Toilet Paper Panic: Did Costco Really Issue a Recall?


The coronavirus pandemic is causing panic worldwide. One of the side effects of the outbreak is panic buying–and even hoarding–of essential household products. In addition to the widespread shortage of hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes, people are wiping stores clean of toilet paper.

One of the stores that has been hardest hit by the public is Costco. The bulk discount store is the best place to get multi-packs of household products, cleaners, and food–unless everyone else has the same idea as you. Pictures on social media began circulating of empty Costco shelves, sending some people into an even greater panic.

Fake Recall Notice

At the height of the frenzied shopping, a rumor started spreading that Costco had issued a recall of its popular Kirkland brand of bathroom tissue. A fake notice that appeared to be issued by Costco was shared across Facebook last week.

Of course, if you took a moment to read the notice closely, you would have noticed several major clues that it was a fake. But who has time to proofread when your TP might be tainted with COVID-19?

The fake notice stated that Kirkland Signature bath tissue sold between “Febuary 1, 2020” and March 9 had been recalled.

“Due to recent global events our bath tissue has been contaminted [sic] with Coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) the bath tissue has been containted [sic] due to the item being manufactred [sic] in China”

The pranksters who created this notice seemed to have only the loosest grasp of the English language. Despite this, enough people were fooled by the hoax (which has since been debunked by Snopes) to take it seriously.

The fake recall notice encouraged customers to return the toilet paper to the warehouse where they bought it for a “partial refund.”

How to Tell if a Recall Is Legitimate

If it had been a real recall, the information would have been posted on the Costco Wholesale website as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It’s also likely that such a high-profile recall would have been circulated on local and national news–not to mention we would cover it at Recall Informer.

In the event that you see a recall notice on social media, it’s always smart to double-check the information with the manufacturer or vendor. Although fake recall notices are rare, they aren’t unheard of.

In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission stepped in to prevent several auto dealerships sending out advertising mailers stamped “URGENT RECALL NOTICE” to trick people into opening the letters and even bringing their cars to the dealerships for repairs.

The dealerships sent notices to 21,000 people throughout Virginia and Maryland.