Second Barrel Syndrome  [sekuh nd · baruh l · sin-drohm]


1. The reaction, response and expenses related to an unanticipated social and behavioral shift. A distant relative of the Black Swan Event.

Walk into any office and office building restroom these days and you’ll notice two things – the proliferation of hand sanitizer at reception desks, restrooms and common areas, and secondly, the strategically placed second trash can by the door to accommodate the paper-towel door handle grab.

In thinking about the effort required to accommodate the public’s seemingly boundless fear of bacteria transfer, I am struck by the math. There are over 475, 000 commercial class A and B office buildings in the US major metro markets representing 10 billion square feet of space. That translates into several million restrooms – and new trash barrels that had to be purchased. I have to satisfy my curiosity and see what this has done for Rubbermaid and Purell sales.

We all head into the New Year having wrapped up our planning and budgets. There are things we have clear insight into and then there’s things like Second Barrel Syndrome that just happen. The market is often fickle, unpredictable and subject to whim (just as Ty Inc. about their Beanie Baby sales). There’s no avoiding the external effects of these shifts, but you have to anticipate social trends as best you can and leave room for them in your business. You can’t wash your hands of Second Barrel Syndrome, but at least you can easily locate some hand sanitizer.

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