Best Buy apologizes for $42 bottled water
A case of bottled water priced at nearly $43 at a Best Buy store outside storm-ravaged Houston was a “big mistake,” according to the retailer, with the incident sparking a social media backlash and shining a spotlight on price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
A photo of two cases of bottled water, one selling for $42.96 and the other for $29.98, at a Best Buy in the Houston suburb of Cypress Texas, was posted on Twitter Tuesday by a journalist, unleashing a series of angry Twitter responses.
The photo shows the higher priced one appears to be for 24 bottles while the cheaper pack, possibly a different brand, has 12 bottles.
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
Best Buy spokesman Jeffrey Shelman apologized in a statement for what he said was an error made by a local employee who added up the cost of each individual bottle of water to come up with the price for the entire case.
“This was a big mistake on the part of a few employees at one store on Friday,” Shelman said. “We’re sorry and it won’t happen again.”
He added “not as an excuse but as an explanation,” that the big box electronics seller doesn’t usually sell packages of bottled water. By contrast, Walmart, on its website, lists 24 packs of Poland Spring bottled water for $20.63.
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Even if it was done in error, Best Buy’s exorbitantly priced bottled water was, at least for a few hours, touted as one of the more glaring examples of the price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which has displaced thousands of Texans and left many in search of shelter, dry clothing, and fuel.
The office of the Texas State Attorney General said that as of Wednesday morning, it had received 684 complaints about excessive pricing. They included a convenience store in Houston selling gasoline for $20 a gallon.
Such acts can lead to a $20,000 fine, or a penalty of up to $250,000 if the victim is at least 65 years old. The state attorney general has so far notified nine alleged offenders that they have violated the law, and what fines they could face if they don’t stop the gouging.
“Price gouging is not only reprehensible, it’s illegal,’’ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference Wednesday. “if you’re a business, you could be put out of business.”
The Best Buy store in Cypress closed Friday because of the storm, and as of Tuesday had not yet reopened.
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