Free enterprise is one thing. Taking advantage of people during the coronavirus pandemic is another. One man traveled over 1,300 miles and bought up as much hand sanitizer as he possibly could and then sold the much-needed supplies online for outrageously exorbitant prices. Now, he has nowhere to sell the hand sanitizer.
There are people who are panicked, as seen by the insanely long lines and fights at Costco. One man tried to exploit people’s fears by buying up as much hand sanitizer as he could.
Meet Matt Colvin, he is currently making a run for being the most despised person on the internet this week after attempting to capitalize on the coronavirus outbreak. Colvin bought 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and tried to dictate the price of the potentially life-saving health supply.
On March 1, the day after the first COVID-19 death in the U.S. was announced, Matt Colvin and his brother Noah bought up hand sanitizer in stores around Chattanooga, Tennessee. They then drove around Tennessee and neighboring Kentucky to increase their supply and decrease what was available locally. With people desperate to get their hands on the sanitizer, the Colvin brothers were able to charge much higher prices.
Colvin is a third-party Amazon merchant where he sells products. Because of the panic of the coronavirus pandemic and scarcity of health supplies, Colvin was able to sell the hand sanitizer for outrageous prices. Colvin quickly sold 300 bottles of hand sanitizer, ranging from $8 to an insanely marked up $70.
Back in February, Colvin saw that the coronavirus was causing panic in Asia and Europe. He purchased 2,000 pandemic packs that came with face masks and sanitizer at $3.50 apiece and then resold them for $50 on Amazon.
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Amazon noticed the extremely high prices on Colvin’s products, which violated the e-commerce giant’s policy. Amazon’s Marketplace Fair Pricing Policy says that the company “can remove the Buy Box, remove the offer, suspend the ship option, or, in serious or repeated cases, suspending or terminating selling privileges” for sellers who use “pricing practices that harm customer trust.”
On Friday, Amazon released a statement detailing their “actions to help employees, communities, and customers affected by COVID-19.”
“We believe our role serving customers and the community during this time is a critical one, and we want to make sure people can get the items they need, when they need them,” the Amazon blog post read. “People may shop online at a greater rate due to the way COVID-19 spreads, so we are working to ensure that demand is met and, as always, if anything changes with our ability to meet a customer promise we will communicate directly with the impacted customer.”
“We’re also working to ensure that no one artificially raises prices on basic need products during this pandemic and have blocked or removed tens of thousands of items, in line with our long-standing policy,” the post stated. “We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policy.”
There were many third-party merchants violating Amazon’s policy by price-gouging items that were in high demand due to the coronavirus outbreak. There were accounts selling a pack of two eight-ounce bottles of Purell for $119.
Colvin was one of the Amazon merchants who got booted off the vast marketplace for violating the pricing policy. Colvin was also kicked off eBay for charging unconscionable prices for health supplies.
Now, Colvin has a massive stockpile of over 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer as well as other cleaning products in his garage and nowhere to sell.
When asked if he would say that he is sorry, Colvin said, “No, I don’t think that I would.”
After the New York Times piece about Matt Colvin’s business venture was published on Saturday morning, he received the wrath of the internet. Thousands of disparaging messages and even some death threats.
Matt, who is from Hixson, Tennessee, has changed his tune after the outrage. He told the NYT that he “is exploring ways to donate all the supplies.”
Colvin isn’t the only one making bank during the coronavirus pandemic. The New York Times talked to other resellers capitalizing on the viral infection outbreak. Chris Anderson of Central, Pennsylvania, said he made about $25,000 on medical face masks. Another online seller based in Ohio claims he made between $35,000 and $40,000 just on reselling face masks.