As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across America and the world, some are using the global pandemic to make a big profit.
“Disaster capitalism” is when individuals or the government use a major disaster and aim to profit off of it. This can be in terms of economic policies from the government, or even the simple act of price raising as the demand for certain goods goes up.
Amid the novel coronavirus, this attempt at profiting has surged, with numerous reports of people hoarding goods to sell on Amazon and companies upping the price on things like toilet paper because of the increase in demand. Even those who aren’t reselling goods are stocking up, causing a shortage in stores across the country. (RELATED: Here Are All The Major Places And Events Closed Due To Coronavirus Pandemic)
For example, a standard pack of 18 mega rolls of toilet paper goes for $17.88 online at Walmart. On Amazon, the same number of toilet paper rolls are currently being sold for up to $200 because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“He has been reported to Amazon for this [sic] Do not pay $200 for toilet paper when you probably have a shower right next to your toilet. This just proves that the seller ‘Abrams*’ should not be allowed to sell on Amazon or anywhere else on this planet,” one comment from S. Buehler reads.
Amazon has announced that it does not support price gouging amid a crisis and has worked to pull items that run up the cost of goods. eBay has done the same, going a step further and flat-out prohibiting selling masks or sanitizer, the New York Times reported.
However, it’s clear that disaster capitalism is still thriving with just one quick search using popular e-commerce companies.
“Price gouging is a clear violation of our policies, unethical, and in some areas, illegal,” Amazon said in a statement according to the NYT. “In addition to terminating these third party accounts, we welcome the opportunity to work directly with states attorneys general to prosecute bad actors.”
A teenage boy was reportedly sent home from school after charging other kids to use hand sanitizer in England, The Mirror reported. The news went viral after his mother posted a picture to Facebook with an explanation about the debacle.
“Well the little turd has just been expelled from school for the day after being caught charging students 50p a squirt for hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the bloody coronavirus,” the woman named Jenny Tompkins wrote. “Very hard to discipline this behavior when his dad phones him from work to call him a fucking legend.”
One Tennessee man named Noah Colvin has seen the consequences that can come with trying to profit off of a crisis. In a NYT article, he describes going around multiple states and getting 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer as the virus began to affect the U.S. He began selling them online for exorbitant prices – between $8 and $70 per bottle.
One day later, though, Amazon pulled all his items and suspended some sellers trying to make a big profit, the NYT reported. Now he’s stuck with thousands of goods at his home as others are struggling to even get one bottle of hand sanitizer.
Perhaps in part because of these disaster capitalism citizens, finding certain goods like hand sanitizer and toilet paper in stores has become more and more difficult. Rachel Lundberg, a reporter for NBC Charlotte, tweeted about her experiences trying to get hand sanitizer. She noted that they were all out at five stores plus online at Amazon.
Lundberg added that “toilet paper is sold out or the price has surged” because people are now using it to make homemade masks. (RELATED: Sasse Calls On Senate To Cancel Recess, Work Against Coronavirus: ‘The Senate Has Work To Do’)
Cosco worker says she’s never seen anything like this. Compared it to stores in FL preparing for a hurricane. pic.twitter.com/g1qJGLoCUL
— Rachel Lundberg (@RachelLLundberg) March 9, 2020
“Seriously. I have one roll of toilet paper at home. For whoever needlessly bought roll after roll- can I please borrow a couple!” Brooke Katz, a reporter for CBS DFW, tweeted alongside a photo of empty shelves at a store.
Seriously. I have one roll of toilet paper at home. For whoever needlessly bought roll after roll- can I please borrow a couple! People! Get a grip. ???? # pic.twitter.com/l179pBa9qp
— Brooke Katz (@BrookeKatzTV) March 13, 2020
These issues are not just limited to America, either. As the novel coronavirus has hit around the world, almost everyone is facing the issue of finding certain essential goods. Just like the U.S., though, people are also looking at how to profit.
One couple in Canada has made over $72,000 (USD) selling Lysol wipes that they bought and then re-sold for far more than the original price, according to The Star. They call themselves “hustlers” and have been unapologetic in profiting off of the pandemic.
“Everything we do, we’re in the moment,” said Violeta Perez, one of the people price gauging hand sanitizer, according to The Star. “We’re hustlers.”
Perez attributed the decision to supply and demand, and added that the couple has continued hitting up stores, buying them out, and then selling the goods for marked up prices online.
Back in the U.S., politicians have started taking steps against price gauging. There are now hotlines open to report suspecting price increases, as it is illegal to do so.
Reminder: Price gouging is ILLEGAL.
New York has zero tolerance for price gouging connected to #Coronavirus and NYDOS is investigating reports of unfair price increases on products like cleaning supplies & hand sanitizer.
To report suspected price gouging, call 1-800-697-1220.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 8, 2020
We are cautioning all Nevadans to be aware of unusually high prices for consumer goods like hand sanitizer and protective masks due to #COVD19.
If you see price gouging in Nevada please call our Nevada AG Office at 775-684-1100, or report online at https://t.co/CwrmeYsAx2.
— Aaron D. Ford (@AaronDFordNV) March 8, 2020
We are cautioning all Oregonians to be aware of unusually high prices for consumer goods like hand sanitizer and protective masks due to #COVD19.
— Ellen Rosenblum (@ORDOJ) March 8, 2020