Commissaries Limit Toilet Paper, Other Sales as Shoppers Hoard Supplies

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A woman reaches for one of the last packages of toilet paper at Target in the Tenleytown area of Washington, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A woman reaches for one of the last packages of toilet paper at Target in the Tenleytown area of Washington, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Commissary customers could face restrictions on some of the most in-demand products, including cleaning supplies, paper products, meats, milk and bread, as jittery customers clear out store shelves nationwide.

Purchase limitations will change from store to store, but directors worldwide are authorized to place restrictions on certain products to help maintain availability, Kevin Robinson, a spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency, said Wednesday.

High-demand products at commissaries include water, antiseptic sprays and wipes, paper towels, toilet paper, bleach, fresh and frozen meats, canned goods, eggs, milk and bread, he told Military.com.

"Purchase limitations will change from store to store and throughout the day as deliveries come in and the commissary management teams assess their ability to meet customer demand -- as equitably as possible," Robinson said. "Of course, customer demand can also vary by geographic location, and that can dictate which items fall under shopping limits."

Related: Commissary Blocks Visitors, Cancels Early Bird Shopping in Coronavirus Response

Jonathan Hoffman, a Defense Department spokesman, said the authority to place limits on some products was given to store directors Monday.

"This will be done in coordination with base leadership," Hoffman said. "The department is working to make sure that service members and their families living on base understand these changes and have access to the goods that they need."

President Donald Trump on Sunday urged Americans not to stockpile groceries and other goods after declaring the coronavirus spread a national emergency.

"You don't have to buy so much," Trump said. "There's no need for anybody in the country to hoard essential food supplies."

Commissary customers are being asked to follow the same advice.

"We recommend to our customers that they calmly purchase what they need and avoid any panic buying to ensure products are available for others in their communities," Robinson said.

Stores across the country have reported the need to restock bare shelves. Some are limiting hours to give employees a chance to restock products amid guidance about social distancing and limiting crowds to no more than 10 people.

Online retail giant Amazon has also advised its customers it's temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies and other in-demand products so the company can more quickly receive, restock and ship those items to shoppers.

Commissaries, Robinson said, are working closely with industry suppliers and base leaders to increase deliveries to support the needs of its customers.

"We ask our customers to please be patient if they see empty shelves in the store," he said. "Our personnel are working diligently to restock our stores as fast as the product arrives."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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