by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
The News & Observer reports that there were “at least 700 price-gouging cases from Florence so far.” The Attorney General’s spreadsheet lists 712 reported instances. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?
The only one discussed in the article is an instance of a particular tree company, already identified by the Better Business Bureau as one of its “Dirty Dozen” worst businesses, allegedly tripling its stated price to a homeowner. That’s a bad business practice, storm or no storm. (There’s no indication whether the homeowner agreed to the work.)
The article includes a useful list of tips to avoid being scammed. But what isn’t useful is the impression the article gives that that example is normal. It isn’t; it was probably the most extreme case reported.
Nor is leaving the idea that there were at least 700+ instances of “gouging” going on. Anyone who looks into the spreadsheet can see that isn’t the case.
My concern here is that by giving these misimpression, it could further suspicions against people going about their business, as it has in the past.
Be discerning. Not every perceived higher price is a “scam.” It may not even be a higher price, if you’re not sure how much certain things normally cost (generators, for example; they get expensive quickly).
Just because someone used the tell-on-your-neighbor line to report a price that is, in Attorney General Josh Stein’s words, “out of whack from what they should be,” that doesn’t mean it’s actually a case of “price gouging.”
Let me demonstrate. Here are a few examples of reported “gouging” using the same news lede as the N&O. How do these sound?