Price gouging: the greedy strike in our time of need

Toilet paper shortages like this one in a UK ALDI store are rampant across the world, just one reason for the price gouging. // Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.

In the midst of the coronavirus epidemic rocking the world to its core, people are finding it increasingly difficult to find the products they need. Many stores are engaging in price gouging, increasing the price of essential goods an exorbitant amount than what is fair, during this trying time. 

As public panic surrounding COVID-19 has closed shops and restaurants, people have flocked to grocery stores and pharmacies to stock up on protective necessities like hand sanitizer, face masks, and soap, only to be faced with excessively high prices for things that once cost pennies. This has been even more common on popular websites such as Amazon, Walmart and eBay, with third party sellers charging as much as $25 for a four-pack of toilet paper and pharmacies charging upwards of $30 for 8 ounces of hand sanitizer, according to The New York Times

Why are they doing this? According to Time, “greed is a powerful motivator for some people.” However, this problem has been appearing all across the country. A survey conducted by the Associated Press found that people in 41 out of our 50 states had filed formal price gouging complaints against large retailers and mom-and-pop shops alike, but the surveyors suspect that the number of complaints may be higher. 

What the people who jack up the prices of necessary items do not understand is that for the people who make minimum wage or less and have mouths to feed, they no longer have the means to pay for the now extremely high prices of goods. With diapers and baby formula flying off the shelves, those who cannot afford the raised prices are being left in the dust with no way to take care of their family and no means to take the appropriate precautionary measures to prevent the virus from spreading. 

“Price gouging is making it so much harder for people who have less money to buy things that they need,” Ellie Balestriere (’20) said. “A lot of people who have more money are capable of buying necessities in this time of crisis like hand sanitizer and soap but it is unfair to profit off of innocent people who are just trying to stay healthy.” 

Taking advantage of the mass hysteria to make a profit is not only selfish, but puts those who do not have the funds at a disadvantage.

 Not only is it morally wrong to increase the prices of these goods but doing so puts so many more families at risk of contracting the virus without face masks and disinfectants.

“People are already struggling so much with the coronavirus that raising prices for necessities like that is not fair. Besides it being morally wrong, [price gouging] does not make any sense because it is not helping anyone, it is only making the crisis worse,” Teagan McDonough (’20) said.

 The amount of people using the epidemic for their own financial gain has become such a problem that legal action has been taken. In order to combat this issue, Pennsylvania created an email address dedicated to complaints of price gouging, and Oregon set up a hotline, according to Time. In addition, the United States Justice Department has activated a central fraud hotline and has ordered US attorneys across the country to appoint special coronavirus fraud coordinators. 

Though the country has taken the proper measures to combat price gouging, third party and independent sellers should have never been able to take advantage of people in this time of crisis.

If you notice price gouging, you can report it at 1-866-720-5721 or disaster@leo.gov.

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