When Covid-19 arrived, many distributors saw an opportunity to capitalize on people's fears and overpriced their products. Masks, sanitizers, and toilet paper has never seen such price hikes, even in the past during the SARS epidemic. Many major eCommerce platforms have cracked down on thousands of these price gouging sellers. However these efforts are often manual and thus have limited impact. We found these absurd, outrageous prices that people have listed when analyzing competitor pricing for these hot selling necessities:
$1,000 for a single facial mask (USD)
In Kansas - United States, a seller capitalized on the dwindling local stocks and listed each facial mask for $1,000 on the Facebook Marketplace. Such instances of overpricing are unethical, and almost too ridiculous to be true. Sadly however they are likely to work if they used price positioning strategies correctly. This listing has since been taken down.
$100,000 for a 48-pack of Toilet Paper (AUD)
Overpriced product listings like this one are probably made sarcastically. This seller listed 48 rolls of toilet paper for AU $100,000. Both eBay and Amazon Australia have been working to crackdown absurdly overpriced items. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission however stated that their power to stop price gouging is limited during this time.
$50 per pack of Instant Noodles (SGD)
A typical pack of instant noodles in Singapore costs around 40 cents. This absurdly overpriced product listing is 125 times more expensive than it usually retails for. Listings like this have been popping up as often as they have been taken down. And this is rather strange, as supermarkets here in Singapore are still well stocked of instant noodles at their normal prices.
$3,893 for a pack of 12 tiny Hand Sanitizer bottles
As people worldwide spend hundreds of dollars for their hand sanitizer, this seller decided to sell their products at almost 10 times higher. Thousands of dollars for 1 Fl Oz bottles? This is outrageous even while incredible price hikes are the norm! Amazon quickly took this listing down during recent efforts to delete overpriced product listings. Purell in particular has been a popular brand for resellers to hike prices.
How to avoid overpriced products and price gouging
It's really obvious to see these opportunities take advantage of fear and panic during a crisis. However in reality, overpricing hurts both businesses and consumers every day. Businesses get stuck with dead inventory they cannot clear when they fail to understand their pricing landscape. Consumers need domain expertise, and could take unreasonable amounts of time to find the best deal. This can become an unpleasant experience for both parties involved.
The best defense is to find an effective way to regularly track prices of products important to you. There are many automation tools out there for both businesses and consumers to monitor prices, and get alerted when they change. Today's featured prices were truly absurd. But we knew this only because we see prices for these everyday products fairly regularly.
So crisis or not, always be prepared. Track your competitor's prices today.