A group of concreters who discovered a business owner had left 10,000 rolls of toilet paper from China in a park next to her home have defended taking some and offering it up for free on a social media post that quickly went viral.
Meanwhile, the owner of the toilet paper also hit back at allegations she was profiting off panic buying, saying she would make little money from selling loo roll at her convenience stores – and claimed her supplies would help the elderly and disadvantaged in the community who couldn’t find any in supermarkets.
Elie Abousleiman and two of his colleagues had just finished a job on June 16 when they came across the mountain of 48-packs in a Macquarie Fields park in Sydney’s south-west.
What the tradesmen had found was a shipment belonging to Celia Deng, 47, who had imported the rolls from China to supply her two nearby convenience stores.
Ms Deng – who was moving the consignment into her home next to the park land – told Daily Mail Australia she decided to start importing her toilet paper two months ago because of the shortage of supply in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Facebook Live footage that has since divided opinion across Australia, Mr Abousleiman filmed the group mocking the woman while picking up packs of the essential product and taking them to their ute parked on a nearby road.
Concreter Elie Abousleiman (right) and two of his colleagues stumbled across a pile of toilet paper being temporarily stored by shop owner Celia Deng outside a home in Macquarie Fields in Sydney’s south-west on June 16
The group of concreters took the toilet paper from Ms Deng’s pile after discovering she had stashed thousands of rolls (pictured) outside her home
The bizarre scenes came a week before Coles and Woolworths revived purchase limits on toilet paper as COVID-19 infections surged again in Victoria.
‘Too much f***ing toilet paper,’ he can be heard saying in the footage before encouraging those watching the stream to come and get free loo roll.
‘Boys bring your truck and dogs – this stupid b***h is taking everything off the shelves and hiding it in her garage.’
The group also accused the woman of trying to ship the toilet paper from Australia to China.
Mr Abousleiman told Daily Mail Australia he couldn’t believe his eyes when he found the huge mountain of toilet paper.
‘I was just so surprised to see it,’ he said. ‘If its her property then I suppose it’s her business but it was on public land for all to see.
‘I told her we’d help her to move all of it for $500 but she said that was too much.
Pictured: One of Ms Deng’s shop assistants Roanna James with some of the toilet rolls imported from China by her manager. She said her boss had bought the large quantity of loo roll to help her community to get access to the product at a cheap price
‘I was going to put what I saw on Facebook Live anyway because everyone is fighting for toilet paper at the moment. I was speechless at such a mountain of toilet paper.’
The concreter said he also took exception to Ms Deng, whose supermarket staff had emptied a container into the park, using public land as a temporary storage space for the thousands of toilet rolls.
‘If it’s her property then fair enough but if it’s council land it’s another thing altogether,’ he said.
Mr Abousleiman said he was stunned to find the huge mountain of toilet paper lying in public land
Ms Deng was moving the consignment into her home (pictured) next to park land to supply her two convenience stores
Ms Deng, who moved to Australia 12 years ago as a skilled migrant, said she took offence at being accused of trying to profit from the toilet paper shortage.
She said her motivation to import the essential product in such a large quantity was to help her customers – especially those who are elderly – get access to toilet paper.
‘The profit margins on toilet paper are small. From a $10,000 container, I make a profit of about $500 – so only five per cent,’ she said.
‘Normal profit margins can be between 10 to 30 per cent – you can’t make money on toilet paper.
‘I’m selling a 48 pack for $22 – or $1.99 for a four pack – I just want to help people at the most difficult of times.’
One of Ms Deng’s employees at her store in Appin, south-west of Sydney, said she found the earful her manager received for the shipment ‘pretty disgusting’.
Pictured: The Appin newsagent Ms Deng operates as a franchisee. She said she is selling the toilet roll at a profit margin of only five per cent
‘She’s buying the loo roll for the elderly in the community who can’t get it,’ shop assistant Roanna James, 23, said.
‘Everyone here looks after each other.’
Ms Deng has two shops within a 30-minute drive of her home which she owns as a franchisee – the Spar Express in Glenfield and the Australia Post Licensed Post Office in Appin.
In the footage shared to the social media platform earlier this month, both Ms Deng and the tradesmen could be heard threatening to call the police on each other.
‘We’re going to call the police on you – too much f***ing toilet paper,’ one of the tradesmen says when she threatens to notify authorities.
The group appear to try and sell the goods to passers-by for $5, before Mr Abousleiman launched into an angry tirade.
The trio filmed themselves picking up 48-packs from the mountain of toilet paper piled high outside the home in Macquarie Fields in Sydney’s south west
‘Do you know what you’ve done to Australia?’ he asks Ms Deng.
‘You guys have no work to do?’ she responds, before the voice behind the camera says ‘we’ve got plenty of work to do looking at you’.
‘F**k me dead – what a f**king joke – hey boys take one home,’ he said.
‘Jason get your truck, it’s higher than f**king me. It’s higher than the fence.’
When a passer-by asks if the woman had a shop nearby, the voice responds ‘no – to send to China’.
New South Wales Police said the force had not received any complaints relating to the video.
Social media users reacting to the video shared online had split opinions on the dispute
The video received mixed responses from viewers – with some saying the shop owner was in the right.
‘There is no context to this this video. She could be a shop owner,’ one person wrote on Facebook.
‘And if she did hoard them then she did so months ago and you can now get toilet paper like normal at the shops again.’
Others though thought the tradesmen were in the right given the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘People are actually starting to hoard toilet paper again. People like this make it hard for other families – they should be ashamed,’ another wrote.
Sydneysiders last week again started to flock to supermarkets to stock up on toilet paper – three months after panic buying first crippled the nation.
NSW supermarkets have started to again experience shortages in their supply of toilet paper amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in Victoria. Pictured: Empty shelves at Woolworths in Green Hills
Shoppers complained on social media on Friday that toilet paper was in short supply at Coles supermarkets in Leichhardt, Merrylands and Roselands in Sydney on Thursday.
Woolworths in Roselands and Coles Toronto in Lake Macquarie also experienced high demand for loo roll.
All Coles and Coles Express stores across the country now limit toilet paper and paper towel purchases to just one pack.
In addition, Victorian stores and those along the NSW border have two-item limits on hand sanitiser, flour, sugar, pasta, mince, UHT milk, eggs and rice.
Shoppers leave Costco after stocking up on essentials. Costco, which has stores in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and Adelaide, is limiting customers to one pack of toilet paper each