It’s an unfortunate truth that, during natural disasters, many retailers inflate prices and take advantage of people’s desperation. Many Houston stores have done this in response to Hurricane Harvey, including a Best Buy that came under fire this week for charging $42 for cases of Dasani water.
Journalist Ken Klippenstein shared a photo on Twitter of the outrageously priced water, and it didn’t take long for people to join him in denouncing Best Buy’s price gouging.
Shortly after the news about the prices went viral, a Best Buy representative issued a statement calling the pricing a “big mistake.” The representative also explained that the $42 price tag was reached by multiplying the price of a single bottle since the stores typically do not sell water by the case.
‘This was a big mistake on the part of a few employees at one store on Friday. As a company we are focused on helping, not hurting affected people. We’re sorry and it won’t happen again. Not as an excuse but as an explanation, we don’t typically sell cases of water. The mistake was made when employees priced a case of water using the single-bottle price for each bottle in the case.’
Best Buy is not the only Houston-area store to be accused of taking advantage of the desperation brought about by the hurricane.
On Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNBC that his office had received over 500 complaints of price gouging. These complaints included hotels tripling or quadrupling their prices, stores charging up to $99 for a case of water, and gas stations selling fuel for between $4 and $10 per gallon.
Paxton noted in the interview that price gouging is illegal in Texas and is punishable by a $20,000 fine per occurrence, or $250,000 if the victim is over the age of 65.
‘These are things you can’t do in Texas. There are significant penalties if you price gouge in a crisis like this.’
Paxton also said that store’s arguments about a shortage of goods are not justifiable.
‘I don’t think as large as our country is, as large as Texas is, that supply is ultimately going to be that big of an issue.’
Featured image via Scott Olson/Getty Images.