The coronavirus panic has gripped the United States, making it impossible to turn on the television, flip through the newspaper, or browse the Internet without finding scores of stories regarding the lurking dangers.
While American consumers strategize in hopes of reducing their risks of contracting the illness, others have decided to prey on their panic. Price gouging is a major, ongoing problem proving that people will use the worst possible situations for their own benefits.
What happens when a panicked mother rushes to the nearby store only to find out that the cleaning supply shelves have been depleted? She will likely turn to Amazon and eBay where she’ll be met with heartbreakingly high prices.
On March 6, 2020, USA Today released a report claiming eBay had banned its customers from selling hand sanitizers, surgical masks, and disinfecting wipes in the United States. Unfortunately, the online auction website did not follow through with its promises. While some sales were banned, more than a few fell through the cracks. Several sellers are offering the prohibited items at a huge markup of anywhere between $7 to $90. The product brands vary from DG Home to Great Value to Lysol. In addition to the price tag markup, some are charging $15 for shipping.
Some consumers are reporting toilet paper shortages in their local retail stores. The shortage has been contributed to a video showing multiple females in a scuffle over toilet paper. The video was shot in a Woolworths in Chullora, Australia.
The shortage has come to the attention of one particular eBay seller who is advertising a 12-roll pack of Scott Toilet Paper for $170 with free shipping. On the Wal-Mart website, a 24-roll pack of Scott Toilet Paper is being sold at $18.48.
On the Walmart website, it is possible to buy a 4-pack of Clorox Disinfectant Wipes for about $11.50. An eBay seller supposedly from Elrosa, Minnesota is selling a 2-pack for $70 and an additional $15.05 for shipping.
Another user supposedly from Holcomb, Kansas is selling DG Home Disinfectant Wipes for $29.98 but they were generous by offering free shipping. The same item retails for roughly $7 when buying in person at Dollar General.
One user from Columbus, Indiana is selling a 4-pack of Lysol Disinfecting Wipes for $199.99. The generous seller was kind enough to offer free shipping on the bundle.
While eBay sellers are taking advantage of the coronavirus by price-gouging toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, Amazon sellers are utilizing the same tactics with surgical masks. Five Amazon sellers are offering 5-pack 3M 1860 N95 NIOSH Approved Particulate Respirators for over $100. The same product but a 20-pack is being sold for $32.75 on the GRAINGER website.
Another Amazon seller is offering a 5-pack of 3M 1870 N95 NIOSH Approved Particulate Respirators for $129.99. The item is being fulfilled by Amazon Fulfillment Services. The same product is sold on GRAINGER for $38.25 for a 20-pack.
These online retailers need consumer trust to thrive in normal circumstances. It would be misfortunate for them to lose that credibility when they are needed most. With the threat of businesses throughout the country temporarily shuttering their doors to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. It is likely that a lot of workers will see decreases in their paychecks in the following weeks or months. This is not the time for businesses or individual online sellers to take advantage of consumers. It is time for people to unite and help each other.
Hopefully, Amazon and eBay will rectify these issues before their customers unnecessarily overspend for products they believe are a necessity in keeping their families healthy. If some unfortunate consumers are taken advantage of by these sellers, they should be reimbursed as soon as the wrongdoing is discovered. And, the wrongdoers should be prohibited from selling their goods in the future on Amazon and eBay.