Press "Enter" to skip to content

Coronavirus: LA price gougers take advantage of shutdown

Price gougers in Los Angeles are selling products at drastically inflated prices, including one container of Clorox wipes for $50, one can of Lysol spray for $25 and one roll of toilet paper for $8, a investigation can reveal. 

The opportunistic sellers, taking advantage of the overwhelming demand for cleaning products during the coronavirus shutdown, may fall foul of laws against price gouging during a state of emergency. 

Earlier this month California Attorney General Xavier Bercerra vowed to prosecute sellers caught breaking the law, which prohibits businesses hiking prices by more than 10 percent during an emergency. 

But has found sellers on the second hand app LetGo who have been buying up household cleaning products, baby supplies and toilet paper around Los Angeles then reselling them with price hikes of up to 1,400 percent. 

Erica Shelton, a mom from Torrance, listed one tub of 75 Clorox disinfecting wipes for a whopping $50 on the site earlier this month.

The price for one tub was 1,400 percent higher than the regular price at Target of $9.99 for three tubs. Walmart also usually sells a pack of four tubs for $12.78.

Amos Haley, a photographer based in the Pacific Palisades and whose Instagram is filled with his pictures of half-naked models partying and posing in Southern California, listed a similar single Clorox canister for $37. 

A handyman in Chinatown, whose account on the site is called ‘Pro Installer’, usually sells skimpy bras and panties on the site, but after the coronavirus crisis began, he listed a box of 100 disposable vinyl exam gloves, which usually cost around $10, for $50, and also listed a 10-pack for $20. 

A user from Vernon under the handle ‘Soda Jerk’ listed 100 disposable gloves for an even steeper $60, and a 10-pack for $30. 

Toilet paper has also vanished from stores across the country with fights breaking out over the bathroom essential.

One Lynwood-based user on LetGo, Blake Ahmed, took advantage of the scarcity by selling unwrapped, single rolls of toilet paper for $8 each – but with the generous offer of ‘Delivery free with purchase of 8 [rolls].’ 

Another seller, ‘Kik’, from Fountain Valley, was charging $15 for a six pack of Presto toilet roll on the app.

Over a week ago, LetGo posted a statement on its site promising to ‘curb selling practices that may limit equal accessibility to high-demand items’. 

‘We’ve temporarily banned the sale of supplies like medical face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and toilet paper. We’re also prohibiting listings that mention the coronavirus (COVID-19) and promise prevention or a cure,’ the March 17 statement said. 

But listings of many of the banned products, with massively inflated prices, were still up on its site on Tuesday. 

Juan Ramirez of South Gate was selling single pairs of latex gloves for $15, and Los Angeles-based Hugo Mo listed one pack of baby wipes for $15, as well as ‘one single box of Kleenex 85 tissues of 3ply’ for $10. 

Stacy Cornette from Simi Valley posted a single 19oz can of Lysol Morning Breeze disinfectant spray for $25, normally $4.92 at Walmart – a gouge of 408 percent. 

LetGo user Lisa from Montebello listed a similar can for $10, more than double its normal price. 

In a statement earlier this month, California Attorney General Xavier Bercerra vowed to crack down on price gouging over essentials. ‘These price-gouging restrictions make it illegal for businesses to raise the prices of most goods and services by more than 10%,’ he said.

‘Those goods and services include but are not limited to emergency supplies, medicine and medical supplies, food and drink.’ 

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer told his office has had over 200 reports of price gouging in the last few days. 

Feuer’s staff found two 1-liter bottles of hand sanitizer for sale for an extortionate $140, and eight half-gallons of bleach for $100. Under California law, price gougers can face up to a year in jail, a $10,000 fine and restitution to consumers. 

‘Our team has been online and looking for evidence of price gouging,’ Feuer said in a statement last week. 

‘Price gouging of course rips off consumers and wrongfully costs them money. But more than that, the mere listing of a product in an emergency at inflated prices spurs panic, and we all suffer when stores are needlessly in short supply. 

‘Thanks to dozens of tips from Angelenos on price gouging this past week, we have new investigations open.’ 

Feuer encouraged city residents to report gougers at or by calling at 213-978-8340. Prices for surgical masks have also rocketed among medical wholesalers.

Gary Keith, a medical supplies reseller in Los Angeles, told that he usually sells medical-grade N95 surgical masks at $16.40 for a box of 20, and is now refusing to take part in the drastically inflated market with prices increased by 1,363 percent.

New York-based wholesaler Complete Medical Supplies Inc is now selling boxes of 20 N95 masks for a staggering $240, and bags of five masks for $62.50.

In an email sent to resellers, the company acknowledged the prices were ‘insane’ but said they were making little profit from the masks in the current market. 

‘We are doing everything possible to continue to supply you with N95 Masks,’ CEO Seth Klein wrote. ‘Our sell prices are ‘insane’ as compared to normal prices, BUT I assure you, our costs are ‘insane’ as well. 

‘Our profits are low single digits – this is not a profit center. 

‘We have made the decision to buy these masks, prepay for them and air them into stock in order to help our customers supply their communities with N95 Masks. 

‘N95 masks are very hard to find, so we will continue to try and find and offer N95 masks daily until we cannot locate any more.’ 

The company also says it is making a ‘large donation’ of the masks to four hospitals and fire departments in New York, New Jersey and Florida. 

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *