Best Buy came under fire after a Houston branch was spotted selling water at high prices after Hurricane Harvey. Now, the company has apologized, saying that “it won't happen again.”
After a Twitter user shared an image depicting cases of bottled water on sale for $42 at a local Best Buy, which went viral, the company's spokesperson said that the issue had already been resolved and that it should have never happened in the first place.
One Houston resident sent me a pic of water he saw being sold for *$42* at a nearby Best Buy. They were kind enough to offer $29 bottles too pic.twitter.com/8dKz3sJJM1— ken klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) August 29, 2017
“This was a big mistake on the part of a few employees at one store on Friday,” the statement sent to The Hill explained. “As a company we are focused on helping, not hurting affected people. We’re sorry and it won’t happen again.”
Commenting further on why the price tag showed such a high cost for the full case, the spokesperson explained since the company doesn't sell cases often, “employees priced a case of water using the single-bottle price for each bottle in the case.”
Despite the mistake, the image had already caused some damage, as folks on Twitter demonized the company for having raised the price of the water as so many locally were in need of help.
But in a crisis like this, they should be giving out water for free!— cp (@sirpeezy) August 29, 2017
It matters in the context of the law. Price gouging is a crime. Its one thing to not give it away, its another to upcharge.— High Yella ?? (@MinaMarae) August 29, 2017
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office said, after Hurricane Harvey, the government received several complaints regarding local service and goods providers raising their prices.
They also learned of people committing fraud, fake charities asking for donations, and other scams. Still, his spokeswoman told reporters the “majority of these complaints involve price gouging for bottled water, fuel, groceries and shelter.”
So far, at least 600 complaints were logged by the state government, prompting the governor to talk about the problem publicly.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told the public and the media that, in Texas, “price gouging is not only reprehensible, it's illegal.”
He then issued a warning.
"Understand this: If you price gouge anybody, you could be subject to penalties of up to $25,000 per incident," he said. "If you're a business, you can be put out of business by the Texas attorney general if you dare try any price gouging."
Despite economists having a different idea regarding laws restricting the act of raising prices during emergencies, it's clear that the government of Texas along with its law enforcement agencies aren't going to allow any company, no matter how big or small, to make use of the practice, especially now that Hurricane Harvey is set to continue to pour more water onto the region.
If anything, we hope the pressure Best Buy experienced helped to inspire others to help even more, and not take advantage of the situation.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni