At the Scheman & Grant Hardware at Eighth Avenue and 38th Street, the coronavirus represents shameless economic opportunity to take full advantage of the law of supply and demand.
Taking advantage of the ongoing panic, S&G is now selling 1200 ml bottles of Purell - a bottle that regularly costs about $5.49 - for $79.00.
And the price doesn't seem to be deterring people from buying them, either. An employee at the store told the NY Post: “Everyone who comes in the store buys them. We sold about fifty of those today.”
The hardware store was also offering larger size 2 liter bottles of Purell for $109 each. It sold out of its supply.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, always eager to stick his nose into the affairs of someone else's private business, commented that it "sounded like" price gouging. “I’d like my Department of Consumer Affairs to pay them a visit immediately,” de Blasio said.
Reached for comment, an Ace Hardware representative (the parent corporation of the hardware store) said: "Retailers are independent businessmen and women with sole control over the operation of their business, including pricing decisions and policies."
Meanwhile, the rise in price reflects the extraordinary spike in demand for the product, which along with Lysol wipes, has risen 1400% from December to January, according to CBS. Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of Lysol parent Reckitt Benckiser said last week the company's "people are working around the clock with consumers in mind."
One 29 year old restaurant worker in Times Square who noticed the prices while in the hardware store said: “It makes me mad, man. It’s not right what they’re doing. They’re taking advantage of everything that’s going on. My boss at work was talking about. He has to make his own hand sanitizer out of alcohol and aloe Vera because look at these prices.”
Economist Peter Schiff had a different take on price gouging during the coronavirus panic.
"People are raising prices for certain supplies. Well of course," Schiff said Friday on the QTR podcast. "Demand's going up. Of course you're going to raise prices! What are you supposed to do? If you don't raise prices, all of your stuff is going to get bought by a few people who are then going to hoard it or resell it on the black market. Prices are a rationing mechanism."
The only handwashing tutorial you need pic.twitter.com/AZD3T2mhOG— Natalie (@nellanndee) March 8, 2020