We’ve all seen the photos—grocery store shelves empty, Walmart parking lots packed to the brim, even videos of panicked customers fighting over toilet paper. It’s a nonsensical panic that has, in turn, sparked even more nonsensical panic, as people stock up with far more supplies for coronavirus self-quarantine than they could ever possibly need.
But some of the people dumping cases of products into their carts are doing it for a far more nefarious reason. They’ve been meticulously collecting up supplies that people actually need, sometimes emptying shelves over a radius of hundreds of miles, and reselling them online for huge markups.
As online retailers like Amazon and eBay have begun to crack down on this kind of reprehensible approach to the national emergency, these vultures have been left with giant stockpiles of supplies they can’t sell.
A New York Times article drew attention to their “plight” on Saturday morning, noting even in the headline that one man has acquired “17,7000 bottles of hand sanitizer and [has] nowhere to sell them.”
“Driving around Chattanooga, Tenn., [brothers Matt and Noah Colvin] hit a Dollar Tree, then a Walmart, a Staples, and a Home Depot,” the article reads. “At each store, they cleaned out the shelves.”
The Colvins subsequently sold the bottles for up to $70 a piece on Amazon.
They’re certainly not alone in trying to capitalize on public panic as people try to avoid coming down with COVID-19. The article itself cites other people who participated in price gouging during the coronavirus panic, and people on Twitter have shared images and stories of people they’ve encountered who have clearly been stocking up for the wrong reasons.
This gleeful willingness to take advantage of a worldwide crisis for one’s own benefit isn’t sitting well with people online, who have been quick to denounce this kind of behavior.
Some folks used it as an opportunity to point out that Amazon and eBay quickly shut down price gouging on some coronavirus items, but there’s still no one doing anything about the price gouging that goes on by big pharmaceutical companies.
“An interesting side-effect of our weird capitalism is that Amazon and eBay can swiftly crack down on hand sanitizer price gouging but we are told there’s nothing to be done about $500/month insulin or $700 epi-pens,” wrote Erik Hinton.
And individuals aren’t the only ones engaging in price gouging during the coronavirus outbreak. Some stores have been caught doing the same thing, kicking up prices on items like hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and masks.
In certain states, under certain circumstances, price gouging is considered illegal, and many are encouraging people to report any incidents they see.
At least it’s good to know that no small part of the current, temporary shortage of things like toilet paper and hand sanitizer was just due to people deciding to be jerks. Now that their profit options are getting cut off, maybe store shelves can start going back to normal. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll learn a little bit of a lesson in the process.