- Getty/Rick T. Wilking
- Amazon is being criticized by some customers ahead of Hurricane Florence as the prices for basics on its website have appeared to rise.
- Supplies for cases of water have run low, leaving high-priced offerings from third-party sellers as the only option in many instances.
- The company says it is taking steps to correct the problem. “We do not engage in surge pricing, and product prices do not fluctuate by region or delivery location,” an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider.
Amazon is being criticized for appearing to inflate prices as residents of North and South Carolina prepare for Hurricane Florence to make landfall.
Many local grocery and warehouse stores have sold out of basics like cases of water, so some locals have turned online to buy goods to prepare for the storm. What they’ve found is water cases that cost over $20 for a few dozen bottles – far more than their usual cost.
Some on social media have balked at the prices that Amazon is charging for these items.
— Mike Wheless (@mikewheless) September 10, 2018
— SeeScottJump (@SeeScottJump) September 11, 2018
The fact that people are actually trying to charge $20 for bread and water on Amazon because of the hurricane is absolutely disgusting.. What is wrong with the world? ????
— Allie Foley (@alliefoleyy) September 12, 2018
The fact that @amazon is price gouging water during a hurricane situation is disgusting. A friend in NC told me it’s almost $40/case instead of the usual $5.
— Annie Claire (@annieclaire) September 11, 2018
As Amazon’s own stock and third-party sellers’ lower-priced stock has sold out, the price of the water has appeared to creep up. When Business Insider checked the prices for a 40-pack of Deer Park water on Wednesday morning, it was listed for as much as $29.99 by a third-party seller.
An Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider that it has taken action against some of the sellers listing unusually expensive water.
After Business Insider reached out to the company for comment, the same case of water was in stock with Amazon again and was listed for $10, though the spokesperson declined to comment on the pricing of this specific item.
“We do not engage in surge pricing, and product prices do not fluctuate by region or delivery location,” an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider.
Unless a product is being sold by Amazon, the company does not set the prices itself. Still, many customers don’t make the distinction between Amazon and its third-party sellers.
Prices might already appear high due to the expense of shipping a heavy case of water through the mail, which is baked into the price by sellers.
Some third-party sellers have added an increase to the shipping charges instead of to the product itself. One seller of a pack of 40 bottles of water from Dasani included a shipping charge of nearly $80.
Earlier this year, some customers overpaid for paper products by thousands of dollars because of this same selling method. Amazon refunded them. Its policy explicitly states that “sellers cannot set excessive order fulfillment or shipping costs.”
“We have selling policies that all sellers agree to before selling on Amazon, and we’re actively monitoring our store and removing offers of products that violate our policies and harm our customer experience,” an Amazon spokesperson said.
“If customers think an offer has substantially increased in price or shipping cost, we encourage them to contact Amazon customer service directly and work with us so we can investigate and take the appropriate action.”
Most bottled water at Walmart and Target is being sold directly by the retailer and does not cost more than $10, according to a scan of those retailers’ websites.