Every news we read or hear nowadays tells us how much the world is suffering. The widespread pandemic of the Coronavirus has caused the world to descend into chaos. Amidst this chaos, while there are people who are trying to help their government in the fight against the virus by providing financial aid to the patients there are people who see the shortage of resources as an opportunity to make hundreds of thousands of dollars quickly. However, not always things end up as you plan!
Tennessee resident Matt Colvin is one of such people. The sudden jump in the demand of hand-sanitizers led Colvin to sell it on Amazon.com by upping their prices by almost 400% – 500%. The e-commerce website, however, soon suspended his account due to price-gauging. As a result, Mr. Colvin got stuck with 17,000 stockpiled bottles of hand sanitizers with nowhere to sell those.
Matt Colvin is an Amazon seller based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Anticipating the demand of Hand Sanitizers amid the growing number of Coronavirus cases he and his brother Noah shopped all the mom & pop showrooms across Tennessee and Kentucky, stockpiling hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes. They saw as an opportunity to make some quick money amid the mass-panic in the US due to the coronavirus outbreak. Mr. Colvin managed to sell 300 bottles of hand sanitizers at a markup on Amazon before they could suspend his account.
Coronavirus And Colvin: The Scam
The Colvin brothers made an 1,300 miles road trip across Tennessee and Kentucky stockpiling hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes after the first death due to the coronavirus on March 1. They bought these resources from every small shop as well as from big brigs & mortars showrooms such as Walmart and Staples.
He initially placed a batch of 300 bottles of hand sanitizers on Amazon. They were sold immediately for prices ranging from $8 to $70 for each bottle – nearly 6x the price they paid for it. The Colvin brother’s also bought 2,000 pandemic mask packs at $3.50. Each pack came with 50 masks. The brothers sold all these mask packs on eBay price tagging each of the pack with around $40 to $50. With the mask packs alone the brothers made a profit of at least $96,000.
Soon enough, the shortage of such items in the offline market and availability of the same with one particular seller caught the attention of Amazon. The company was quick enough to act upon and after a brief investigation, they barred Mr. Colvin from selling anything on the platform. Within a few hours, eBay also suspended his accounts, leaving him with over 17,000 bottled of hand sanitizers in stock.
The repercussions of this have been hate mails and death threats Mr. Colvin has been getting after word got out about this scam. The brothers in an interview on Sunday with New York Times revealed some of the hate messages and said that a man even banged on their door late at night.
The brothers claimed that their intention wasn’t to strip people of these resources. All they wanted to do is to make some “hot money”. They did not think that the stores would not be able to replenish their supplies. Mr.Colvin claims he is not the kind of person that would do such scams and now regrets his actions. However, the brothers do have one hope left for them.
Even though the Attorney General’s office is trying to press charges of price-gauging, the law can prove to be a friend for Colvin. The Governor of Tennessee declared a state of emergency on 12th March. The price-gauging law came into effect on that day. Since the brothers bought the supplies before 12th March and they claim to not have sold any item after that date, they might still have a chance.
Stockpiling Ended Up in Donation
Due to all the uproar by the people and getting banned by Amazon and eBay Mr. Colvin found himself with loads of stockpiled stash with no place to sell. In a face-saving effort, he found no better option but to donate everything that could earn back his lost reputation in the town.
Mr. Colvin has donated two-thirds of his stash to a local church group to distribute to those in need all across Tennessee. The one-third part of the stash will be taken by the Attorney General’s office which would be given to their counterparts in Kentucky for distribution.
The plan which started with a target of pocketing some quick bucks in a quick session ended up with criminal charges and public hatred.
At this point, however, the fate of Mr. Colvin – the former Air force technical sergeant – remains uncertain. His eBay and Amazon accounts – he was dependent on for the past six years – are also suspended indefinetly.
But, Mr. Colvin was not the only one who tried to take advantage of the global crisis. The cases of price-gauging are increasing throughout the world as the demand for medical resources increases. During the time when the whole world is facing an unprecedented situation and outcry, it’s the job of the governments in various countries to come down heavily on people such stockpilers.