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Two brothers from Tennessee who said they tried to capitalize on the coronavirus outbreak by buying nearly 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer now claim they have nowhere to sell the products after a crackdown on online price gouging.
After the first COVID19-related death in the U.S. was announced, 36-year-old Noah Colvin and his brother, Matt, cleared out hand sanitizer from stores around Chattanooga, Tenn., and parts of Kentucky, The New York Times first reported. Their intention was to sell the goods on Amazon at marked-up prices.
They sold the sanitizer for between $8 and $70 each, multiple times higher than what they paid for the product at local stores, the paper reported.
The brothers declined to disclose their exact profits, saying only that it was “substantial.”
Despite backlash and accusations of profiteering, Noah Colvin defended his methods to The Times, saying there was “crushing overwhelming demand” in areas not carrying the products.
“I honestly feel like it’s a public service,” he said. “I’m being paid for my public service.”
But, Amazon, along with other online platforms including eBay and Walmart, shut down sellers such as the Colvin brothers who were found to be price gouging.
“Price gouging is a clear violation of our policies, unethical, and in some areas, illegal,” Amazon announced in a statement. “In addition to terminating these third-party accounts, we welcome the opportunity to work directly with states attorneys general to prosecute bad actors.”
Now, some 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer have been sitting in Noah Colvin’s garage, with no place to sell them, the paper reported.
After the brothers made headlines, news outlets reported that investigators with the Tennessee attorney general’s office ordered the Colvins to end any profiteering strategies. The state, which has had laws against price gouging, was investigating the case.
Noah Colvin told WRCB-TV that after the backlash he’s now looking into ways to donate the supplies.
“With business, there is wins and there is losses,” he said. “This is a situation where cutting my losses is the right thing to do.”