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December 17, 2020 By Bud Ross

Great TP Caper

It never got as bad as in the Seinfeld sitcom sketch where Elaine finds herself sans toilet paper and reaches her hand under the adjoining stall pleading, “Can you spare a square?”

Nonetheless, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, TP became scarcer than an honest politician. What moved millions of Americans to hoard the common commodity remains a great marketing mystery. Soon, bottomless demand wiped out supplies in supermarkets east to west and north to south.

Scarcity even reached Paradise Valley Estates, where soon piddly amounts remaining in residents’ stores put a premium even on two-ply. Three-ply Charmin became a distant memory. We were elated to get our two rolls a week from PVE.

I, the clever veteran online shopper, would not let the local market rule. On April 19, I turned to that giant supermarket on the Internet, the mighty Amazon! Even that leads to disappointment. Other than an opportunity to buy TP in lots of hundreds of rolls, all reasonable quantities are out of stock. I am left with the option to purchase ten rolls for $12.86, but the delivery date is between June 18 and July 8. I click on “Place order,” convinced that an early delivery is inevitable.

The early date arrives — no shipment. After stores begin to refill their shelves locally, I forget about the Amazon purchase. Then over two months after placing my order, the TP arrives.

There are ten rolls, each half the diameter of a normal size! Amazon promptly allows me to return the merchandise for repayment. I package the TP using the U.S. return address on the shipping label. I take the package to the UPS store. The clerk stuns me when she asks me to sign for the postage —$12.28! “There must be some mistake, I’m shipping toilet paper, not lead,” I whine.

I retrace my steps on the Amazon purchase. I realize I should have printed a prepaid Amazon shipping label. When I do, I realize the origin is Guangdong Province, China. Indeed, my toilet paper came on a slow boat from China. I am out $25.14 and am a failure at Internet purchasing. Perhaps I can impress my wife with how much I know about Zoom (now that I know I need a webcam).

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