There’s not much to get happy about in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that has made many elderly people prisoners in their own homes and dented the global economy. But here’s a story that is bound to raise your hackles twice over.
According to the New York Times, on March 1, the day after the first coronavirus death in the U.S. was reported, two brothers from Chattanooga, Tenn., Matt and Noah Colvin, set out on a 1,300-mile quest to buy up every bottle of hand sanitizer they could find. They left no stone unturned, emptying the shelves at dollar stores and big box stores. Then they went about selling their booty on Amazon at grossly inflated prices. At first business was brisk. They posted 300 bottles at e-commerce sites and instantly them all.
The Times writes that many people saw this as profiteering from a pandemic, though it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have seen it differently.
When Amazon got wind of what the Colvins and others like them were doing, they pulled … 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.”
But the Colvins and many other greedy Americans like them are not the only losers. As the Times ruefully observes:
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.
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.