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Coronavirus

Coronavirus: Prices are skyrocketing online – here’s how to shop smart

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, health and government officials have urged against panic buying. Hoarding items can make it difficult for others to access basic necessities and can even harm healthcare workers who need protections like masks and hand sanitizers.

But supply and demand aren’t the only reasons health officials are in a kerfuffle over panic buying. Across the web, legions of hoarders are price-gouging items like masks, soap and toilet paper in the hopes of profiting off the crisis. Tap or click here to see more about this and other scams.

As bad as this practice is, retailers across the country aren’t about to take this issue lying down. Some of the biggest retail stores in the nation are updating their rules to help curb the practice of hoarding and price gouging, and it might just help us all get through the worst of the virus. Here’s why.

The price is (not) right

According to reports from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy watchdog, the rising number of coronavirus infections is causing the Amazon prices of hand sanitizer and face masks to skyrocket by at least 50%.

Previously, Amazon claimed it would be putting limits on sellers that attempt to raise the price on these medical products. But numerous stores and sellers continue to sell these and other staples like toilet paper at a markup. Tap or click to see how Amazon was previously handling fake coronavirus cures.

U.S. PIRG reported the average high price of surgical masks are more than 160% higher than the 90-day average price, with the spike occurring just after January 30, when the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

Unfortunately, these artificially inflated items still seem to be selling. This is partly due to the fact that critical items like toilet paper are entirely sold out at many retail stores. While new shipments continue to arrive, for the time being, hoarders have made certain they won’t sit for long.

How can we stop the hoarders?

Collectively, we can continue to urge calm, rational behavior in dealing with the outbreak. But aside from that, it’s up to the stores to set limits on what customers can do with the inventory. Fortunately, some of the biggest names in the country are taking a stand against panic buyers.

Target and Best Buy, two of the largest retail chains in America, recently sent out mailing list messages to shoppers, promising they would be limiting the number of provisions customers can purchase at once. Target posted the following statement in its mailer:

As demand for cleaning products, medicine, pantry stock-up items and more remains high, we’re sending more products to our stores as quickly as possible. And this weekend, we started to limit the number of key items per purchase, which will allow more guests to get what they need.

A Note to Our Guests About the Coronavirus from CEO Brian Cornell

If companies are taking action like this from the top-down, it’s a good sign we might not see the kind of shortages some of the doomsday preppers and sensationalists have been screaming about.

But when fake news and rumormongering can explode so easily on social media, is it any wonder there are people panic buying out there? Tap or click to see which coronavirus stories from social media are fake.

If you plan on shopping during the outbreak, make sure to wash your hands before and after going out, and maintain a safe distance from others when possible. Additionally, don’t hoard items like masks, Tylenol and toilet paper for yourself. The big-box chains are watching.

Bonus: This browser extension will help you catch price drops on Amazon in real time

Want to keep track of the prices of goods on Amazon? You don’t have to keep refreshing your browser window to know if toilet paper and hand sanitizer are back to reasonable levels. The oddly named Camelcamelcamel is a browser extension that will track the rise and fall of Amazon prices so you don’t have to.

If you visit the website, you’ll be able to search by specific items and keywords to see what the best deals are. Additionally, it will inform you whether items are sill in stock, or cheaper if you buy from a third-party seller.

The Camelizer | camelcamelcamel.com

To download the extension, just click Tools from the home page and select The Camelizer to download CCC’s browser extension for Chrome or Firefox. Once it’s installed, you can track the real-time rise and fall of prices just by clicking on the icon in your address bar.

You might have to be a little patient, but if you use CCC, we promise you won’t need to pay out the nose for soap and paper towels.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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