Great moments in capitalism

Two brothers in Tennessee were found to have hoarded over 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. How did they manage to acquire that many, you ask?

[Matt] Colvin and his brother Noah became the subject of national scorn after the New York Times published a story about how they cleaned out stores of sanitizer and wipes in an attempt to profit off the public’s panic over the coronavirus pandemic.

Noah Colvin, of Hixson took a 1,300-mile road trip in early March across Tennessee and Kentucky, racking up thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer to resell online.

Meanwhile, Matt [described as an Amazon seller, whatever that is-MS] stayed at home, waiting for pallets of antibacterial wipes and even more sanitizer to be shipped, according to a New York Times article.

The Colvins told the New York Times that Noah Colvin hit “little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods. The major metro areas were cleaned out.”

Matt Colvin said he was simply fixing “inefficiencies in the marketplace.” Some areas of the country need the products more than others, he said to the Times, and he’s helping send the supply toward the demand.

After the public shaming that went along with the story being reported, not to mention that the two brothers were being investigated by the Tennessee Attorney General for price gouging, they ‘donated’ their supplies to be distributed to people in need across Tennessee.

Meanwhile Ira Glass, host of that excellent radio program The American Life, says that his dental hygienist caught one of their clients stealing two face masks from their office but the woman was not only not sorry at all but refused to give them back.

Glass also spoke with another woman named Kim who told him she wanted to buy face masks for her mother who works in a home caring for the elderly and thus belongs to the class of people who actually need to use face masks. But they were completely sold out everywhere. But then one of the cashiers quietly told her that she had a stash of masks at home and asked Kim to call her after work. When she did, she was asked to meet the cashier near the Glacier bottled water vending machine just outside the entrance of the local Safeway supermarket. When Kim went, the woman asked for $100 for a box of ten masks, when the usual price is about a dollar a mask. Kim negotiated the price down to $70. The woman said she had more boxes for sale if Kim needed them. The whole process had all the trappings of an illicit drug deal.

We live in strange times.


  1. says

    I am reminded of how, on 9/11, a local gas station raised their prices to something like $10/gallon. They were gone after about 2 months because, as prices remained fairly stable, almost everybody refused to get their gas there anymore.

  2. says

    I don’t own any hand sanitizer or face masks. I don’t intend to buy any. Soap is better than hand sanitizer anyway, and I am not among those people who actually need face masks.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    We bought a box or two of face masks years ago, just in case something like this were to happen.

  4. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    A face mask won’t protect its wearer from viruses. The infection usually spreads via hands that touch unclean surfaces, and later mucuous membranes (nose, lips, etc).

    In Asia things work differently. A person with a mask already has flu. The mask prevents drops from flying around when sneezing. It is also a warning for others to keep a safe distance.

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