back to article World's smallest violin to be played for opportunistic sellers banned from eBay and Amazon for price gouging

Consumer watchdog Which? has unveiled an investigation demonstrating that the laws of supply and demand are in fine fettle at Amazon and eBay, despite protestations to the contrary. For those emerging from a period of hibernation, things aren't too good in the world at the moment. Panic buying has left some essentials in short …

  1. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Online marketplaces descend into wretched hives of scum and villainy

    Whereas, previously, all the sellers were law-abiding VAT-registered businesses selling genuine and safe products from reputable manufacturers?

    I think the villainous scum have simply altered their appearance by donning ineffective paper masks.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Online marketplaces descend into wretched hives of scum and villainy

      Yep. Latest treat is actual radioactive products. The main risk is the powder in them leaking out. There will be some BIG scares once someone accidentally drops their "energy deflecting ion dream quantum health" pen/wristband/underwear in a canning factory or a water treatment facility. :(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Optional

        You been watching Big Clive's vidz then :)

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Online marketplaces descend into wretched hives of scum and villainy

      in the USA, during periods of declared emergencies, it's a violation of the law to (in any way) profiteer or "price gouge" or scalp or in any way charge grossly inflated prices for things that are in short supply.

      So if these sellers are inside the USA, they cold be doing 2 years' JAIL TIME for such things.

      I say TURN THEM IN! Then their stash will be confiscated and appropriately distributed to places that need these things that are part of the government, at the very least. [this would offset demand on the private sector and indirectly improve the situation]

      1. Tromos

        Re: Online marketplaces descend into wretched hives of scum and villainy

        Never mind turning them in. March them off to Grimbledon Down (or whatever it's called these days) and use them as guinea pigs for vaccine testing.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Online marketplaces descend into wretched hives of scum and villainy

        Then their stash will be confiscated

        Presumably by "then" you mean "after authorities review the complaint, decide it's actionable and worth investigating, investigate it, identify the perpetrators, bring charges, and secure a conviction". Because we are, still, sort of, in part, a nation of laws.

        I wouldn't recommend holding your breath waiting for any of these confiscations.

  2. werdsmith Silver badge

    Meanwhile other auctions on Ebay are not getting bids. I've won such a beautiful guitar for about half its value. I'm feeling so guily that I've sent the guy an offer of a fairer price way highter than the winning bid.

    Don't be selling anything right now.

    1. tekHedd

      Thursday

      Yup, sales stopped cold last Thursday. Nobody wants to commit to any purchases over about $50. Still a good time to be selling games, DVDs, other entertainment media though. We're clearing out a big box of that stuff this winter and it's still moving.

    2. Caver_Dave
      Coat

      Need to put reserves on

      We are newbies to eBay selling.

      My wife recently sold a pram and all its possible accessories. We had asked £50 (original prices over £360), the lady that came round to collect actually gave us £10 as she was embarrassed to have the winning bid of £5! (It cost us more than that in deep cleaning everything.)

      [ICON] I'm glad my wife's self-isolation has finished and she is going back to the NHS front-line today as she has contracted the eBay bug and would sell the coat off my back!

  3. P. Lee Silver badge

    These goods are not essentials.

    Leave the idiots alone.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Exactly. If these sellers were abusing a monopoly position in essentials then the authorities should come down on them like a ton of bricks, but if someone is so daft as to be willing pay 150 quid for a bottle of hand sanitizer then who are we to stop them? They could just buy soap instead.

      1. aks Bronze badge

        Soap is more effective than sanitiser, according to this experiment.

        https://www.rte.ie/news/coronavirus/2020/0320/1124367-explainer-soap-or-sanitiser/

        1. clyde666

          SOAP

          I wish I could upvote this a hundred times

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Maybe I'm cynical, but Ebay takes it's pound of flesh off everything sold, and the more money it goes for, the more $$$ Ebay gets .. strange how they're not jumping right on to this eh..

    2. Cronus

      Did you overlook baby formula?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Something people in need can obtain.

        People are stockpiling 36 months worth and causing issues in shops, but if a new parent is completely out they will have contact already with medical staff who can help arrange short term supplies based on local arrangements.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Ah yes, the medical staff. Who I'm sure won't have anything better to be doing right now.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >Did you overlook baby formula?

        In the vast majority of cases, baby formula is largely a lifestyle choice not a necessity...

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Meh

          it's STILL wrong to profiteer off of items in short supply during a declared emergency. AND, as I mentioned earlier, ILLEGAL within the USA, punishable by up to 2 years in JAIL (as far as I am aware)

        2. Cynical Pie

          what complete and absolute b@*£ocks.

    3. Snake Silver badge

      Leave them alone?

      No.

      The most infamous case, which is not covered here as it occurred in the U.S. (where else?), is

      https://www.marketwatch.com/story/tennessee-man-sitting-on-almost-18000-bottles-of-hand-sanitizer-says-hes-doing-a-public-service-2020-03-14

      (it made headlines here, so you can find much more coverage very easily)

      To stockpile his 17,000+ bottles of hand sanitizer, he and his posse traveled to 3 different states to completely wipe out available supplies, which has the effect of cornering the market for the area. Then sell at ridiculously inflated prices - which, again, for those living in (his now) affected sold-out area, is 'My way or the highway-robbery'.

      Amazon and eBay slapped him with the banhammer so hard that it left him feeling just as assaulted as his neighbors felt, once they learned of the reason why they could not find any of those health supplies in their own areas.

      And he feels he's the victim!

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Leave them alone?

        "And he feels he's the victim!"

        yeah 'feel' the F word. heh.

        This article was dated the next day (3/15), said that he donated over 17,000 bottles "after Tennessee officials announced they would investigate him for price gouging".

        So yeah, the ban-hammer went a bit further than E-bay. Serves him right!

    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Yes, if only everyone would be well-informed and act reasonably, this wouldn't be a problem. Also we could all spend our shelter-in-place time grooming our unicorns and taking afternoon trips through the wardrobe to Narnia.

      I'll take Unhelpful Observations for $100, Alex.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) dispensing a stern warning

    did they write a threatening letter? Check. And check again, for themselves, for having taken their ruthless action. Ah, somebody will point out they have no powers, other than drawing large checks. So, what do they actually DO that makes any difference?

  5. John G Imrie

    A better response ...

    Would be to leave the page open block all offers on it and add on every offer by that user the following message: I'm a price gouging asshole who thinks making an excessive profit is much more important than your health'

    1. overunder Silver badge

      Re: A better response ...

      I'd leave off the part about health. That said, if the message has to have the part about health, so be it.

      The crazy part is that it takes all this to expose scum sellers when all day, every day, there is always that seller with a 250% markup on everything for no reason. Of course after all this COVID-19 hysteria, back to SNAFU.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: A better response ...

        All it takes is for one of these gougers to get Covid-19 and then they've posted it to 1000s of people! At least the Supermarkets can be regulated and informed on cleaning/hygiene/isolation procedure.

        Someone on Ebay? Take your risks!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A better response ...

          You must have a different type of union-represented, overpaid shelf-stockers than we have here.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    there is a special place in hell reserved for the individual

    wait for the bombs starting to fall. Or look up history books, what individuals of a homo sapiens are capable of, and I'm not talking about extreme examples...

  7. sawatts

    £10 price + £150 postage and packaging

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You need to use 3 disposable hazmat suits to safely handle inbound stock transfer, warehousing and then dispatching them to the royal mail collection... the handling costs of even a simple HT7333 can be quite high.

      Legit business expense, especially for such a critical supply where only a newly established supplier who shares your warehouse can reliably guarantee priority service. Once the limited liabilities with government backed loans are all laundered at the end of the year they should make a profit, but on e-paper it currently costs that entity £300 per package and they are doing you a favour by subsidising it as a charitable donation to the econonic relief efforts.

      What do you mean they aren't those kind of sellers? Hmm, guess they need to adapt to the new world like the rest of us...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        price gouging is distinctly 'olde worlde'

  8. msknight

    How about supermarkets...

    ...two moderate chicken breasts - £8

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: How about supermarkets...

      OK, fine, but how much is it for two immoderate chicken breasts?

      1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
        Coat

        Two moderate breasts

        Two moderate breasts = $ 58008

        1. abs
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Two moderate breasts

          So does that make the price of thighs $ 55378008?

          On a side note, does anyone remember an old Tomorrows World episode where Carol V. is holding up a calculator with a similar value? I'm sure I didn't imagine it. Then again that's possible.

          1. Caver_Dave

            Re:Carol V

            Having worked briefly with her before she was famous, I can attest to Carol having a wicked sense of humour, and if she had done the above it would not have been a mistake.

            However, is seem to remember Judith Hann holding calculators.

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              Re: Re:Carol V

              One of my friends visited the Countdown studio 20-odd years ago, being a friend of one of the producers (or the director; I forget). She was shown around the set and introduced to Carol Vorderman, who invited her to play the part by taking some number cards off the desk and putting them up on the rack. Turns out Carol is short and she has a box to stand on behind the desk, to bring her eyeline up to normal camera height. She said to my friend, "Gently now, you're standing on Carol's box."

    2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: How about supermarkets...

      As opposed to the more left- or right-wing breasts, which are much less desirable and therefore cheaper.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: How about supermarkets...

        Round here chickens seem to come with a matched pair of left & right wings. A balanced meal?

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: How about supermarkets...

      yeah that's a bit much... even if it's super-special-organic chicken

      (I like legs and thighs better anyway - especially the dark meat)

      (Surely there are NO double entendres in what I just said.)

  9. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    Obvious gouging is obvious

    As in any global, or even national, scare, gouging was inevitable and obvious. What else are all the twats with garages full of bog roll going to do with it?

    Prices on everything should have been frozen as soon as global spread was noticed, was harsh penalties for anyone profiteering. But no, that's not democratic.

    Supermarkets should have imposed strict item limits (say 2 of anything max) as soon as it was clear people were emptying the shelves. But no, that would get in the way of their profits.

    Expecting people to behave in troubled times is never going to work. Always profits to be made, and arseholes to make them off the desperation of others.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obvious gouging is obvious

      Apparently already done in Scandinavia - ultra simple for the supermarkets to deal with on Day 1 - just reverse your BOGOF algorithm - Buy 1 £2 - Buy 2 - £5 - Buy 3 £12 erc...

      A suspicious cynic would probably just think someone (and I'm not pointing fingers at any particular pudgy puppy....) wanted to empty their pre-brexit no deal stockpile to make room for Easter eggs.....

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Obvious gouging is obvious

      "As in any global, or even national, scare, gouging was inevitable and obvious. What else are all the twats with garages full of bog roll going to do with it?"

      maybe their lawyers will accept it in lieu of money?

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Obvious gouging is obvious

      Our supermarkets imposed item limits weeks ago - no more than two per customer of (canned food), (pasta/noodles/rice), (tissues), (toilet paper), (handwash/sanitiser) and a bunch of other goods that are in demand. Of course you could get around it by taking multiple trips if you really wanted to, but I didn't see anyone taking advantage of that loophole. Who has the time?

      All imposed unilaterally by the supermarkets, weeks before the lockdown.

      If you can physically get to a supermarket, you can get any of those things now. (Well, except pasta. There's a real drought of that.)

      1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
        Joke

        Re: Obvious gouging is obvious

        Spaghetti harvest failure again? (1960s TV documentary for April 1st).

      2. hoola Bronze badge

        Re: Obvious gouging is obvious

        The limits are all well and good except that with bog rolls in particular it fails spectacularly with you have packets with 16, 24 or even 32 individual rolls in. You can buy 2 huge packs or 2 packs of 4 rolls. The result is that supplies are emptied even more quickly because of the volume. Just who needs multiple visits to the supermarket buying 2 or 3 multipacks in the 16+ size?

        Suppliers should have stopped the big multipacks and supermarkets should have used common sense and put a limit of 1 on those. The same applies to baked beans where there are often 6 or 8 packs. Of course these are going to sell out, if you are panic buying why would you not take as many of the largest possible unit combinations that you can.

        Again, the supermarkets could have done a lot more with the analytics to stop repeat buyers.

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "filters were in place"

    Well, they're working very well, are they ?

    At the same time, this is Ebay we're talking about. I think it's a bit unfair to single out the guy who posted an offer at 0.01 and the offer reached 210. It's not the sellers' fault if people are nuts, even if it is rather obvious that he fully intended to take advantage of the nuts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "filters were in place"

      and while there are loads of scummy scammers out there - and the 'seller' of the £210 toilet roll may well be one - I applaud the person who bid £210. Most probably someone enjoying taking a scammer down, with no intention of paying. Of course the really neat thing to do would be to wait for delivery and then send back a used roll, while raising a complaint that the roll was 'not new as described' and getting their money refunded.

      The special circle in hell should be reserved for the people selling fake medicines, ineffectual masks, and bogus testing kits.

      1. gerryg

        RTFA

        I don't think you read the article. The seller put the stuff on sale at 0.01 hardly a "scammer". That some twats bid it up to £210 doesn't mean it was sold to the highest bidder but to the highest bid that didn't renege.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RTFA

          I can't actually believe that anyone would have ever actually paid £210 for a toilet roll. Or at least not with their own money...You could subscribe to a red top newspaper for a year for that price....

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RTFA

          such is the state of fear that some can't think straight anymore.. and just react :(

      2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: "filters were in place"

        The special circle in hell should be reserved for the selfish bastards who started panic buying in the first place. They are worse than the Amazon and eBay sellers and, without the panic buyers, there would be no over-priced market for stuff.

        1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

          Panic buying

          Buying extra is entirely rational, given the lack of reliable and consistent information from the government until very recently. This article shows the real culprits are:

          https://novaramedia.com/2020/03/23/when-logistics-run-out-of-time/

          But bog roll? If there's one item you really can do without, it's that.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Panic buying

            Rational for causing harm to everyone else.

            The same as in a theater and seeing/hearing of a fire. It's *rational* to punch, push and shove everyone else out the way as you leave to confirm you live.

            It does not have the result you expect though.

            I agree, people may be mistaken, emotional and irrational. But I don't agree it's the right way to act, I just hope they learn before it gets worse.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Panic buying

            Stockpiling is not only rational, it's imperative when you are looking at a prolonged period of (1) not being allowed to leave your home, and (2) not being able to get anything delivered to your home.

            And home deliveries were the first thing to break down.

            What else were people supposed to do?

            Now we hear "you can still get all these things", but for a lot of people that's just not true: for people who can't get to the shops at a reasonable time, or at all - for people who can't drive and are reliant for transport on services that are no longer available - or for people whose local shop managers just aren't very good at stock control. Around here, if you want to go shopping, (1) you're liable to be stopped en route by the police and have to explain yourself, (2) assuming you can make it to the shop, you have to line up outside to get in, (3) once you get in, several of the shelves are still bare, (4) even if what you want is in stock, you can't buy more than two of it, tough luck if you wanted to.

            I'm feeling pretty good about my stockpile right now, thank you. I can limit my shopping to once a week even under these conditions - thanks to the stocking up I did a month ago.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Panic buying

              stockpiling, apart from being a big F U to everyone else that isn't you, and is showing your greed, insecurity and paranoia, is also making other people (remember them?) left without such items *more* ill and stressed, putting further stress on resources, driving prices higher, causing outrage and resentment and that's just the nice things i can say about 'I'm aright Jack' horder tards.

              They wil be noted and shamed.

            2. ICL1900-G3

              Re: Panic buying

              He bravely posted...anonymously

        2. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: "filters were in place"

          I'm not even sure how much panic buying went on, the problem in the cities is that they suddenly said to millions of people who have 2-3 days of food and supplies most of the time that they need 14 days worth of supplies.

          Take the local supermarket in our neighbourhood, it has space for maybe 100 packs of toilet roll, 100kg of flour, etc but serves a neighbourhood of 20k people. Never going to work great.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "filters were in place"

            "I'm not even sure how much panic buying went on"

            Someone I know works for Tesco. They had one lady budy tonnes of stuff - when asked, she said it was her intention to *completely fill here garage* with it.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "filters were in place"

          In the UK one of the initial triggers to the panic buying was a fake picture of someone with a supermarket trolley piled high with loo rolls; this was picked up by one national newspaper and then the rest piled in with that picture plus artfully framed shots of empty shelves.

  11. Chris G Silver badge

    Shirley

    This is the epitome of democratic, free market capitalism?

    The moron who bid £210 is also responsible for the absurdity of the situation.

    If the past is anything to go by, at various times when there have bee shortages, for every gouger there is a least one twat with more money than sense who will pay an outrageously inflated price because they can and others can't.

    I think both parties of such a deal deserve a place in hell because they just make life difficult for everyone else.

    Unbridled socialism doesn't work but neither does unbridled capitalism, we need some balance between the extremes.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Shirley

      "This is the epitome of democratic, free market capitalism?"

      NO. It _may_ be what happens when you don't regulate anything i.e. anarchy or chaos. that is COMPLETELY different than suggesting ANY form of socialism would "fix" this. It is, however, human nature, for SOME people to engage in deliberate sociopathic behavior, which includes profiteering and "price gouging".

      'capitalism' or 'free market' has been REGULATED since forever, in one form or another. Normally it is self-regulating through supply and demand. When monopolies, unfair trade practices (including price gouging) and exploitation occur, the existing laws are generally enough to put a stop to it.

      Just like there have always been thieves [even though it is illegal to steal], there are also PROFITEERS (even though it is illegal to do this) during declared emergencies.

      THAT is simply human nature, for a small percentage of people to do such things, and has nothing to do with free markets. If it were SOCIALISM or COMMUNISM, it would be "black markets". Same idea.

  12. steviebuk Silver badge

    Hmmm

    It's very shitty but the problem is, its capitalism. I don't hear the same bodies shouting at the insurance companies in America that won't give out treatment for Covid for free. When Trump, the idiot, said testing would be free and all treatment, they all rushed to the phones and papers to say "TREATMENT ISN'T FREE".

    I don't hear the same bodies berating the likes of Apple for selling their devices at a massive market up. And the American pharma companies putting massive markeups on drugs way before all this kicked off.

    Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the prime minister “wants to sign up to a US trade deal with Trump which would force the NHS to buy pricier drugs from US pharmaceutical companies putting NHS finances at risk”

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Hmmm

      no, the problem is _NOT_ capitalism. The problem is a VIRUS.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm

        Our problem is the virus because poor people can get tested and treated here. YMMV.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmmm

          The problem is with human beings behaving shittily

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      Apple and the pharma companies were in a different situation. They weren't profiteering from an emergency, they were making out doing business-as-usual.

      That's an important difference. If you see someone doing that, the correct remedy is to start up your own business and compete with them, offering what they offer but at a very-slightly more reasonable price, and thus the assumption is that the price will come down until it's "fair".

      Emergencies break this system, because it takes time to happen. But when Apple has been (as many say) gouging their customers for years, and still competition hasn't stopped them from doing it, the rational explanation is that they are offering some sort of value to their customers that others can't replicate at a lower price. Quite possibly their competitors can't even understand what that value is.

  13. s. pam
    Childcatcher

    The best way to fsck these scum

    Go onto their rip off items and ask the seller a question.

    Question gets posted immediately whilst the response will take longer, so shows as a pending response.

    Possibly embarrassing them will help as the CMA is useless.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: The best way to fsck these scum

      I've spent a couple of minutes a night to go through and report every single item I've found for price gouging. They don't seem to be getting taken down though unfortunately.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: The best way to fsck these scum

        try reporting them to law enforcement, and not the hosting web site. maybe you'll have more success?

        1. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: The best way to fsck these scum

          Bob, I appreciate the sentiment but I think the police have enough to be going on with at the moment. It's one thing the price gougers putting their wares on eBay but it's another that people are actually willingly buying them, noone is forcing them. This is eBays responsibility to Police and they will take the reputation hit if they don't.

  14. cray74

    Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

    I saw an interesting argument to allow price gouging. To me, this argument sounds like a good way to encourage robbery and shopflight, but I'd love to hear more nuanced takes on this theory:

    "Anytime you have a sudden huge increase in demand, like for toilet paper or hand sanitizer recently, the price must rise to reflect that. If it doesn’t, there will be shortages and empty shelves. We can whine on social media all we want, but this will ALWAYS happen if prices aren’t allowed to rise. Which they aren’t allowed to, because we have “price gouging” laws and social media scolds which will severely punish retailers who raise prices above some arbitrary metric.

    "The reason for the inevitability of hoarding and empty shelves is because the market value of the toilet paper or hand gel is suddenly far higher than what it’s being sold for. Thus, there’s no penalty for hoarding and over supplying, because even if the hoarding isn’t ultimately needed, no one has overpaid for the product, and can just use the toilet paper in the future. So you have a prisoner’s dilemma-type situation. Everyone can scoff at each other for hoarding and say it’s unethical, but the first person who hoards benefits tremendously by buying goods at way under market value. ...

    "What “price gouging” does is to raise the cost of the good to the market clearing price, which is critical because it lets everyone know what the actual value of the good is, and sends the proper price signal to consumers and producers. With higher prices, if you hoard you are paying a huge penalty for doing so and taking a huge risk, because if prices drop in the future you’ll be a giant loser. Few will stock up on gallons of hand sanitizer or pallets of TP if it costs them a fortune. Additionally, it sends a signal to conserve those valuable resources and shift behavior if possible.

    "The other benefit to price gouging is to give producers a huge incentive to produce more. Ramping up hand sanitizer gel production is now much more lucrative than producing hair gel, for instance. Allowing prices to function allows the market to allocate resources to their most productive use, which is what we want, particularly in dire situations. We want producers to up the supply and drive the price back down. If no price signal is given, there’s little incentive to do so.

    "Whining about and prohibiting price gouging does two things; it guarantees shortages and hoarding, and lessens the incentive for producers and retailers to bring more product to the market."

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

      The unholy hand of Ayn Rand from beyond the grave.

      On an opposing and loosely related note, I find it telling that no matter how free-market-small-state your government claims to be, when faced with a crisis the response is universally - for lack of a better word - socialist. I look forward to reading the political theorising on this once it all dies down.

      1. Buttons

        Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

        Yes, its weird, isn't it? Keynesian economics all of a sudden after monetarism and whatnot, not to leave out this last period of audacity, sorry, austerity.

        In this current crisis it now seems <to me> a bad idea to have reduced public services to the bone.

        I wondered whether we would see a return to the liberalism and socialism experienced after the last war.

        1. aks Bronze badge

          Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

          The failed socialist experiment in the UK following WW2. The USA did not follow that trend and boomed.

          1. martinusher Silver badge

            Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

            What "failed" experiment?

            After WW2 the UK was broke -- bankrupt. The US was not because it not only had a lot more economic resources but it was also 'the arsenal of democracy'. The UK didn't qualify for Marshall Plan aid as it had 'woin' the war and it actually experienced severe shortages of coal and food at times during the 1940s. The National Health Service came into being because of the legacy of WW2 -- not only was the population of the UK chronically unfit to fight a war but the government had to underwrite health care because tehre was no insurance mechanism to recoup losses due to enemy action. (Meanwhile, the US's employer based insurance sytem arose from the need to provide incentives to workers since wage levels were pegged.) The US's industries needed refocusing but they were not devastated like the UK's; the amount of investment needed to rebuild the UK's infrastructure was beyond the capabilities of capital markets.

            ...and so on. Talk so someone who's lived through that period rather than just reciting op-eds from the Telegraph of Mail. (...anyway, the US wasn't quite the land of milk and honey for all during the 40s and 50s.....it largely depended on where you lived and what color your skin was....but that's a whole different story......)

            1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

              Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

              That's incorrect. The UK did qualify for Marshall Plan aid, and in fact it was the biggest recipient. The problem was that the UK governments were obsessed with trying to appear strong to the USA and the British Empire countries that they pissed most if it away on military hardware.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Plan#Loans_and_grants

      2. Fogcat
        Unhappy

        Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

        And all the companies that bleat about regulatory interference are now suddenly very interested in government loans and grants.

      3. cray74

        Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

        when faced with a crisis the response is universally - for lack of a better word - socialist.

        Indeed. On that note, there have been some excellent arguments for national healthcare and mandatory paid leave in the US based on the COVID-19 response. It's a lot easier to stay at home when you're not losing your job, and it's easier to get treated if you won't go bankrupt visiting the emergency room.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

          "it's easier to get treated if you won't go bankrupt visiting the emergency room."

          Well, quite. Especially given the story of the New York lady whose healthcare insurer was presented with a $10,000 bill for being told "you don't qualify for a COVID-19 test" by an ER doctor following a 30 minute consultation, and reports of the tests being up to $1,600 (dependent upon hospital).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

            So it would have literally been cheaper to get the test? Wonderful...

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

      that's not a very 'libertarian' argument. It's more like an ANARCHIST argument.

      Libertarians aren't against regulating [they are against BANNING, which is a different thing entirely]. Without regulation you have chaos, and Libertarians don't want chaos [only anarchists and revolutionaries want chaos].

      The basic idea is that I should have as much freedom as possible as long as it's not negatively impacting anyone else, and whenever it could (or is), that's where regulations happen.

      Simplest example: smoking. While banning all smoking would stop me from having to breathe someone else's tobacco exhaust, if that person smokes where I am _NOT_ I am not impacted. Therefore, regulation to prevent me from being FORCED to breathe tobacco exhaust is reasonable [and of course I can deliberately NOT go to those places where people smoke]. A "smoking area" with its own ventilation system is one example, so that the smoke never leaves that zone, in business establishments where they choose to allow such things. But, it's the nature of gummints to want to CONTROL MORE, and so they ALWAYS do "the ban" or something chaotic (which then leads to THEM 'providing a "solution" to the problem THEY caused').

      Whoever that was that claimed this was a Libertarian argument (justifying price gouging during a declared emergency) does NOT understand Libertarianism.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Price Gouging: the free market libertarian perspective

      The argument has some merit, but has major flaws. First, the validity. If prices increase, you do get the benefits stated, including the discouragement of hoarding and the incentive to produce. Those are easily verified, and are quite real.

      However, allowing the price to increase has some predictable results. The first is that it increases the number of people searching for the products--if the price doesn't change with complete fluidity, and it won't, it offers the opportunity for useless arbitrage. Arbitrage is often a relatively harmless and sometimes even beneficial utility in markets, but when the product being moved around is a necessity, it adds delays, shortages, and risk. Those don't help anyone.

      Second, increasing the price places many restrictions on who can obtain the product and how. It may deny it to the people who need it most--if they cannot afford it, or if they cannot easily arrange transportation of the product to where they are, or if they cannot charge the purchase to their company accounts because the seller is unusual, they will suffer. In economic terms, this is a profound negative externality, and even the most free-market of economists recognize this as a problem needing fixing.

      Finally, it's just stupid. Sure, it can provide some benefits to a few lucky people, but at the cost of everyone else hating them. Meanwhile, the lack of the products people need leads to fear, and the unusually high prices they're eventually forced to pay leads to more hatred. When a bottle of fear and two of hatred are placed together in the blender, the result is a very unpleasant substance. The only two guarantees about what happens when the top comes off are 1) you can't stop the top from coming off and 2) you really won't like it when it does.

  15. HarryBl

    Logitech C920 webcams (normally 80 quid from Amazon) are being soled on Ebay at 20 quid a time at the moment...

  16. mevets

    Anti Bacterial agents

    don't kill viruses. They aren't even as effective as plain old soap.

    I wonder if I can sell DEET since it repels mosquitoes, which cause malaria, and we know that not having malaria makes you not have COVID-19.

    At least they aren't stockpiling weapons.

    1. The First Dave

      Re: Anti Bacterial agents

      "At least they aren't stockpiling weapons."

      They in Yank-land, from what I was reading today - first thing everyone in Texas did was queue up outside the gun stores to buy more AR15's, _and_ more ammo for the guns they already had.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Anti Bacterial agents

        I've heard the same from sellers of weapons in New Zealand. I'd really like to ask these people what the situation in their heads looks like such that they plan on needing weapons during it. I'll ask over a voice call from far away, an unspecified location that's most definitely far away. You know, for social distancing reasons.

        1. 96percentchimp

          Re: Anti Bacterial agents

          In the USA many of the buyers were reported to be from Asian-Americans who feared being targeted (with some justification) because the Orange Turd has been trying to whip up anti-Chinese sentiment.

  17. TechnicalBen Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Yeahs, that's not gonna help...

    "Amazon, on the other hand, seemed to be having a little more success as Which? noted that some inflated items were taken down during the investigation period."

    I have been unable to buy most things on amazon for about 5 years now. Why? Simple.

    The listings for say, "a computer mouse" have 5 thousand of the same mouse listed, in 5 thousand different colours/patterns. So if I don't want that exact mouse? I have to search specifically the model I want. Oh, I can try "Laptop case" and also get thousands of the same case listed. So actually *searching* for anything non-specific is impossible to filter out the spam listings. I have to find a product I want else where, then price compare to Amazon.

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: Yeahs, that's not gonna help...

      Agreed. Amazon has everything if you know exactly what you're looking for, but it's pretty bad for shopping around. Though I guess in a sense, as long as they get the final sale, it's all that matters...

    2. hoola Bronze badge

      Re: Yeahs, that's not gonna help...

      And all the items that are year's old listings or out of stock. It is just cretinous that both Google and Amazon search keep returning these useless listing. The only reason I can see is that once you are in Amazon you with then keep searching there until you find what you want.

      I have never bought from Amazon so it seriously pisses me off when you buy something from someone, either a normal website or an eBay seller and it comes from Amazon.

      I don't much like eBay either but it has been useful to get rid of a load of stuff that we either could not give away or the local charity shops would have just binned.

  18. riffrafff

    Meh.

    What ever the market will bear. If the asking price is too high, don't buy it.

    1. IareFlash

      Yeah, what fxxking bellend idiot paid $210 for a few bottles of hand sanitizer?

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      "What ever the market will bear. If the asking price is too high, don't buy it."

      Normally, yes. however, declared emergencies are NOT normal. Different rules apply.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Mah, tell the poster they are absolutely correct. Then charge them 10 million for the air they breath.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "What ever the market will bear. If the asking price is too high, don't buy it."

      So, for those who can't afford it, it's their own damn fault for not having a better paid job?

      You ALWAYS need street sweepers, shelf-stackes and burger flippers. Sounds to me like you are living the "American Dream" and fuck everyone else.

  19. IareFlash

    Crowd source

    Lets play a game (no, not Fatties game)

    Spend the hours "working from home" browsing the online retailers looking for these pricing gobsmackers and then grass them up to someone.

    I suspect for 90% of the working from home workforce its only the grassing up bit which would make a change from their normal working from home regime.

  20. idiottaxpayerhere previously ishtiaq/theghostdeejay

    You have to laugh

    at the idiots buying antibacterial stuff. DUH, it's a virus.

    And as for the bogroll buyers why did they not buy one of these…

    https://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2020/03/panasonic-has-a-portable-arse-cleaner/

    Snowflakes who are stupid enough to panic buy and pay stupid prices let them be. They will think different when their credit card statement arrives.

    In the meantime it seems that the FRENCH of all people have got this panic buying thing right. They are stripping shelves bare of wine and condoms.

    Cheers… Ishy

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: You have to laugh

      "at the idiots buying antibacterial stuff. DUH, it's a virus."

      Anti-bacterial cleaners almost always have surfactants in them which, while not being as good as actually washing away with soap and water, can still destroy the virus. At least that's what I'm hearing from medical experts.

    2. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: You have to laugh

      Apparently here in Canuckistan sex toy sales are up 135%.

      Hows that for getting it right?

  21. oldenoughtoknowbetter

    Costco's doing it right

    Initially people swarmed and some bought way more than they needed of TP, cleaners, rice, formula, etc.

    Wiped out all the shelves so people wanting to make normal purchases couldn't.

    Later as stocks started coming in, many of the stores restricted people to 1 per.

    Now that shelves are filling up, some people want to return what they hoarded.

    Costco and other stores are saying, "Nope, don't want it back." And good for them.

    I don't care if you were buying for a school, church, your friends and family, or because you thought you could make a buck while people were in need.

    If you bought too much either because you panicked or because you're greedy, no one wants you returning your potentially virus infected stuff.

    You bought it, it's your problem now.

    1. ITS Retired
      IT Angle

      Re: Costco's doing it right

      Arrived at Costco early today. I was 7th in line. Costco Had one (1) pallet of toilet paper. 30 roll packs of Charmin. It was all gone by 10 minutes after they opened. Costco only allowed on those 60 years old and older in between 8:00 and 9:00 AM.

      Not a cough or sneeze to be heard in all the time I was in there.

      The IT angle? Costco also sells computers and stuff.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not the right people getting the grief

    My wife is a community Pharamacist running a small shop serving the local rural communities. She is always very fair in her pricing for the people who have little opportunity to go elsewhere for their over the counter supplies, surgical fittings, smoking cessation, prescriptions and all the 101 other services that Pharmacists are expected to do these days. (For the past 2.5 years her average is over 1 person a month having a heart-attack in her store, as access to 'normal' NHS services are so restricted.)

    However, she has received a lot of abuse from people who want to buy Paracetamol, or Calpol, because she cannot buy it - not even for those who have large doses under prescription. Or because the stock of other items that she has on the shelves has doubled in price, to reflect the huge increases in prices charged by the wholesalers (she is still taking the same monetary sliver off the top to cover costs, not a percentage!)

    And then you have all the ill people coming in who cannot get an appointment to see a doctor. This is always around 30% of people coming in just asking for advice from anyone, even after my wife reminds them that she is not medically trained - see note above about heart-attacks! But now it is running at over 60% as almost everyone wants to talk about some illness, even if they are actually buying something (40%). Quite a lot of these people have believed the government bluster about Covid-19 tests and are expecting the Pharmacy to stock it - NHS staff are not even getting protective equipment, let alone the test themselves!

    As she works largely on her own (except for the independent prescription checking) she now has to lock the door and only let one person into the shop at a time.

    She shouldn't have to spend at least an hour a day (nominally her lunch break) chasing non-existent supplies. She shouldn't have to receive so much abuse, being the only face of the NHS the great unwashed public can meet. She shouldn't have to perform time consuming crowd control to enforce social-isolating and stop the thieving of the shelves. She shouldn't have to do most of the prescription tasks after the shop closes, including the supplies for a number of nursing homes and 2 retirement villages.

    70+ hour weeks, abuse from customers, lack of stock and price gouging by the wholesalers, lack of any protection from the great unwashed, the only face of the NHS that people can see. All this will weaken her for when someone in the shop does give her Covid-19, and given her mechanical heart valve, my daughters and I will have to bury her.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've had the covid symptoms for over a week now, online shopping sites, when not crashing, failed to deliver some essential items to me, so a 10 or 12 days to wait with expected and planned for supplies NOT arriving, so i asked on a community site if anyone could help, two local entities previously posting pics of 'pack of supplies for a tenner' and happily posting links to stuff like dog beds, sale never replied fter a full day of dog bed ads.

    So think about this you smug, selfish hoarders, two ladies did offer, and one whose offer i took up, turned out to be an off duty Nurse.

    Let that sink in, hoarders. I hope You don't get sick whilst these kind angels are making right another of your wrongs. Bless the NHS.

  24. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    Hacking

    This is where the nice maker folks can help out.

    Its not hard to make an accurate non contact thermometer and IR chips from old defunct security scanners can be used.

    The method I found is to use a drone or phone vibrate motor, take off the weight by crushing and solder a pair of wires to the connector.

    Simple beam interrupt is all you need here and a single high gain bipolar transistor such as 2SD965 as the preamplifier.

    Connect output of the preamp to a very basic readout such as a battery meter, run motor at about 1V and there you have it!

    Add lens to fit, using the good old fashioned cylindrical casing from dead till roll method.

    Calibration isn't too hard if you happen to have a kettle (100C) and ice (0C) along with a piece of flat black plastic as the

    reference or pyrolytic graphite if you wanted to go all high tech.

    I have a modifed calibrated IRT here which now has a yellow LED backlight instead of the red dot as needed it for other projects.

  25. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    Re. Gloves and masks

    I did the right thing and donated my spare stock to nearby neighbours who can actually use them.

    Irony: had a few boxes of latex unused due to allergies so bagging them up is feasible if the health authorities

    really do start to run out having gone through the cafes, vets and dentists.

    The bigger problem is lack of basic equipment that unfortunately didn't get ordered due to

    entirely avoidable politics so they are having to go without in many cases.

    Incidentally if you have a few pairs of nitrile its worth saving them and soaking them for 30 minutes in HOT water

    in a dedicated container with a mechanical oscillation above the maximum temperature which is IIRC 62C then dry out and reuse.

    Better than nothing IMHO and they can be checked and saved for tasks actually requiring a germproof barrier using light method

    then disposed of safely.

    https://www.microbiologyresearch.org/docserver/fulltext/jgv/56/2/JV0560020235.pdf?expires=1585321283&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=3F8A0B0237E0926896A3B4A8D0A36A1A

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