Two Tennessee brothers who bought 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and sold some of them for as much as $70 each to profit off the coronavirus outbreak say they have received death threats after being shamed on social media.
Matt and Noah Colvin of Hixson, Tenneseee, drove 1,300 miles across the state and neighboring Kentucky earlier this month after the first coronavirus death was reported in the United States.
Seeing a lucrative business opportunity, they filled a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes that they ‘cleaned out’ from various Dollar Tree, Walmart, Staples and Home Depot locations.
In total, they spent between $10,000 and $15,000 stocking up on the items which are now in demand thanks to the global pandemic that has killed thousands and will likely infect many more.
‘The bulk of it was purchased just driving around to retail stores in the Chattanooga area,’ Matt Colvin told WRCB-TV.
Matt Colvin then stayed at his home near Chattanooga, where he was expecting deliveries of boxes of even more sanitizer, cleansing products, and surgical masks.
Colvin told The New York Times that he began listing some of the products on Amazon – and was selling them at a considerable markup.
‘It was crazy money,’ he told the Times.
Colvin, like other online resellers, bought the items at the store for reasonably priced sums. A bottle of Purell hand sanitizer normally sells for $1 each.
On Amazon, he charged $20 for a two-pack set, according to the Times.
Colvin defended himself against accusations he was price gouging, saying that the cost of delivering it to customers as well as Amazon’s commission eat into profits.
He said that anti-price gouging laws in Tennessee and elsewhere are not suitable to the current digital age.
‘They’re built for Billy Bob’s gas station doubling the amount he charges for gas during a hurricane,’ Colvin said of the laws currently on the books.
‘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,’ he said.
When asked if he felt badly about turning a profit by selling products that prevent the spread of a lethal virus, Colvin countered that he was just correcting ‘inefficiencies in the marketplace.’
‘There’s a crushing overwhelming demand in certain cities right now,’ he said.
‘The Dollar General in the middle of nowhere outside of Lexington, Kentucky, doesn’t have that.’
Colvin then claimed that he was simply running a business that was meeting consumer demand.
‘I honestly feel like it’s a public service,’ he added.
Amazon has now shut them down.