Hixson, TN – Two brothers who tried to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic scare by buying up thousands of hand sanitizer products in Tennessee and Kentucky with the intention of price-gouging people ended up having to give away the more than 17,000 products they collected.
Brothers Matt and Noah Colvin started buying up hand sanitizer on March 1, the day the first death from coronavirus in the United State was announced, The New York Times reported.
Noah set out on a 1,300 mile road trip through Tennessee, and its neighboring state of Kentucky, buying up all the sanitizer products he could lay his hands on at Dollar Tree, Walmart, Staples, Home Depot and any other “little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods,” according to Matt.
“The major metro areas were cleaned out” when they were done, Matt told The New York Times.
In three days, Noah had filled a U-Haul truck with 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and packages of sanitizer wipes.
Matt said he posted 300 bottles of hand sanitizer on Amazon priced at between $8 and $70 each and sold them all right away, CBS News reported.
“It was crazy money,” he told The New York Times.
But the celebration only lasted a little while because Amazon shut them down the next day, not long after Tennessee Governor Bill Lee declared a state of emergency that trigged an anti-price gouging law.
The brothers also found themselves the target of a firestorm of criticism on social media even before the state got involved.
“We will not tolerate price gouging in this time of exceptional need, and we will take aggressive action to stop it,” Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III said in a statement.
Slatery sent the Colvins a letter telling them to cease and desist selling their ill-gotten gains, CBS News reported.
They have since given two-thirds of their stockpile to Calvary Chapel in Chattanooga and the remaining third is being held by the Tennessee Attorney General’s office for distribution where needed, WRCB reported.
Matt told WRCB that it never occurred to them that their little scheme might harm other families.
But they are still under investigation by the Attorney General.
“I just want to make clear that donating the sanitizers does not mean they are off the hook legally. If evidence establishes they engaged in price gouging, we will seek appropriate penalties,” a representative with the Tennessee Attorney General’s office said, according to WSAW.