I’ve been pretty disgusted the last few days by the privileged people of America shopping for what they seem to think will be the apocalypse, with hoarding of all sorts of goods the name of the day. Even though this is not even close to affecting food supply chains, this hoarding could lead to real food shortages if it continues. Hopefully, it does not. Moreover, the particular products being hoarded, especially toilet paper and water, are just idiotic. If the water system goes, your 20 gallons of water will keep your family alive for 2 days longer than me. Great for you. And TP? Really? There’s more to this that I am going to try and get up on a different post later today. But what makes me sad is how quickly any basic sense of decency disappears in people. The people hoarding food now are by and large white and privileged, with access to information. There are lots of people out there who are just hearing about any of this just now. If they go to the store and there is nothing there for them, not only is this going to mean they have less access to food, but it will accelerate food hoarding by anyone who can do it. Let’s hope people stop being idiots and come to their senses. Human decency needs to be the name of the game, not reality show survivalism. If we all go the latter, we all lose.
But of course this was all started by terrible, awful people. Amazingly some of the people who went around the nation buying up all the hand sanitizer and other medical supplies they could to reap massive profits on the secondary market allowed themselves to be interviewed by the New York Times.
On March 1, the day after the first coronavirus death in the United States was announced, brothers Matt and Noah Colvin set out in a silver S.U.V. to pick up some hand sanitizer. Driving around Chattanooga, Tenn., they hit a Dollar Tree, then a Walmart, a Staples and a Home Depot. At each store, they cleaned out the shelves.
Over the next three days, Noah Colvin took a 1,300-mile road trip across Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes, mostly from “little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods,” his brother said. “The major metro areas were cleaned out.”
Matt Colvin stayed home near Chattanooga, preparing for pallets of even more wipes and sanitizer he had ordered, and starting to list them on Amazon. Mr. Colvin said he had posted 300 bottles of hand sanitizer and immediately sold them all for between $8 and $70 each, multiples higher than what he had bought them for. To him, “it was crazy money.” To many others, it was profiteering from a pandemic.
The next day, Amazon pulled his items and thousands of other listings for sanitizer, wipes and face masks. The company suspended some of the sellers behind the listings and warned many others that if they kept running up prices, they’d lose their accounts. EBay soon followed with even stricter measures, prohibiting any U.S. sales of masks or sanitizer.
Now, while millions of people across the country search in vain for hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Colvin is sitting on 17,700 bottles of the stuff with little idea where to sell them.
“It’s been a huge amount of whiplash,” he said. “From being in a situation where what I’ve got coming and going could potentially put my family in a really good place financially to ‘What the heck am I going to do with all of this?’”
Mr. Colvin is one of probably thousands of sellers who have amassed stockpiles of hand sanitizer and crucial respirator masks that many hospitals are now rationing, according to interviews with eight Amazon sellers and posts in private Facebook and Telegram groups from dozens more. Amazon said it had recently removed hundreds of thousands of listings and suspended thousands of sellers’ accounts for price gouging related to the coronavirus.
This gets so much better:
Mr. Colvin does not believe he was price gouging. While he charged $20 on Amazon for two bottles of Purell that retail for $1 each, he said people forget that his price includes his labor, Amazon’s fees and about $10 in shipping. (Alcohol-based sanitizer is pricey to ship because officials consider it a hazardous material.)
Current price-gouging laws “are not built for today’s day and age,” Mr. Colvin said. “They’re built for Billy Bob’s gas station doubling the amount he charges for gas during a hurricane.”
He added, “Just because it cost me $2 in the store doesn’t mean it’s not going to cost me $16 to get it to your door.”
But what about the morality of hoarding products that can prevent the spread of the virus, just to turn a profit?
Mr. Colvin said he was simply fixing “inefficiencies in the marketplace.” Some areas of the country need these products more than others, and he’s helping send the supply toward the demand.
“There’s a crushing overwhelming demand in certain cities right now,” he said. “The Dollar General in the middle of nowhere outside of Lexington, Ky., doesn’t have that.”
He thought about it more. “I honestly feel like it’s a public service,” he added. “I’m being paid for my public service.”
“I’m being paid for my public service.”
This is what decades of libertarian capitalist propaganda gets you–self-justification by people who could directly cause many deaths. Even better is the “Family Man, Family Business” t-shirt he is wearing. What a horrible, awful human being.