During ‘Hurricane Harvey’ in August 2017, a picture went viral that was widely misunderstood to be price-gouging (or inflating the price of something, typically gasoline or basics, unfairly in an area where it has become suddenly scarce), but actually wasn’t even true.
In America, you can often buy cases of bottled water for perhaps even $3 per case of 28 depending in the cheaper brands, so a case of water being sold for $40+ per case might SEEM like price gouging, UNTIL you investigated.
The masses who accused Best Buy actually misunderstood what was happening, and their outrage should be directed at themselves for failure to investigate, or simply believing that what was being reported were true without checking.
A concerned citizen took a photograph of a case of bottled water being sold for over $40, but that’s actually the regular price for that many single-unit bottles.
You see, Best Buy doesn’t sell cases of water — they sell electronics like computers and DVDs and such, not necessities for survival like a grocery store might. They stock drinks for customers to impulse-buy, and they sell those by the bottle, not in cases.
Think of buying a $12-pack of sodas, compared to buying from a vending machine. I just called my local supermarket, and their 12-packs of Dr. Pepper are on sale for $2.75, so that’s about 23 cents per can. If you bought 12 cans out of a vending machine for $1.25 each, you would spend $15 — and both of those are the regular price for the place they are sold.
If someone told you they had to pay $40 for a case of water, you might rightly assume the place they bought it from were someone price-gouging water, BUT, if you learned later, that the person who bought the water actually paid the regular price of $1.79 each for 24 individual bottles, then you would be calling the purchaser the idiot, not the seller.
As someone familiar with American retail in-store signing, nowadays you don’t generally just print a document with numbers you typed in — you enter in a product ID to a specific company sign-printing program and enter the quantity, and the computer automatically spits out a pre-formatted sign according to the company’s standardized font size.
The computer the sign was printed on didn’t even have a per-case price to set, because they don’t sell it by the case, so it simply calculated the number in the case times the single bottle price, which came up over $40. This is actually the REGULAR PRICE Best Buy sells bottled water at, hurricane or no hurricane.
Best Buy can’t legitimately be accused of price gouging, because the price would be that high before knowledge of a hurricane even existed. Had there been no hurricane, the water would have still been that price.