The reason Costco won't let you return toilet paper right now

In the midst of all the panic-buying that has been going on in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, some Costco stores are prohibiting people from returning toilet paper. Taste of Home reported that several Instagram accounts, such as @CostcoBuys, are posting photos of Costco signs warning people that returns will not be accepted on the in-demand product.

It's not just toilet paper that the stores are cracking down on, though. Costco stores are also cracking down on other household staples, including paper towels, sanitizing wipes, water, rice, and Lysol.

The restrictions seem to be decided by the individual stores rather than by Costco itself — for now at least. Why is Costco refusing to let people return toilet paper?

Costco is discouraging people from hoarding toilet paper

It seems to be a measure intended to prevent hoarding. As people are snatching up as many essentials as they can buy, hoarding everything from bottled water to toilet paper, prohibiting returns is a way of warning people that if they buy more than they need, they'll have to hold on to it.

Costco is taking other measures to prevent their shelves from going bare by only allowing shoppers to buy two of everything.

While this may seem extreme to some, such policies ensure that shortages don't occur. As more and more people panic-buy more supplies than they need, stores are having a hard time keeping their shelves stocked, but it's not because there is a shortage of products. Instead, people are buying more than they need simply because everyone else is doing it. "This creates a sense of urgency and leads people to over-buy, that is buying more supplies than they really need, just to be on the safe side," clinical psychologist Steven Taylor told NBC. "This can create real shortages because people buy more than they need."