A Vancouver couple has come under fire for buying up literal truck-loads of Lysol disinfecting wipes from a local Costco and reselling them for a significant markup, according to Toronto Star reporter Douglas Quan.
Yesterday I went to a Costco store, where I stumbled across this couple loading their pickup with piles of Lysol wipes. They hit up all the local Costcos daily, clearing shelves of wipes/liquid cleaner and re-selling them on Amazon. https://t.co/sYQhfxkUrG via @torontostar— Douglas Quan (@dougquan) March 13, 2020
Quan was on-scene to report on people stocking up on supplies when he ran into the couple, Manny Ranga and Violeta Perez, who told Quan they were buying in bulk and reselling on Amazon.
"Before I even got to the front entrance, I stumbled across this couple who were loading up the back of their Ford pick-up truck with these stacks and stacks of Lysol disinfecting wipes," Quan said. "Naturally that piqued my curiosity, and so I approached them and started chatting with them."
The pair explained to Quan how they hit several Costco locations every day in Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby, buy up all the Lysol wipes and cleaning liquid on hand, then turn them around for re-sale on their Amazon store Violeta & Sons Trading Ltd.
"It's a big opportunity with all these products," Ranga told the Star.
Quan says they had what appeared to be hundreds of cases stacked up on Costco pallets — enough that Ranga had to take two trips to get them all home.
"They were attracting a fair amount of attention from shoppers going in and out of the store. I wasn't the only person there that, you know, couldn't help but stop and stare," he said.
"One woman came up and remarked, 'Gosh, is that all for you?' And another woman later on came by and said, 'Wow, someone's making a lot of money today.'" -CBC
A six-pack of wipes sells for around $20 at Costco, but goes for around $80 online, according to the c ouple. Ranga told Quan they'd spent around $70,000 on bulk buys and raked in around $100,000 in sales.
Amazon has since suspended the couple's account, according to CBC.
Other profiteers have also been cut-off from online selling platforms. The New York Times is out with a Saturday piece on Tennessee brothers Matt and Noah Colvin, who set out on a 1,300 mile journey in a U-Haul truck to buy thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, mostly from "little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods," as "The major metro areas were cleaned out."
Matt Colvin stayed home near Chattanooga, preparing for pallets of even more wipes and sanitizer he had ordered, and starting to list them on Amazon. Mr. Colvin said he had posted 300 bottles of hand sanitizer and immediately sold them all for between $8 and $70 each, multiples higher than what he had bought them for. To him, “it was crazy money.” To many others, it was profiteering from a pandemic. -New York Times
Then, Amazon pulled his items along with thousands of other listings for sanitizer, wipes and face masks - suspending sellers and warning others that if they continue to price-gouge they'll lose their accounts.
Ebay has followed suit with even stricter measures which prohibit the US sale of masks or sanitizer.
In early February, as headlines announced the coronavirus’s spread in China, Mr. Colvin spotted a chance to capitalize. A nearby liquidation firm was selling 2,000 “pandemic packs,” leftovers from a defunct company. Each came with 50 face masks, four small bottles of hand sanitizer and a thermometer. The price was $5 a pack. Mr. Colvin haggled it to $3.50 and bought them all.
He quickly sold all 2,000 of the 50-packs of masks on eBay, pricing them from $40 to $50 each, and sometimes higher. He declined to disclose his profit on the record but said it was substantial.
The success stoked his appetite. When he saw the panicked public starting to pounce on sanitizer and wipes, he and his brother set out to stock up. -NYT
Now, Colvin is sitting on 17,700 bottles of sanitizer with no idea where to sell them.
"It’s been a huge amount of whiplash," he said. "From being in a situation where what I’ve got coming and going could potentially put my family in a really good place financially to ‘What the heck am I going to do with all of this?'"
Massachusetts nurse Mikeala Kozlowski had some harsh words for disinfectant profiteers as she continues a fruitless search for sanitizer since before she gave birth to her first child on March 5.
"You’re being selfish, hoarding resources for your own personal gain," she said.
Meanwhile, companies like Amazon have justified their crackdown as violating their policies.
"Price gouging is a clear violation of our policies, unethical, and in some areas, illegal," said Amazon 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."
Read the rest of the report here.