Price gouging during a national disaster isn’t a good look. Best Buy is learning that lesson the hard way after Houston employees began selling water in bulk at high prices amid Hurricane Harvey.
Over the weekend, Houston resident John McGovern spotted a Best Buy on Highway 290 offering 24-packs of Dasani at $42.96 and SmartWater 12-packs at $29.98. He then tipped Grit Post journalist Ken Klippenstein, who later tweeted the photo—and it didn’t take long for angry Twitter users to notify Best Buy in disgust.
I don't know how much Dasani is in Houston but in Phx I can buy a 24 pack for $4. So $43 does seem to be a *tad* unreasonable.— JZS (@JZSamm) August 29, 2017
Best Buy quickly apologized, explaining that it doesn’t usually sell water in bulk at a discount like most stores do, so employees simply added the prices of individual water bottles together and sold the packs at that price.
“This was a big mistake on the part of a few employees at one store on Friday,” a Best Buy spokesman told CNBC. “As a company we are focused on helping, not hurting affected people. We’re sorry and it won’t happen again.”
Best Buy wasn’t the only store caught price gouging during Hurricane Harvey. According to Grit Post, 550 complaints and 225 emails were sent in to the Texas attorney general’s office from concerned citizens alleging price gouging. In Texas, overcharging leads to a $20,000 fine in most cases, with a $250,000 fine for any company that gouges a senior citizen on everyday essentials.
“We have received complaints from consumers as well as some of our employees and investigators in the area concerning price gouging happening with hotels, grocers, fuel providers and (most frequently) fresh water,” Texas attorney general media relations official Kayleigh Lovvorn told Grit Post. “Unfortunately, price gouging like this can be common following natural disasters.”
Lovvorn warns that more price gouging incidents are expected after the storm, too, particularly from construction and home repair businesses. This would be particularly vile, as Hurricane Harvey’s intense winds and endless rainfall have left buildings ravaged in the Houston area.