On the day the first death of a Covid-19 patient in the United States was announced, a pair of brothers went on an extensive shopping spree by purchasing thousands of bottles of hand sanitiser and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes.
The duo swept supermarket racks clean, driving 1,300 miles from Tennessee to Kentucky to fill up their truck with their loot. Matt Colvin had the perfect plan to sell the hand sanitisers at a price between $8 to $70 each since he had foreseen that these items would be highly requested because of Covid-19.
Everything sailed smoothly as he managed to sell about 300 bottles of sanitisers on Amazon even though they were severely overpriced. But his plan for “easy money” ended abruptly when Amazon removed his items along with thousands of other listings for sanitisers, antibacterial wipes, and face masks.
Amazon implemented a policy to prevent sellers from overpricing items, and the sellers’ accounts were suspended on the website. Due to the suspension of these businesses, Colvin was stuck with tens of thousands of bottles of sanitisers, not knowing how to sell them off.
“It’s been a huge amount of whiplash. 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?”, said Colvin.
According to the New York Times, this particular act of purchasing items from retail stores and reselling them online with a jacked-up price is called “retail arbitrage”. Businesses had found an opportunity because of the current pandemic. However, the good news is that companies like Amazon and eBay are prohibiting their independent sellers from making excessive profits.
People are unable to purchase these items because the online sellers were already a step ahead to clear off the shelves. As both the physical and online stores are almost empty, people are angered at the fact that there aren’t enough for the people who truly need the items.
A nurse from Massachusetts could not find any hand sanitiser after giving birth to her child on 5 March, resulting in great inconveniences. She had no choice but turn to Amazon, only to find out the price of a single bottle of hand sanitiser had been jacked up to at least $50.
“You’re being selfish, hoarding resources for your own personal gain,” said Kozlowski the nurse.
Since the story of Matt Colvin blew up, he decided to donate his stockpile of sanitisers to help the people in need in Tennessee. Colvin expressed that he did not expect the magnitude of the Covid-19 outbreak would result in shortages of antibacterial wipes and hand sanitisers.
“It was never my intention to keep necessary medical supplies out of the hands of people who needed them. That’s not who I am as a person. And all I’ve been told for the last 48 hours is how much of that person I am,” said Colvin, adding that he regretted his actions.