A trio of concreters who found 10,000 rolls of toilet paper a business owner had delivered to a park next to her home have been slammed after stealing from the pile and offering it up for free in a live social media post.
Elie Abousleiman and two of his colleagues stumbled upon the mountain of 48-packs in a park in Macquarie Fields in Sydney’s south-west on June 16.
Daily Mail Australia revealed on Monday that convenience store owner Celia Deng, 47, had imported the rolls from China to supply her two shops during the COVID-19 supply shortage and she and her staff were in the process of moving the shipment into her home.
She claimed her toilet paper – which retails at $1.99 for a four-pack – would help the elderly and disadvantaged in the community who couldn’t find any in supermarkets, and that her profit margin on the product was only five per cent.
In bizarre scenes he streamed to Facebook Live, a furious Mr Abousleiman accused Ms Deng of ‘taking everything off the shelves and hiding it in her garage’ as his fellow tradesmen picked up some of the packs and carried them to their ute.
‘Evelyn Street, Macquarie Fields… if you make it in ten minutes you can take,’ he said, while telling passers-by they could have a packet if they gave him $5.
Ms Deng told Daily Mail Australia some of her neighbours took a handful of packets from the suburban toilet paper mountain in response to the video – but she made the call not to report the opportunists to police.
Concreter Elie Abousleiman (left) 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
Pictured: The huge mountain of toilet paper lying on public land in the suburb next to Ms Deng’s home. She and her staff were in the process of moving the shipment into storage at her home
‘People have asked me if I hate the people who came and took it,’ she said.
‘I’m not angry at all because they are my local neighbours – they are lovely people.
‘They came to grab the toilet paper because they were told it was free.’
She said many residents actually returned the toilet paper when they discovered who it belonged to.
Both Mr Abousleiman and Ms Deng confirmed he started filming the altercation when she declined their offer to help move the shipment for $500.
Reacting to the revelation Ms Deng had been stockpiling supplies to sell to the local community, one social media user said ‘her intentions sounded fair and genuine’.
‘So they offered to move it for her for $500 and when she declined they tried to sell them for $5 before ‘giving them out for free’ knowing they belonged to someone else,’ one person said.
TRADESMAN STUNNED BY SHOP OWNER STOCKPILING 10,000 LOO ROLLS
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 it’s 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.
Mr Abousleiman and his colleagues took the toilet paper from Ms Deng’s pile after discovering she had stashed thousands of rolls (pictured) outside her home
‘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.
‘She had a convenience store – shipped them from China and was barely making a profit from her selling price.’
‘She isn’t hoarding it so this guy is in the wrong,’ another said.
Others rallied behind the tradesmen though, with one saying if she did not want the product taken she should not have left it in a public area – even temporarily.
‘The toilet paper was in a park next to her home. This wasn’t on her private property,’ another commenter wrote.
‘If that was her house in the pictures why couldn’t she just put it on her property? Her property is big – there is a lot of space.’
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.
Many social media users were sympathetic to Ms Deng following the revelation she had been stockpiling supplies to sell to the local community
Others rallied behind the tradesmen though, with one arguing she shouldn’t have left the haul in a public area
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.
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
Ms Deng was moving the consignment into her home (pictured) next to park land to supply her two convenience stores
‘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’.
‘She’s buying the loo roll for the elderly in the community who can’t get it,’ shop assistant Roanna James, 23, said.
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
‘Everyone here looks after each other.’
Ms Deng operates a Spar in neighbouring Glenfield and an Australia Post-licenced post office in Appin – both within 30 minutes of her home.
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’.
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
New South Wales Police said the force had not received any complaints relating to the video.
Sydneysiders last week again started to flock to supermarkets to stock up on toilet paper – three months after panic buying first crippled the nation.
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.
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
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.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Mr Abousleiman and Ms Deng for further comment.