If it wasn’t for this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still ravaging our way of life, this post would be better served on a shopper’s life hacking blog. But due to the world’s current circumstances, this post is a potentially useful urban survival strategy that could come in handy now or later.

When the virus noticeably spread throughout the world, when it became real, affecting in one way or another, everyone, people started to panic buy some pertinent and not so pertinent things.

While non-perishable foods (canned, freeze dried) should have been the priority, it was toilet paper that was by far the most obsessively purchased, not just in the USA but most of the world. It was and still is so bad that it’s one of if not the most difficult item to buy, even at mega shops like Walmart.

Case in point is this Walmart I was just shopping at. Just coming back from Europe after several months and years in Asia, this was my first shopping experience in America in a long time. Which just happened to be when the pandemic peaked (or is peaking).

I just needed some basic things as I was already prepared, but wanted to see for myself if there was a toilet paper issue as bad as the media and social media have put it. Unsurprisingly it was completely empty, the shelves, the aisle. As far as I could tell, all other items in the store were decently or fully in stock, except maybe disinfectants.

Last Toilet Paper on The Shelves Aisle at Walmart /// Tradecraft [trdcrft]

The single pack of toilet paper shown in the photo is staged. I put it there and snapped the shot for effect. What actually happened is more interesting however and the point of this post.

When I arrived at this aisle, that toilet paper pack was not there. It was hidden. I noticed that the stacks of Hefty disposable plates (bottom right corner) were out of place and also lopsided.

Upon further inspection, that single pack of toilet paper was purposefully hid under those stacks of Hefty plates.

Last Toilet Paper on The Shelves Aisle at Walmart /// Vinjatek

I can’t be a hundred percent sure but I gather that an employee got hold of the last one and hid it there to buy for him or herself after their shift was over. Since it’s often frowned upon for staff to shop (with their employee discounts) while they’re on the job.

That’s what I’d do if in the same position, and it’s a common tactic in retail. However, it may be the first time in history that it’s been done to procure something as insignificant as toilet paper.

This tactic is often done during Black Friday, for rare and hot items – not tissue.

So next time you’re shopping for things and they seem to be sold out but pertinent, do a quick visual inspection for anything out of place or learn to recognize breaks in stock patterns in the shelves and aisles.

Also, whenever available, arm yourself with this trick:



Because if it hasn’t gone through the system from an actual sale, a hidden item is just that, displaced but still very buyable.

But this shopping hack isn’t just for toilet paper, it’s for anything at anytime – not just during a pandemic.

It could be the last box of cereal in a grocery shop or a hard to find size of jeans in a clothing shop.

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1 Comment

  1. Solid post… I do something similar when items are sold out; I always check the very top shelf for additional stock items, then go one aisle over and check from that side as items tend to get pushed back and onto the next aisle’s top shelf. I’ll also peak through the bottom of the top shelf to see what’s hidden behind other boxes. During the pandemic I came up on a box of N95 masks and a box of rubber gloves.

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