under the government’s scrutiny. That is to say, there’s not Trump Administration hoarding & price gouging task forces out there bustin’ up toilet paper rings like they are busting up rings of very evil people trying to sell some N-95 masks so good people can protect themselves. Said differently, there is a free market in toilet paper, more so than in other areas:
So, for there to still be problems of toilet paper supply several months after the problems first developed, we must look beyond the simple “but there are two supply chains” argument and realize it’s something much more than that.
For now, however, let’s look at the gold-to-silver ratio:
We’re starting the week off at the upper end of the range we’ve been watching for several weeks now.
Nice bearish look the cartel’s got going on for silver in the short term:
I think it would be awesome to see the paper price go into the single digits.
Well, since everybody knows physical is at a premium at the retail level for coins in-hand, with a stupid-low paper price that drops even lower from here, everybody could load-up on all of those “store your gold (or silver in this case) here for very little over spot, and take delivery when you want” places all over the world, and then, the big players would be forced to go out and get the gold and silver in the open market, at the obnoxiously-low price, but still in segregated storage no less, and that would be a back-door, people’s way of draining the cartel’s coffers.
Could you imagine the pickle the cartel would be in if customers loaded up on segregated, allocated gold & silver at stupid-low prices, and then asked for their gold & silver coins and bars to be sent to them from their vaulted storage?
Gold is consolidating around $1700:
I have a feeling that soon, as the dollar begins to really hyperinflate, that instead of giving cash for gifts, people will give gold & silver.
Said differently, when I was growing up, you got a dollar per year for your birthday, so a 12-year old got $12 bucks, but now, give a 12-year old a cash birthday gift, and that sucker better be at least a fifty!
People will naturally understand and act on the fact that it’s better to give gold & silver.
Deeper pocketed investors can apply that tactic to platinum:
Platinum is, after all, much more rare than gold, and precious, and is available in various bullion forms.
Palladium will also be utilized as an inflation hedge:
I still think, however, that palladium will not catch those type of bids, which would also include a flight to safety bid in addition to the inflation hedge bid, until the other precious metals catch up.
I think copper’s going to start moving soon:
Everybody’s so sure of a crash in the price of the red metal, but I think fiscal and monetary policy set a price floor.
The only question is, where is that floor?
For now, it’s north of $2.00.
Crude oil, is a problem unto itself:
Only so much can be used, and only so much can be stored, and use is only slowly picking back up while , in my opinion, end use is not picking up at a fast enough rate to offset above ground storage facilities and the construction of more storage.
To nobody’s surprise, the yield on the 10-Year Note is near 0.6%:
Please excuse my idiocy, but are we interest rate targeting now?
I’d say get ready for a dollar break-down:
I keep seeing headlines referring to Trump doing something or another to turn-up the trade war against China, which, in effect, means he wants to weaken the dollar.
It would be interesting to see if we get some VIX spikes:
Because to me, it seems “market participants” are starting to get nervous.
The rally has been relenteless:
The cartel has done one heck of a job bringing on the suspense and second-guessing.
Bottom line as we find ourselves here this beautiful Monday in early May?
The markets are still having problems stocking toilet paper.
Is the US incapable of making TP from start to finish?
I mean, I get it, in the whole iPencil kind of way.
But I don’t buy that argument for TP at all.
There’s something else going on now.
Beyond supply chain disruptions.
Slow creep to the 3rd world?
Where people buy TP?
Not by the pack.
But by roll?
– Half Dollar
About the Author
U.S. Army Iraq War Combat Veteran Paul “Half Dollar” Eberhart has an AS in Information Systems and Security from Western Technical College and a BA in Spanish from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Paul dived into gold & silver in 2009 as a natural progression from the prepper community. He is self-studied in the field of economics, an active amateur trader, and a Silver Bug at heart.