Updated at 10:30 p.m. on 3/28/2020
By Charlotte Smith
On Saturday, March 28, Fresh Foods IGA on Poplar Street in Elizabethtown was caught selling disposable face masks packaged in their ”Our Family” plastic zip bags. The price was $10.00 for the repackaged masks.
Cashiers Trista and Arianna said Fresh Food’s corporate office had told the local store employees to start selling the prepackaged masks as described, however, when customers started complaining the packs of masks were not sanitary and the price could be considered price gouging, corporate called the local store back and told them to pull the packages from the shelves. The grocery store started offering the masks repackaged today, according to Trista.
The package purchased for a total of $10.20 with tax held five disposable masks. Watch the video below for more information.
After the first publication of this article, Jeet Brahmbhatt, Vice President of Fresh Foods responded to our questions.
He stated, ”It is really painful when we are accused of price gouging without knowing what our cost of getting the product is. Last thing we want to do is price gouge in this time of need. We are getting all negative publicity, but we do not advertise about the masks we have donated to hospitals in need. We have taken measures for our employees also. Many times, consumers don’t understand the supply market, and believe we make millions out of product, but that is not the case.”
Price gouging—or charging too much in times of crisis—is against North Carolina law when a disaster, an emergency or an abnormal market disruption for critical goods and services is declared or proclaimed by the Governor or a municipality, according to NC attorney general’s website.
CVS Pharmacy had a box of 50 disposable masks for $12.49 on their website, but they are out of stock.
In Brahmbhatt’s response to being accused of price gouging he gave the website address to the North Carolina Department of Justice. He explained if a complaint was filed against Fresh Foods they would be required to share how much the store’s costs were for the masks.
For questions about price gouging, call toll-free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or visit: https://ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/price-gouging/