Reports are emerging of hotels and gas stations price gouging evacuees of the heat wave affecting the east coast of the United States. It isn’t the first time, either, as people who are forced to flee unfortunately are considered easy targets.
Price gouging evacuees goes beyond supply and demand
Scarcity is a real thing; the more uncommon a thing is, the more value it commands. Thus, if supply is low and demand is high, prices rise. However, price gouging is different, as that is the deliberate raising of prices due to the vulnerability of the buyer. Morally it’s suspect, if not egregious. Legally, it depends on what state one is in.
A number of reports are emerging, according to the Huffington Post, of hotels and gas stations price-gouging people trying to escape from the heat wave currently making life miserable, if not outright dangerous, for millions of people on the east coast. In Vinland, N.J., a man reported being charged $179 for one night in a Wyndam hotel, normally $79. Similar reports are emerging from Maryland and the Maryland Attorney General’s Office noted reports from citizens of 25 to 50 cent-per-gallon markups on gasoline.
A sordid history
Similar reports were noted in September of last year, when New Jersey was struck by Hurricane Irene.
Though it isn’t proven that hotels in Maryland and New Jersey are price gouging, and bear in mind the heat wave is occurring close to the Fourth of July holiday, it wouldn’t be the first time that hotels were caught price gouging evacuees seeking shelter.
Price gouging was alleged at the Sea-Tac Ramada near Sea-Tac International Airport during a snowstorm in Dec. 2010, as travelers who were forced to stay overnight at were reported as being charged up to nine times normal rates, according to KING5.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd, according to a Sept. 2004 article in The Florida Times-Union, on Jacksonville.com, settlements were obtained from 20 hotel chains by the Georgia Governor’s Office for Consumer Affairs. Georgia commonly gets evacuees from Florida during hurricane season, many of whom stay in hotels. At that time, 3,500 complaints of hotel price gouging were being investigated during evacuations from Hurricane Charley in Aug. 2004 by Florida officials.
Price gouging bigger in Texas
Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas is kept fairly busy after hurricanes apparently, as he has prosecuted a number of hotel owners for price gouging evacuees after hurricanes. For instance, in October 2005, according to a press release on the Texas Attorney General’s Office Website, the owners of a Quality Inn and Suites in Marshall, Texas, were sued for price gouging refugees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Similar lawsuits were lodged by Abbott and his office against the Hotel Nacogdoches and a Super 8 in Brookshire, Texas in September 2007, according to the Houston Chronicle. Those hotels were alleged to be overcharging people who fled Hurricane Ike.
In September 2008, according to Fort Bend Instant News, the owners of the Homer Norton Motel in Rosenberg, Texas, settled with Abbott’s office for $60,000 in legal costs and civil penalties.
Florida Times-Union on Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/090804/geo_16582250.shtml
Texas Office of the Attorney General: https://www.oag.state.tx.us/oagnews/release.php?id=1215
Fort Bend Instant News: http://www.fortbendnow.com/2007/09/12/30303