Tech retail giant Best Buy has finally acknowledged and apologized for price gouging packages of bottled water at one of its stores in Texas.
“This was a big mistake on the part of a few employees at one store on Friday,” Best Buy spokesman Shane Kitzman told Grit Post in an email. “As a company we are focused on helping, not hurting affected people. We’re sorry and it won’t happen again.”
“Not as an excuse but as an explanation, we don’t typically sell cases of water. The mistake was made when employees priced a case of water using the single-bottle price for each bottle in the case,” he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Grit Post national security reporter Ken Klippenstein obtained several photos from Houston residents showing price gouging of critical emergency supplies, like bottled water, around the city. One of those photos showed a Best Buy on Highway 290 in Cypress, Texas selling cases of bottled water for $42.96 apiece. Klippenstein’s reporting went viral, with The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald tweeting at ABC reporter John Llamas — who called police on flood victims scavenging for supplies at a local supermarket — to highlight the “looting” of retailers gouging customers:
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
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 29, 2017
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has promised to fine businesses $20,000 for each case of price gouging, with a special penalty of $250,000 for any business that gets caught price gouging a senior citizen over the age of 65. Kayleigh Lovvorn, a spokeswoman for the Texas AG’s office, told Grit Post that while hundreds of complaints of price gouging have already come in, the office expects more price gouging complaints about contractors and homebuilders as residents who have lost their homes begin the rebuilding process.
Matthew P. Robbins is an economics reporter for Grit Post covering wages, budgets, and taxes. He lives in Chicago, Illinois with his husband and two cats.