March 14, 2020

"Mr. Colvin does not believe he was price gouging. While he charged $20 on Amazon for two bottles of Purell that retail for $1 each..."

"...  he said people forget that his price includes his labor, Amazon’s fees and about $10 in shipping. (Alcohol-based sanitizer is pricey to ship because officials consider it a hazardous material.) Current price-gouging laws 'are not built for today’s day and age,' Mr. Colvin said. 'They’re built for Billy Bob’s gas station doubling the amount he charges for gas during a hurricane.' He added, 'Just because it cost me $2 in the store doesn’t mean it’s not going to cost me $16 to get it to your door.'"

From "He Has 17,000 Bottles of Hand Sanitizer and Nowhere to Sell Them/Amazon cracked down on coronavirus price gouging. Now, while the rest of the world searches, some sellers are holding stockpiles of sanitizer and masks" (NYT).

ADDED: Colvin acquired his stash by taking "a 1,300-mile road trip across Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling a U-Haul truck" with what he found in "little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods." The commenters at the NYT are letting him have it, saying he's clearly much worse than the man he calls "Billy Bob."

173 comments:

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Awesome! Some people don’t like it when the free exchange of goods and services manages to allocate scarce resources, but to me it’s the fire that warms the cockles of my capitalist heart.

Amadeus 48 said...

For heaven's sake, let him sell it. This is silly. The people who want it will pay for it. His competition, roughly, is soap and water. I predict his price will come down as people clear the market.

Achilles said...

There are a lot of people who would be glad to pay that price.

Tyrants gotta be tyrants.

Bernie and his supporters would just take his stuff and redistribute it to themselves.

Others are just jealous he got the drop on them.

Jason said...

Anti-price gouging laws and fixed fortifications are monuments to the Stupidity of Man.

Jason said...

Congratulations to Amazon for taking thousands and thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer off the market during a public health crisis!

n.n said...

This is not capitalism... or rather market economics. This is a single/central distribution scheme or monopoly, which undermines price determination and controls redistribution.

Curious George said...

Price gouging laws insure many go without.

Arashi said...

He is just like all the asshats buying up rice and TP from Costco and then trying to sell it at outrageous prices on the secondary market via Amazon, eBay, etc. He should be treated exactly the way war profiteers were during WWII. Prosecuted and if convicted thrown in the gray rock college for awhile.

Diamond said...

Remember how the price of gas goes up when hurricanes threaten the Gulf Coast? I don't remember anybody ever getting busted for price gouging.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Congratulations to Amazon for taking thousands and thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer off the market during a public health crisis!

Amazon doesn't own the bottles or sell the bottles. The guy is a vendor using Amazon's platform...for which they do take a fee. They are a fulfillment service

You think that Amazon should allow this seller to gouge people? Use Amazon's platform to help him gouge? Or should Amazon be responsible for policing this use of their system and stop the gougers?

On the other hand, if people want to pay XXXX for whatever products, they should be able to do it.

The Godfather said...

If you don’t want to pay $20 for hand sanitizer that is your right. Nobody’s forcing you.

Expat(ish) said...

Gouge is the N-word of capitalism.

-XC

Skookum John said...

Free markets are always best. This man should be free to sell his stock at a market clearing price, ensuring that the supply reaches those who place the highest value on it, and Amazon should be free to refuse his business if it seems likely to put them in bad odor with the public.

Francisco D said...

The panic buying of hand sanitizer is probably as much a fear of hoarding than it is of the coronavirus.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

During a public health crisis - my thoughts on the matter are altered. Supply and demand smothered by hoarding and panic = not impressed.

Hubert the Infant said...

I just heard the New York Attorney General being interviewed about price gouging. The question involved how one draws the line separating what is reasonable and what is illegal. Her scary response was that she knows price gouging when she sees it, and cited a Manhattan store that was selling hand sanitizer for $79. Of course, she did not bother responding to the actual question. Would $59 be price gouging? $29? $9. More important, how about if the $79 came with no wait, while the $9 came with a three-hour wait, during which you would be standing on the checkout line with many other people?

Ken B said...

Billy Bob is a GOOD guy. He adverts hoarding.

Char Char Binks said...

"Amazon doesn't own the bottles or sell the bottles."

So what? They still took them off the market.

If commies don't like his price, they don't have to buy it. They can try soap and water, for a change.
Anyway, commies are the cause of this pandemic, and the overreaction to it.

Jason said...

DBQ: You think that Amazon should allow this seller to gouge people? Use Amazon's platform to help him gouge? Or should Amazon be responsible for policing this use of their system and stop the gougers?

Kinda hard to gouge anybody when you have thousands of market participants all competing to sell the same thing online, on the very same platform.

And kvetch all you want. Amazon took them off the market. So now NOBODY gets them.

Good going, retards.

n.n said...

To be fair, he does not have the economy of volume, regulatory advantage (e.g. sales tax, which has been corrected), or the competitive advantage of labor and environmental arbitrage. He is operating in a single/central or monopoly environment by virtue of circumstance, which should pass shortly as market function is reestablished.

Char Char Binks said...

"Would $59 be price gouging? $29? $9."

Yes. They want people to give it away for free, or pay people to take it.

Temujin said...

Let the market decide if his sanitizer is worth what he's charging. When he finds that people have rediscovered soap, and he's stuck with 14,000 bottles of sanitizer, his price will come down. No one is being mandated to have to buy sanitizer from this source, or any source. Jeez, people.

Those who want it, will buy it. Those who do not, can move on to their next mini-crisis.

stevew said...

There is no such thing as price gouging. He should charge whatever it is people are willing to pay. Opposing his ability to do so is anti-American. Shortages are the result of not allowing the free exchange of goods and services.

Michael said...

Most "price gouging" is probably eu-social. People in the backwoods villages may need this stuff a whole lot less than whoever this guy sells it to. But most Progressives probably didn't take much interest in microeconomics.

bagoh20 said...

Price controls always lead to shortage. Collectivists would rather have everyone suffer before letting anyone get anything extra. If you let people charge more the supply will skyrocket as producers and sellers scramble to take advantage selling what people want badly. Then the competition brings the price back down. Central control of prices leads producers and sellers to just do something else instead, becuase people don't work harder for free. Do you think this simple concept is ever taught in schools?

Ken B said...

Boo to Amazon. Boo to our educational system that doesn't value how this guy moved sanitizer from places where there was a glut and made it available to people with a strong need.

bagoh20 said...

There are thousands of products on Amazon that are priced many times what the best price is. I see them all the time. I don't know why some sellers price them like that. Maybe idiots just pay the first price they see, and there are enough idiots to make it work for those sellers, but nobody has to pay a seller who does that.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Not too upset with this guy selling hand sanitizer for $20 a bottle. His buyers are likely the same panicky hoarder types who started all this mess in the first place. The deserve each other.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Good for him. I know a man who just received 80,000 bottles of hand sanitizer for his out-of-his-pole-barn business. It was a regular order, placed before the panic, and his supplier honored it. He, in turn, is doing business (and pricing) as usual with his regular customers. Because tomorrow’s another, possibly panic-free, day, and you don’t want to screw your regulars. It’s the panicked-come-lately who are paying a premium. His only problem is getting his invoices paid quickly so he can cover his up-front shipping costs.

bagoh20 said...

Is Louis Vuitton gouging when they sell a purse for $4000 that cost $10 to make, or that does the same thing a $30 purse does? Do we have to buy a $4000 purse? Do all purses need to cost the same?

Kevin said...

The commenters at the NYT are letting him have it, saying he's clearly much worse than the man he calls "Billy Bob."

Right now this guy doesn't have to share his hand sanitizer at any price.

Right now.

Kevin said...

If you think this guy is being viciously attacked, wait until they find the people hoarding toilet paper.

BUMBLE BEE said...

If you folks knew what a furnace filter costs to make....

Kevin said...

Is Louis Vuitton gouging when they sell a purse for $4000 that cost $10 to make, or that does the same thing a $30 purse does?

The first rule of price gouging is it's not price gouging if the person being charged is richer than you.

Big Mike said...

Three years ago a firm called Henkel bought Sun Products and discontinued Wisk laundry detergent in favor of their own Persil brand, but I note that Amazon and eBay have no qualms about selling leftover bottles of Wisk for ridiculous sums of money. I just have a hard time seeing much difference between selling discontinued products at an extreme markup and selling scarce products at an extreme markup. So put me with the people who think that artificial intervention in the free market — however well meant — is a huge blunder.

An atheist’s prayer: may the Good Lord preserve is from people who want to screw with us “strictly for our own good.”

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Me : "Amazon doesn't own the bottles or sell the bottles."

So what? They still took them off the market.

No they didn't. They decided to not allow him to sell the products on THEIR platform.
He is free to try to sell them elsewhere.

Do you think that Amazon is the only place to sell things?

Just because Amazon doesn't want to participate, doesn't mean that the product is non existent or unable to be sold.

The guy could stand on a street corner and sell. Anywhere.

Gregg said...

Amazon pay zero in taxes, correct?

Michael K said...

You think that Amazon should allow this seller to gouge people?

This is how we got gas lines in the 70s. In ages past societies valued older members who could remember why things happened.

Today, for many history began yesterday. On another blog we are discussing Alan Bloom's "Closing of the American Mind."

rhhardin said...

Mike Munger on price gouging and idiot politicians. They guarantee that you can't get what you need in an emergency.

People don't hoard-buy if the price is high enough, and lo! the shelves stay stocked.

The gouger's problem is how to avoid getting stuck with stuff he can't sell. And lo! the price comes down, just enough to cover the emergency.

You will not regret listinging to this podcast (economics made amusing)
https://www.econtalk.org/munger-on-price-gouging/

bagoh20 said...

What would you prefer to find at the store: your desired item at a greatly inflated price or not find it at all. In a panic, those are the only two options. Most people will gladly shift money from things they don't need to those they do, but if there is none of what you need, you can't even make that choice.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"You think that Amazon should allow this seller to gouge people?"

This is how we got gas lines in the 70s. In ages past societies valued older members who could remember why things happened.

Amazon declining to allow someone to use their delivery, fulfillment platform to sell overpriced items.....is NOT the same thing as the Government deciding how much you can sell your items for.

The seller can try to sell his stuff elsewhere. Just because it isn't on Amazon doesn't mean that it is not able to be sold.

If no one wants to pay his price, then he is stuck with a lot of sanitizer. He rolled the dice....he lost.

gilbar said...

'They’re built for Billy Bob’s gas station doubling the amount he charges for gas during a hurricane.'

bagoh20 said...
What would you prefer to find at the store: your desired item at a greatly inflated price or not find it at all.


It's AGAINST THE LAW, for Billy Bob to raise the price of his Gas...
That means that When there's a problem; he'll run out, on account of because there'll be a run on gas

ISN'T that GREAT? IF there is a problem (hurricane, floods, riots, etc) ...
THERE WON'T BE ANY GAS! 'cause it wouldn't be FAIR for people to be able to buy it

AllenS said...

There is absolutely no toilet paper where I live. I had to go to the bank this morning and get $20 worth of ones.

StephenFearby said...

11th Commandment:

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's hand sanitizer."

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Big Mike said...

Three years ago a firm called Henkel bought Sun Products and discontinued Wisk laundry detergent in favor of their own Persil brand, but I note that Amazon and eBay have no qualms about selling leftover bottles of Wisk for ridiculous sums of money. I just have a hard time seeing much difference between selling discontinued products at an extreme markup and selling scarce products at an extreme markup. So put me with the people who think that artificial intervention in the free market — however well meant — is a huge blunder.

The FDA forced Pfizer to reformulate Preparation H back in 1995, rendering the US produced product almost useless. The Canadian produced product is still formulated using the tradition ingredients. There is a huge secondary market for Canadian Preparation H on eBay.

An atheist’s prayer: may the Good Lord preserve is from people who want to screw with us “strictly for our own good.”

Hear! Hear!

gilbar said...

Back during Katina, a guy in the midwest (or kentucky?) went to his local Home Depot...
Bought a bunch of generators; With his Own Money, and Rented a truck; and DROVE to New Orleans...
Where he was ARRESTED, for the CRIME of trying to provide generators above a 'fair' cost

YoungHegelian said...

Here, on Amazon, is the price of my favorite ginger-ale (Boylan's). It works out to be $2.18 a bottle. I've seen it much worse on Amazon. I've seen it $3.00 a bottle plus shipping, and shipping is expensive for liquid filled glass bottles.

I used to be able to find it at World Market or Trader Joe's for about $1.50 a bottle. Now, I buy it from a local distributor by the case for about $0.95 a bottle.

This is just one example, but food items on Amazon are often jacked up in price waaaaay past what a local vendor would charge. Is this price gouging, too?

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

AllenS said...

There is absolutely no toilet paper where I live. I had to go to the bank this morning and get $20 worth of ones.

I'm stockpiling corn cobs as we speak. Hoping for a run, real soon!

gilbar said...

An atheist’s prayer: may the Good Lord preserve is from people who want to screw with us “strictly for our own good.”

The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help. Ronald Reagan"

brylun said...

What about the airline companies in Europe charging people $5000 to come back to the US before the travel restrictions were in effect?

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

There are alternatives, folks.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Of course the difference is that this guy bought up all the product he could find to help create the shortage he now wants to exploit. Not exactly a free market hero.

J. Farmer said...

Sounds like he didn’t think his business plan completely through.

Char Char Binks said...

"They decided to not allow him to sell the products on THEIR platform."

THEIR platform? They didn't build that. They sell on the internet that was developed by DARPA and other arms of the US government, that was paid for by our tax dollars.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Of course the difference is that this guy bought up all the product he could find to help create the shortage he now wants to exploit. Not exactly a free market hero.

True...not exactly a hero. Pretty despicable. But trying to blame Amazon, or Ebay, is ------>insert term indicating insult to intelligence.

However, this tactic goes on all the time in the commodity markets. Corn. Wheat. Hog bellies. The difference is the morality of doing such tactics... "cornering the market".... during what is a health crisis or other disaster.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Cornering the market mostly applies to stock prices....but it also applies to the actual product/commodity.

Nothing new under the sun. Doesn't make it right. But not surprising. Probably someone cornered the market on wheat or copper in Hammurabi's days.

FullMoon said...

The linked article is interesting. Flu panic aside, This guy, and others try to spot trends, then buy stuff cheap and sell at a profit on Amazon. Kind of like buying stuff at goodwill or garage sales and re-selling on ebay or craigslist.

Earlier, Howard joked about using pages from old Monkey Wards catalogs as toilet paper. Fact is, pages from those catalogs can be sold as "vintage" Americana, or something, and find a market.

I go to car shows. People sell pages out of old Hot Rod and other custom car type magazines for a few bucks or so.

FullMoon said...

Hilarious! Did a search, and ebay full of "vintage retro Montgomery Wards catalogs.

Not sure if price has gone up since toilet paper shortage..

FullMoon said...

But trying to blame Amazon, or Ebay, is ------>insert term indicating insult to intelligence.

Unless I misunderstood article, Amazon bowed to public pressure..

Michael K said...

Amazon declining to allow someone to use their delivery, fulfillment platform to sell overpriced items.....is NOT the same thing as the Government deciding how much you can sell your items for.

I haven't checked eBay but Amazon is pretty much a monopoly.

n.n said...

Are there reasonable alternative products and sources? That is to say, is there a market? Unless there is a single/central/monopoly environment, which undermines price determination and redistribution, it is "capitalism", and it is not price gouging. Even the baker "baked the cake" in a crowded market.

eddie willers said...

God bless Althouse commentators. I saw the headline and came here to explain economics and gouging/hoarding.

Whoo wee...no need. You guys were on it like a duck on a june bug. All except for one and I'll let him figure out who he is.

n.n said...

I haven't checked eBay but Amazon is pretty much a monopoly.

More so before they were forced to collect sales tax. They still have a measurable advantage for products sourced from sellers that leverage labor and environmental arbitrage, but less so with the enactment of tariffs and economic immobilization to mitigate progress of an epidemic.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

He drove across the state with a u-haul truck and a plan to hoard-buy and re-sell. Amazon does not need to reward that during a health crisis. I actually agree with Amazon on this one.
I'm a supply-side free market capitalist all day long - I cannot get excited over this stunt.
Yeah - I get it - it's really clever.

Get a real job.

Oh wait - now if he drove Newman's mail truck across the state, to save gas, to buy-out every back-roads dollar store to make sure no one locally could buy any??? - well - then I'm all in. / way to help your neighbor!

Howard said...

He did deplete the supply in rural Trump country, that seems to smack of selfishness. Supply and demand wackamole

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Also, “cornering the market” is a myth, a chimera. Not even for truly rare things. Just ask the Hunt brothers. But it’s also impossible to corner a market on something with a really diverse supply chain like hand sanitizer. Hell even NY state got into producing it. What was rare will be a glut soon.

MBunge said...

To the people trying to belittle or dismiss the problem of price gouging...you do realize, right, that this kind of behavior in a genuine crisis often ends with somebody getting killed?

Mike

Ann Althouse said...

Why not wash your hands? I don't get the use of all this hand sanitizer. Regard your hands as dirty until you can wash them, and only touch your face or eat after you've washed your hands. If you're staying home, this should be easy.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

What gives Amazon the right to price-fix products sold on their site? I can’t force my channel partners to sell it for a specific price, how can they?

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

In a world of infinite options, Bunge, gouging is not possible. His buyers are people who want it bad enough to pay his price but not bad enough to drive around looking for it like he did. He’s providing them a service and you’re in favor of depriving his customers who might themselves be quarantined or disabled or unable to go OUT and shop. You are so mean. Just like Amazon. Meanie!

FullMoon said...

He drove across the state with a u-haul truck and a plan to hoard-buy and re-sell. Amazon does not need to reward that during a health crisis. I actually agree with Amazon on this one.
I'm a supply-side free market capitalist all day long - I cannot get excited over this stunt.
Yeah - I get it - it's really clever.

Get a real job.


The article says it is his real job and that he makes six figures buying and reselling stuff.

tim in vermont said...

Shit just got real:

People's Daily, China
@PDChina
The novel #coronavirus may cause testicular damage and male infertility, Chinese experts found, recommending infected men take tests for semen quality and hormone levels.

donald said...

If the numbers are correct, no that I would give a crap either way, he’s making perhaps 25% on his investment after running his ass off to
Provide a desperately desired (Note I don’t say needed, this is complete and utter bullshit as far as I’m concerned) product to a nation of imbeciles in an embarrassing panic. Dude’s a hero/sap fer crissakes

Michael K said...

What gives Amazon the right to price-fix products sold on their site?

They set a price of $29.95 for my book, more than I expected. I went by to check one time about a year ago and a single copy of the first press run hard cover was listed at $265. Of course that was a resale and I would not get anything from it but it did look good. The hard covers all sold out and it is POD now but a few resales show up.

Used copy prices still holding up.

Charlie Currie said...

How do we know he is actually gouging? Has any fact checked his assertion as to his costs of doing business? Just because the price is high doesn't mean the profit is high.

I'll wait for the price/cost analysis before casting aspersions.

madAsHell said...

The novel #coronavirus may cause testicular damage and male infertility, Chinese experts found, recommending infected men take tests for semen quality and hormone levels.

Semen quality? Testicular damage? The statement makes no sense.

Rumors, and speculation in print.

walter said...

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...I'm stockpiling corn cobs as we speak. Hoping for a run, real soon!
--
You'll be running funny.

eddie willers said...

To the people trying to belittle or dismiss the problem of price gouging...you do realize, right, that this kind of behavior in a genuine crisis often ends with somebody getting killed?

By someone not getting a needed product because other people were hoarding?

gilbar said...

Here's a solution, from the Filipino land!
I Use Tabo

comments, Buwana (sic)?

John henry said...

Another, if irreverent, probably blasphemous, alternative to monkey ward catalogs and phone books:

Like the bottle, which she [Indian Jenny] had forced herself to ration sip by pious sip over many months, the Bible had also enjoyed a long reign; she obliged herself, however cold the damp bay air, however uncomfortable the harsh edges of the plywood, to read the entire page before tearing it out. The religious discipline had paid off in kind. As she arranged the blankets about her heavy brown flanks and picked up the book she thought she detected deep within her a definite revelation that was certainly more than last night’s pepperoni.

John Henry

rcocean said...

Hello? Its the "Free Market" Amazon can do whatever they want. As for Charging $20 - if someone's dumb enough pay it, why Not?

Its not like having a hand-cleanser is a life/death item.

rcocean said...

BTW, the high - absurdly high - prices for used books is SOMETIMES a tax scam. The price is set high like $500/copy on Amazon. Then you donate some books to your Local Literary and write it off at $500. I've seen used DVD's priced at $450 on Amazon.

FullMoon said...

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...I'm stockpiling corn cobs as we speak. Hoping for a run, real soon!

How many times, on average, can they be rinsed and reused? Expect to get 10-12 uses from those Scotchbrite blue sponges, should need arise.

tim maguire said...

A lot of people here seem to miss a key point—he is not a producer, he did not contribute in any way to bringing this product to market. He himself created the shortage that he is trying to profit from.

Sorry, not capitalism at work.

MayBee said...

Panic and fear tells us a lot about ourselves.
Are we the kind of person who wants to take advantage of other people? Or are we the kind of person who wants to help?

John henry said...

Michael,

Is that a createspace book or from a traditional publisher?

I currently have 5 books for sale on Amazon.com and I set the price for all. They range from 9.95 to 69.95.

They do require a minimum, above cost, price, but as far as I know, no maximum. I could charge $500 for my Packaging Machinery Handbook and Amazon would happily collect 30% royalty.

On the other hand, when they do decide to discount it, my royalty is still based on my list price.

I'll never go with a traditional pu lisher agaon

John Henry

MayBee said...

tim maguire said...
A lot of people here seem to miss a key point—he is not a producer, he did not contribute in any way to bringing this product to market. He himself created the shortage that he is trying to profit from.


Yes! That is a fantastic point. He created the shortage.

John henry said...

You will also sometimes see items on Amazon listed for $5 or 10 thousand dollars that should cost $5.00 or 10.00 this is money laundering.

John Henry

gilbar said...

you know; there is a national Shortage of hand sanitizer
This guy's got 17,000 bottles. IT'S GOOD that he can't sell it; he should be forced to pour it all out

Because, like i said; there's a national SHORTAGE of hand sanitizer.
</sarc

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Those stores are Dollar Generals

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIqC5y1zm-4

BUMBLE BEE said...

Just who produces stocks, bonds, cars, submarines or for that matter gasoline? Hey Tim, cracke me up some 101 octane for my bike.

MBunge said...

"In a world of infinite options, Bunge, gouging is not possible"


"By someone not getting a needed product because other people were hoarding?"


It's not a world of infinite options. What are you, six years old?

And yes, throughout human history not getting a needed product because other people were hoarding during a crisis has frequently ended with violence.

Mike

Ron Winkleheimer said...

fixed fortifications are monuments to the Stupidity of Man.

A lot of people are of the nobility because their ancestors created fixed fortifications at strategic points and charged tolls.

FullMoon said...

A lot of people here seem to miss a key point—he is not a producer, he did not contribute in any way to bringing this product to market. He himself created the shortage that he is trying to profit from.

This guy bought much of it from out of the way small stores. He made it available to everybody in the world through Amazon.

Now, not a sanitizer guy myself, but lazy enough that I have paid a couple of bucks extra for stuff simply to avoid going shopping. If I felt sanitizer a life saving necessity, I could drive all over the county looking for a dollar bottle, or give the guy twenty bucks and have it delivered.

Now, if we were talking about actual live saving drugs, or food my attitude would be different.

John henry said...

There is nothing magical about hand sanitizer. It is just isopropyl alcohol and water. With, maybe, a bit of thickener and scent added. Or maybe not.

It is not regulated, AFAIK.

There are thousands of small and large factories that could be cranking it out tomorrow. Either under their own brand name or under contract to Purell and others.

Any shortage will clear very quickly. Like in a week or two.

John Henry

Dust Bunny Queen said...

rcocean Hello? Its the "Free Market" Amazon can do whatever they want. As for Charging $20 - if someone's dumb enough pay it, why Not?

Amazon is NOT charging anyone ANY price for this hand sanitizer in question.

Amazon is NOT THE SELLER.

Amazon does have a responsibility to make sure that the SELLERS are not overcharging while using the Amazon portal/fulfillment. They also have a responsibility to make sure that the products offered for sale BY THE SELLER are accurately represented and not fakes. This is why they stopped THIS SELLER from using their platform. Amazon...in this instance, has done the right thing. They have also booted other sellers out as well.

Is Amazon a perfect altruistic entity. Hell no. They are in it for themselves. BUT you can't blame them for some asshole trying to sell $20 hand sanitizer.

When Amazon allows sale, then Amazon gets a fee or a commission from the seller, the merchant. This is how Amazon works. How Ebay works.

AMAZON IS NOT SELLING THIS HAND SANITZER Maybe other sanitizer but not THIS.

What part of this do you people not understand!

Mark said...

Folks -- Taking over a supply, monopolization schemes, and other anti-competitive practices are NOT a free market. They are a distortion of the market.

John henry said...

I've been traveling so couldn't check. What is the availability of 70% isopropyl alcohol around the country?

If you can't get hand sanitizer use that instead.

Some pharma plants use this instead of sanitizer in aseptic (sterile) processing rooms

John Henry

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Althouse is onto something, For most of us, hand sanitizer is an unnecessary luxury feel good product that functions mostly as a placebo. The stores still have plenty of soap on the shelves. Also, there’s an obvious and sustainable solution to running out of toilet paper, but it is perhaps not known to anyone born after the advent of baby wipes.

John henry said...

A/k/a rubbing alcohol

Mark said...

Meanwhile, people might also practice a little Amazon distancing.

A lot of what they sell are Chinese knock-offs, or otherwise made in China.

Time to stop doing business with China.

walter said...

"Amazon does have a responsibility to make sure that the SELLERS are not overcharging "
Really? I've often seen significant differences in pricing there.
One "distortion" of the market is the increased value of home delivery currently.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

A lot of people here seem to miss a key point—he is not a producer, he did not contribute in any way to bringing this product to market.

What? The producer is only one point in a supply chain. He is helping bring it to market. Amazon is an online marketplace which wouldn’t have had access to this specific set of goods except for the fact he acquired them legally at his own expense and took the risk they would even be needed by the time he listed them. Purell could have dumped a ton of bottles on the market this week making his investment if time and money worthless. Your narrow definition of “market” is misplaced.

Kevin said...

Why not wash your hands?

Between rising OCD rates and people who like to shame everyone else about the "proper" ways to do things, the hand-sanitizing industrial complex has totally taken over America.

It's basically Purell and the defense contractors who've convinced Congress they're keeping America's enemies at bay.

n.n said...

Why not wash your hands?

Vigorously under water at the highest temperature you can tolerate and not cause injury.

Crazy Jane said...

I was too busy to get to the drugstore the other day and tried pricing rubbing alcohol on Amazon instead. Apparently Amazon only cares about price gouging that comes to the attention of the NYT commentariat. Or, of course, the Washington Post's.

FullMoon said...

He is helping bring it to market. Amazon is an online marketplace which wouldn’t have had access to this specific set of goods except for the fact he acquired them legally at his own expense and took the risk they would even be needed by the time he listed them

Exactly. This guy bought much of it from out of the way small stores. He made it available to everybody in the world through Amazon.

Kevin said...

A lot of people here seem to miss a key point—he is not a producer, he did not contribute in any way to bringing this product to market. He himself created the shortage that he is trying to profit from.

No, but he is part of the economic system that creates too much or too little of a product.

By purchasing large amounts, he sent a signal to the producers to produce more.

The normal inventories monitored by producers, plus what he and those like him stored on their own, ensured here were more bottles available when demand spiked than there would have been otherwise.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

All you idiots crying monopoly are in fact arguing that because you don’t like how he acquired his goods they should be made unavailable to the people who really want them and we’re willing to pay the price. Now they have no hope? Nope. They are desperate. They will find the purell elsewhere at more time and expense. You’ve just displaced the costs from the original guy into the end user. You command control commies kill me. Oh wait you’re in FAVOR of free markets. Just not in this instance.

n.n said...

The Amazon marketplace is probably the worst place to effectively prosecute a price gouging scheme. His pricing schedule is either competitive, for a variety of reasons, or will be quickly exposed to scrutiny and rejection.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Tell me at what price should Amazon allow him to sell his product.

Kevin said...

The article says it is his real job and that he makes six figures buying and reselling stuff.

This describes much of the economy.

As Scott Adams keeps reminding people: arguing how much markup is "fair" is loserthink.

n.n said...

This seems to be more about social shaming and painting "capitalism", or correctly market economics, by association. I wonder why Amazon decided to participate.

Mark said...

Too damn bad for the old lady in line behind him at those stores who wanted to buy a bottle off the shelf for regular price and is told, "Screw you, I got here first. Pay up if you want some. Oh yeah, and go wipe your ass with some napkins you grabbed from McDonalds, or use your hand, cause I'm taking all the toilet paper too. And, no, I can't spare a square unless you pay me."

Gospace said...

I have a particular brand of toilet paper I buy through Amazon on their Subscribe and Save program. I get 15% off their regular price because I have more than 5 items coming every month.

This month’s shipment isn’t coming. They sold their entire supply to panicked buyers at full price and aren’t fulfilling the Subscribe and Save orders from their regular customers with discounted prices.

Is Amazon guilty of price gouging since they have multiple pricing points for the same item and chose to sell all their product at the higher price even though there were pre-existing orders at the lower price? Or are they simply guilty of the non-crime of piss poor customer service?

If price gouging is a crime, that’s a reasonable question.

Mark said...

All you idiots crying monopoly

You can't make your points in a dignified way without the asshole insults?

Mark said...

What is it that really brings out the WORST in people?

gilbar said...

Crazy Jane said...
I was too busy to get to the drugstore the other day and tried pricing rubbing alcohol on Amazon instead. Apparently Amazon only cares about price gouging that comes to the attention


that was FUN! i went out there too.
I liked the one that was:
Evaxo 91% Isopropyl Alcohol Antiseptic, 32 fl oz. Pack of 3
by Evaxo
Price: $67.00 ($0.70 / Fl Oz) & FREE Shipping


and HERE was the punch line:
Usually ships within 3 to 5 weeks.

Mark said...

Is Amazon guilty of price gouging

Whether they are or not, sounds like an unfair trade practice in violation of law, or perhaps someone can argue breach of contract.

Fernandistein said...

some sellers are holding stockpiles of sanitizer and masks

Wreckers and hoarders! I denounce you!

It's funny and very sick that these stupid price gouging laws result in shortages of whatever happens to be valuable at the time.

Kevin said...

Too damn bad for the old lady in line behind him at those stores who wanted to buy a bottle off the shelf for regular price and is told, "Screw you, I got here first. Pay up if you want some. Oh yeah, and go wipe your ass with some napkins you grabbed from McDonalds, or use your hand, cause I'm taking all the toilet paper too. And, no, I can't spare a square unless you pay me."

Why don't you just assume she was black and he called her the N-word while you're fantasizing?

Since moral outrage need not be tethered to reality, you should always go all-in to maximize your sense of self-righteousness.

Maybe he could take all the oxygen from around her too?

Then give her corpse 50 lashes before he gets in his car parked in the handicapped spot.

Whew, I bet you feel much better.

Fernandistein said...

Prosecuted and if convicted thrown in the gray rock college for awhile.

An nice example of how self-righteous sadists rationalized tossing people in the gulag for having an incorrect opinion; in this case an opinion about the price of a luxury item that nobody really needs.

Fernandistein said...

You will not regret listinging to this podcast (economics made amusing)
https://www.econtalk.org/munger-on-price-gouging/


Good, I was going to ask you to post that again.

boatbuilder said...

Is he the only person selling hand sanitizer on Amazon? Why would anybody buy it at his price?

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

I was kidding about idiots, Mark. Meet me over at the press conference thread where I’ve already thrown you some props. I just think it’s silly to refer to one guy as if he’s a plague of locusts stripping the fields. I’ll bet the old lady know a dusty 5&Dime across town where she’ll get some Purell. That one guy didn’t take 100% of the available supply. That’s what I meant by infinite. There are more ways to procur Purell than all us “and our philosophy can conceive” and list on this site.

Fernandistein said...

"Billy Bob."

Billy Bob Thornton s my favorite actoid; I call him Billy Joe Bob Due-Wayne to irritate The Woman, who thinks he's creepy.

Michael K said...

I paid Amazon $14. of a 6 oz bottle of hand sanitizer a week ago.

I'm sure that was three times what it would have been last year.

tim maguire said...

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...What? The producer is only one point in a supply chain. He is helping bring it to market.

Did you read the story? He did not bring anything to market. He bought these things retail—they were already at market. He cleared out the stores in a tri-state area to create a monopoly and then tried to resell at a price he dictated.

Don’t confuse this with theories on pricing in a disaster.

Phidippus said...

What Mike (MJB) Wolf and Temujin said.

Quick quiz:

Must we go through this nonsense whenever there is a run on some commodity? Will people ever learn?

(Anwers--don't peek now--Yes, and No, respectively.)

Gospace said...

Kevin said...
.....
No, but he is part of the economic system that creates too much or too little of a product.


Perhaps you should enlighten us on this economic system you know of that always produces the exact amount of product needed and never too much nor too little. Could it be the socialist utopia of Venezuela? Communist China during the time of their Great Leap Forward? Thie always fulfilled 5 Year Plans of the USSR? Pre WWII Italy where fascism ensured the trains ran on time?

Capitalism with all it’s faults is a self correcting system as regards price and availability. Central planning isn’t. I’m reminded that a few years back when I worked retail another smaller chain with a completely centralized buyer system got a fantastic deal from a manufacturer on snowblowers, ordered them, and sent 2 to every store, including the stores in Florida.

My store ordered a crapload of pumps one spring. Central office turned down the order saying we only sold so many the previous year because it flooded here. We agreed, but pointed out to them it floods somewhere in CNY every year. It might not be us, but if we had them we could transfer them . They were in our overstock as excess inventory for roughly one whole week. We transferred them to a store 70 miles from us. The day after the storm they were the only retailer within 50 miles with pumps in stock. Central planning based on historical sales would have ensured their non-availability. Regional knowledge won out.

Ken B said...

He is creating wealth. Yes, actually he is. Wealth is created when an asset is switched to a more valuable purpose. Hand sanitizer on a shelf in rural Kentucky is at this moment of less value than in the possession of someone in Chicago who would otherwise have none. This fellow made that possible. He created wealth.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

I explained it already Tim. He bought it legally on the free market and is supplying it to others who can't or won't go out for themselves and do the same. People who are disabled, sick alone and unable to travel and acquire the bottles were happy to pay his price so that he can ship them some. Your fascist diktat that he is wrong and no more sales! means those people wanting it are not able to get it now. Congrats, now you are causing the shortage by stopping him!

Phidippus said...

tim maguire: This is pricing behavior in a disaster.

He bought from retailers who willingly sold to him at some price.

Then offered for sale those items to others who hadn't done the legwork, or who didn't move as fast as he did. He brought them to a different market.

No coercion was involved. You snooze, you lose, to put it bluntly.

Now if he'd bought it all up and set it on fire, that would be bizarre and arguably self-destructive. But still, under common law, when you own something, you can dispose of it (or not) in any way you care like, including e.g. keeping it, consuming it, selling it, setting it on fire, etc. You either own it, or you don't. I would claim that he had reasonable basis to believe that he owned it in the common law sense of the word.

Maybe martial law was declared and I missed it. Stomping on people like this is just socialism writ small. Experience teaches us that it tends to make things worse, even while it makes the "authorities" and the outraged feel better.

Fernandistein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandistein said...

Near as I can tell, top NYeT "pick" is the claim that it is illegal to sell gasoline and insulin and electricity and guns, and make payday loans, and that illegality is thanks mostly to "sell-serving" members of the Republican Party.

"This guy isn't any different than Exxon, Mobil, Shell, Pharmaceutical companies, real estate owners, etc, etc, or any other business that makes massive profits off essential, "must have" products.

What do you think the profit is on a $4.00 gallon of gas? What about insulin? How about electricity? How about charging 400% on pay check loans? How about gun manufactures profits on AK-47's?

THAT IS ALL LEGAL! Thanks mostly to sell-serving members of the Republican Party."


Mind boggling.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

My home is a sanctuary city free from the laws of gravity.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Also in my house the demand curve does NOT tell me where price meets supply, it tells me the point of assholery above which I will not tolerate a penny more!

Fernandistein said...

wait until they find the people hoarding toilet paper.

In Venezuela they arrested people for that.

FullMoon said...

TIL Shakespeare became wealthy by hoarding grain, and reselling at inflated prices during a period of famine. He used the profits for money-lending activity and was pursued by authorities for tax evasion and was prosecuted for hoarding grain.

FullMoon said...

Did you read the story? He did not bring anything to market.

The guy brought it from limited local availability to a world wide market.

DanTheMan said...

Bernie will be adding hand sanitizer to the list of things that should be free, like coronavirus vaccines.

Or maybe they will just make everything free for everybody everywhere.

Karen of Texas said...

Huh. I just went and bought a large bottle of Everclear. 190 proof. Nobody beating anyone up for the last of the hand sanitizer at the Liquor store. Mix with aloe vera and a bit of essential oil and proof- hand sanitizer. Bonus, if all hell breaks out, knock back a couple and who will care?

Two-fer.

FullMoon said...

Bernie will be adding hand sanitizer to the list of things that should be free, like coronavirus vaccines.

Or maybe they will just make everything free for everybody everywhere.

I think the free drive through testing may be a boondoggle. Many people without symptoms gonna go get a test for reassurance, clog up the labs testing swabs..

DanTheMan said...

>> I think the free drive through testing may be a boondoggle

Everything in every drive through should be free. And it's high time we nationalized fast food, grocery stores, and interior decorating.

OK, there's no direct link from interior decorating to corona virus, but why take chances?

bagoh20 said...

The biggest price gougers of all are universities.

Not Sure said...

Then offered for sale those items to others who hadn't done the legwork, or who didn't move as fast as he did.

This is actually the argument against price "gouging."

The arguments in favor of it--as made many times in this thread--are (1) it delivers a good that is temporarily unusually scarce to those whose willingness to pay is highest, and (2) it stimulates production. The loss of (2) is the strongest argument for letting prices go up to what the market will bear. But the downside is that "gouging" imposes real costs on others, by starting the equivalent of a run on a bank, which makes everyone incur the extra costs of racing to the Dollar General and then buy way more than they would normally. Which of these two factors dominates isn't something that can be determined from your armchair. It depends on how much you think people really differ in the value they put on hand sanitizer. My guess is ... not by much. Certainly not by as much as they differ in their costs of moving quickly enough to beat the fastest asshole in three states
to the local store.

So yeah, price controls are usually a very bad idea. But not 100% of the time.

FullMoon said...


Everything in every drive through should be free. And it's high time we nationalized fast food, grocery stores, and interior decorating.

Are you making fun of the Bernie bros on reddit? Forgive them, for they know not what they do..

Not Sure said...

In my 6:46 comment I omitted an important part of the argument against "gouging," which is that retail outlets have to impose a tight limit on the amount any one customer can buy. Otherwise there are still incentives for a hoarding binge.

Mark Jones said...

There's no such thing as "price gouging." A product is worth what willing buyers will pay for it. Period. If he charges too much, people won't buy. If he charges a lot but not too much, people will grudgingly pay it. They're entitled to make that decision for themselves, they should not have to abide by the moralistic opinions of legislators.

Legislators, by the way, whose own pricing scheme consists of "You'll pay whatever the fuck we SAY you'll pay for our services, and if you decide it's not worth it, we'll send men with guns to TAKE your money, possibly send you to prison, and kill you if you resist." So pardon me if I don't take their moralizing about "price gouging" seriously.

The only thing "price controls" do, the only thing they EVER do, is guarantee shortages. High prices are a signal to manufacturers to prioritize getting new product into that market, whether it means diverting scheduled deliveries elsewhere to the hot market to maximize their profit, or working hard to increase production/delivery. It's a signal to entrepreneurs to buy low elsewhere, then sell high in the hot market. If your rulers, in their "wisdom" forbid this, it only means shortages and black markets. And it's always better, of course, to buy from criminals than regular suppliers, right?

The Vault Dweller said...

Something tells me that the next most likely alternative if this guy had not bought up all the hand sanitizer in the region is that instead of it being in the possession of this one guy, it would be in possession of a few hundred preppers, and not dispersed among the needy population as some imagine.

gilbar said...


OK, there's no direct link from interior decorating to corona virus, but why take chances?


AOC has already said, that BECAUSE OF the covfefe-19 virus...We should have:
Universal Free Health Care, like they do in Italy
Universal basic income, like they have in Cuba
and
Student reimbursements, like they have in Iran

and people say I'M deranged

gilbar said...

What do you think the profit is on a $4.00 gallon of gas?

this raises some interesting questions
Where's this $4.00 a gallon gas?
How much is the tax on it?
How do you figure the profit on a barrel of oil?
..do you just count the diesel fuel to run the pump? How about delivery?
..do you count the cost of drilling the well? How about the dry wells?
..are the high wages to roustabouts like my cousin Will considered Profits?
..are the high wages to roughnecks like my friend Kyle considered Profits?
..Geologists?
..Does the Oil itself, have an intrinsic cost? Or is That ALL Profits?

Gospace said...

Hurricane is coming. Hypothetical: It takes 6 sheets of plywood to properly board up a house . To prevent hoarding Home Depot limits sales to 2 per customer. Hence, every house is severely damaged or destroyed . But no one got to hoard.

I don’t see the social benefit. Who determines the limits?

One year every local hardware store in the area was wiped out of 1.5 inch PVC caps. There was a major event at the fairgrounds and some inspector had walked through and said all the big iron poles driven into the ground needed a plastic cover on the mushroomed end so people walking by wouldn’t scrape against them and injure themselves. For a week or so plumbers and others needing those caps were out of luck. Should we have refused to sell them and shut down the event?

ken in tx said...

I use hand sanitizer because if I washed them instead, my hands would be chapped, cracked, and maybe bleeding by the end of the day. BTW, my local Walmart is out of hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, aloe jell, disinfectant wipes, bleach, white vinegar, and TP.

Bill AKA motorave said...

Mbunge @3:29 If this behavior did not occur, "someone will be killed" because the product or service that you claim is over priced will not be available anyway.The morally suspect people are the people who buy just to hoard because they are scared little sheep in adult bodies not those who buy to supply a demand .As has been pointed out many times the price ensures at least some availability. there are no moral parts of commerce just
results.

Narayanan said...

All pricing is gouging.
An Attempt to find squeal scream threshold.

Narayanan said...

On the wholesale end of the market Fed is pumping (dehoarding) $$
Why should only Wall Street people get it?

Narayanan said...

About Amazon: they allowed it and then cancelled it.

What was their reasoning?
Did this gentleman violate any of their terms?

Ray - SoCal said...

His profit is not that great.

$20 selling price
- $10 shopping
- $4 amazon shipping
-$2 Retail he bought
- $1 gas, trailer rental
Profit: $3

And Amazon’s cut may be more. Plus cost of packing material, etc.

Narayanan said...

there are no moral parts of commerce just
results.
_____&&&&&
This is where most pro freedom advocate are wrong.

Commerce meaning free consent and association and trade is basic fact of morality.

SGT Ted said...

The Dollar Store is the one that was allocating scarce resources efficiently, bringing things to poor people they cannot afford otherwise.

Poor people aren't going to go online and pay $20.00 for what they could have gotten for a dollar.

That asshole wasn't bringing scarce resources to the market efficiently. He was just being a greedy asshole.

DanTheMan said...

I just remembered that my scientist father in law (rest in peace) gave me TWO GALLONS of 100% ethanol many years ago. I think I have used maybe 2 ounces out of one jug.

That's much better than hand sanitizer. For a variety of reasons. :)

Jason said...

I flat out did not expect some of these normally smart, sane people here to go full retard so quickly.

Now THAT'S scary.

0_0 said...

Althouse: I, for one, like to carry a small bottle of sanitizer at work. It's a high paying job at a wastewater plant, and there aren't enough sinks with soap nearby.

Blue@9 said...

This guy's a turd. Billy Bob's gas station might legitimately increase prices to discourage volume buying and preserve inventory for other customers. This guy went around and bought up other people's stock-- creating artificial scarcity -- so that he could price gouge. There's a big difference between these behaviors. You might say it's legal, but then so is Amazon's and Ebay's refusal to deal with guy.

Paul Ciotti said...

The BMW dealer down the street has been price gouging for years. Pissed me off. I bought a used Honda instead.

MayBee said...

SGT Ted said...
The Dollar Store is the one that was allocating scarce resources efficiently, bringing things to poor people they cannot afford otherwise.

Poor people aren't going to go online and pay $20.00 for what they could have gotten for a dollar.

That asshole wasn't bringing scarce resources to the market efficiently. He was just being a greedy asshole.


yes. Exactly.

EdwdLny said...

It's only " price gouging " because he's charging more than you think he should. Once again the tyrant wanna be's got their panties in a twist. If you don't like the price , don't buy. He didn't distort the market, he didn't hoard. He found a supply of a product in demand and offered that product to the market, period. Again, don't want to pay his price, then don't. Now the product in demand will be more difficult to find and purchase. He'll sell it and make less profit despite the whining but will still profit. all while those who would have bought from him will be forced to do without. Nice job, whiners.

Paul Snively said...

There is, of course, no such thing as "price gouging."

Nichevo said...


FullMoon said...
Did you read the story? He did not bring anything to market.

The guy brought it from limited local availability to a world wide market.
3/14/20, 5:37 PM


Sure, Sichuan province was gonna clear him out in a day, till Bezos came along and meddled with him. Can't we just all admit this was a Lucille Ball-quality, hare-brained scheme? Nobody needed this guy. Running a "business" with such high costs is inherently preposterous. The chief thing he accomplished was to strip a couple of hundred communities of local hand sanitizer supplies.

I suppose he shouldn't be stopped, even idiots meet idiots and clear markets, but he would have been much better off spending his capital making moonshine to increase the supply of alcohol. He basically just burned gas, tires and the hours of his life, in a foolish speculation.

Repeat, no doubt he should be free to do such a stupid thing. IMHO it was expressly stupid, though.

Real American said...

PEOPLE: WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO PAY MORE WHEN I DIDN'T PLAN AHEAD?

POLITICIANS: WE HAVE DONE "SOMETHING" - PRICE GOUGING IS NOW ILLEGAL

PEOPLE: WHY CAN'T I FIND WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR IN THE STORES OR ONLINE?

ECONOMISTS: THERE'S A SHORTAGE CAUSED BY PANIC AND ANTI-PRICE GOUGING LAWS MAKE THINGS WORSE. IF SELLERS WERE PERMITTED TO RAISE PRICES DRASTICALLY IN THE WAKE OF SUDDEN INCREASE IN DEMAND, PEOPLE WOULD ONLY BUY WHAT THEY NEED, RATHER THAN STOCK UP "JUST IN CASE" AND THERE'D BE MORE SUPPLY TO GO AROUND, EVEN IF IT COSTS MORE.

PEOPLE: WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO PAY MORE WHEN I DIDN'T PLAN AHEAD?

Paul Ciotti said...

In the former Soviet Union people who engaged in what some here are derisively calling "price gouging" were called "economic saboteurs." Then they were liquidated. Is that what people want to do here--appoint a commissar to shoot anyone who charges high prices? Price gouging only occurs when the public foolishly succumbs to panic and buys up all the hand cleaner and toilet paper. This allows someone else to come in and buy up odd lots and charge whatever he wants. The good news is that producers will quickly ramp up production to fill the gap, prices drop and no one can price gouge because there are ample supplies elsewhere. This should be pretty easy to understand. Price gouging is a signal to producers to produce more. That's how they know.

Bunkypotatohead said...

For $100 He could establish www.handsanitizersforall.com and sell for whatever the market will bear plus postage. No Amazon needed.