Hurricane Irma has already made its mark as one of the most powerful storms in history, and there’s the possibility that it hits Florida on Saturday or Sunday. A state of emergency has been declared there, and to prepare for the worst-case scenario, residents of the state have been stocking up on the essentials, including food and water. High demand has resulted in quite a few grocery stores selling out. Many residents and loved ones shopping for them turned to Amazon as an alternative.
What they found was water priced much higher than it had been before. Many customers have gone on Twitter to document this alleged price gouging and complain about it. One user reported a case of water that typically retails for $5 was now selling for between $22 and $40. She also mentioned that bottles which previously cost $1 now cost $16.
As bad as that sounds, shipping costs were far worse. For members of its Amazon Prime service, Amazon offers free two-day shipping. On qualifying orders that are over $35, there is even same-day delivery available. Neither of those were an option for the shoppers trying to purchase water. Multiple users posted screenshots of products that didn’t have Prime shipping available and instead had exorbitant shipping costs for two-day delivery. In one case, shipping was almost $180, and in another, it was $249.94.
Florida state law prohibits price gouging, and even though Amazon is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, it could still be subject to that law, because it extends to businesses selling essential items to people who need those items because of an emergency.
Amazon released a statement to FOX Business where it said that its own prices on bottled water haven’t fluctuated much, and that the reason for the pricing issues is because its lower-priced offers have sold out quickly, and all that’s left are the higher-priced offers through the site’s third-party sellers. It also recommended customers report price gouging to Amazon’s customer service.
It’s true that products from third-party sellers make up a large portion of Amazon’s inventory. The retailer has had similar issues in the past, though. As recently as July, an Amazon seller mentioned that Amazon provided false information about his product’s retail price for its Prime Day event. Even though he typically sells his product for $9.99, Amazon listed a suggested retail price of $18.44 to suggest that $9.99 was a sale price.