Capitalism is a marvel, can we all agree? It turns dust to diamonds. Nowhere is this basic truth more evident than during and after calamities, be they caused by nature, political unrest or disease. In fact, the phenomenon of profiting from disaster has proved so striking in its cold-bloodedness that a term was finally coined for it: “disaster capitalism.”
Price gouging is just one example. But unlike, say, buying up a poor, hurricane-flattened neighborhood for a song and constructing, in its place, luxury condos, gouging is immediately discernible and easier to target.
And in corona-plagued New York, cases of price-gouging have begun to abound in large enough numbers that several self-appointed watch dogs are investigating the matter.
One of these is Rick Echevarria, a former Mayor de Blasio staffer who is running as a Democrat for City Council of District 37 (Brownsville, Bushwick, East New York, Cypress Hills); he posted a video of himself in Bushwick/East Williamsburg, Monday, March 16, confronting the warehouse manager of a wholesaler which supplies a large number of 99-cent stores.
In the video, Echevarria can be seen questioning the manager about its pricing. The manager responds that his company is only raising its prices in response to price hikes of distributors further upstream.
In addition to posting the video on Youtube, Echevarria and his campaign have gone ahead and filed claims against two prominent New York wholesalers.
One of these is Best Sale NYC, Inc., who per the Echevarria campaign raised the price of Lysol by 42% in ten days.
Another is Top Choice Brands, Inc, which Echevarria alleges recently inflated the cost of Clorox disinfectant spray by 20%.
Last month, a press conference was called by Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams, who castigated for similar reasons, a Williamsburg food bazaar, only to have the store promptly pass the blame to a distributor, Top General Merchandise.
The Daily News reported earlier in the week that a total of $275,000 in fines had thus far been handed out by the city of New York for jacking up the price on essential goods during the coronavirus crisis. These fines were given, however, directly to stores rather than wholesalers.
Consumers suspecting price gouging have recourse not only to public officials like Echevarria, but also to nyc.gov/dcwp, the website of the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection.
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