Price Gouging during the Pandemic

Living in Canada, I have seen many stories of price gouging coming around since February, right at the time when the Covid-19 pandemic set its foot in North America. Be it news article from Tennessee (USA) on an individual stacking up 17000+ bottles of hand sanitizer or people listing to sell medical-grade face masks online at astronomical prices or more recent news article from Ontario government on price gouging by an urbane retailer selling stacks of toilet paper at an uncouth price.
The core question then arises – Is it ethical and should people be doing price gouging during a pandemic?
To answer the question, it requires digging deeper into various scenarios that each community and region currently face – not just within local communities but on a global scale. As to any paradox, there are 2 sides to a story that needs to be understood before folks churn out their judgment on social media handles.
Firstly, the people who are in favor of price gouging of supplies and perceive it to be right. The reason being that it is all about demand and supply. The situation – even though a pandemic – requires balancing the enormous consumer demand. If the traditional retailers or government is unable to fulfill demand in time then so-called hoarders are waiting to capitalize & become the pandemic era suppliers. One view shared is that the hoarders thought ahead of time, to invest in on-demand inventory and are now looking to capitalize – given the peak demand for certain goods & services. This view is consistently touched upon by a celebrity on recent Jimmy Kimmel show with what wall street has been doing all along during the times of crisis (be it 2009 crisis or 2012 or even earlier). The individuals who support this view epitomize capitalism and see no wrong when it comes to making a quick buck during the times of such economic & health crisis.
Secondly, the people who are not in favor of price gouging of supplies and perceive it to be the unethical and wrong thing to do. I share the same sentiment when it comes to price gouging of essential pandemic healthcare supplies. I find companies or individuals who are price gouging on face masks and health care equipment to be extremely selfish as such supplies are live savers. And human life is precious than minting a small profit on life-saving medical equipment. I also find certain politicians undeserving to lead communities, the ones who are slow to recognize the seriousness of the pandemic and think human lives have lesser worth than the local economy.
Even the government supports the above (2nd) sentiment to an extent and have taken action in recent weeks against the hoarders who have swept medical supplies and equipment from retail outlets in recent months. Such medical equipment pirates (as I call them), have caused an acute shortage within Canada and America that puts our medical & healthcare professionals on the path of serious health risk and death. Recent government steps & laws to stop such price-gouging activities have come into play and are fairly effective. Latest example -
Competition bureau in Canada jumped into action and issued a statement a week ago:
"As Canada responds to the COVID-19 Coronavirus situation, I would like to assure Canadians that the Competition Bureau remains vigilant against potentially harmful anti-competitive conduct by those who may seek to take advantage of consumers and businesses during these extraordinary circumstances," said the statement issued by Commissioner Matthew Boswell.
Apart from first & second, there is a third category of people who do not believe in any of the above views i.e. the unbelievers. This category of folks either does not believe that there are any irregularities in retail prices or do not care for supply & demand cycles or do not believe that Covid-19 Coronavirus could cause serious health risks to the human population. Such individuals, like atheists, will have an independent view of the evolving situation during a pandemic and on their specific choice of lifestyle. To illustrate with few examples - these individuals could be the spring breakers who ignored the government warnings in the midst of Covid-19 outbreak and still went out to beaches in Florida, USA (& essentially got their location tracked) or the individuals who utterly disregard public health & government warnings and still venture out without proper health and pandemic precautions.
Overall, for the topic of price gouging, there are different public views and sentiments (ethical or not) available at this present time. Hopefully, recent government and community actions make it impossible to price gouge on necessary medical and health care supplies.
And hopefully, the Covid-19 pandemic situation is over soon enough so that the companies and individuals can go back to leading their normal business and lives (or as I say, lead a new age NORM post-COVID-19 era).


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