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Price Gouging
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Categories: Ethics and laws; Commerce and business

Word count/read time: 499 words; 2 minutes

Who can be faulted for hounding out good deals or cashing in when the opportunity presents itself? Some might be tempted to (unethically?) benefit from disasters like Hurricane Harvey. Regardless of the sellers' intentions, market forces determine whether it is $3.75/gallon gas or $12. Gouging works and it might be necessary at times.

The pandemic showed some serious supply chain issues, highlighting the failures of a stressed system: shortages, price increases, unfair competition. The USA government declared a state of (medical) emergency which gave certain entities unchecked power and made it illegal to charge more than some arbitrary amount for medical devices. Unfortunately, you can't be a small fry without being prosecuted for making a profit. However, a much different story comes when large corporations get involved....

In effect, the government condoned the financial raping by monopolistic big pharma companies that carte blanched their way to riches, making countless new health-care billionaires. They were given unbridled authority to write their own paycheck. They profited 1,000,000x more than the $12/gallon "criminal" gas sellers yet were hailed as heroes.

If the vaccine's efficacy wasn't so overstated it would have been more tolerable. Realistically, covid is not even a mild threat to our existence according to the numbers when compared to important, planet-destroying issues like global warming, environmental decimation, and social inequality.

Will government price policing apply to online venues? Will the awesome deals I get be taken away because I didn't pay enough?? My profits reduced because someone overpaid for my items and the government took offense? Who, exactly, decides when a price is exorbitant?

Reverse price gouging is also a common practice. An ignorant seller with a valuable item is particularly susceptible. I am appalled that some places offer less than 10% of the scrap value for precious metals! If someone approaches me with silver or gold, I am morally obligated to pay a fair market price. They are often shocked since they have been beat down by all the scumbags who offer next to nothing.

Will the awesome deals I get be taken away because I didn't pay enough??
To find egregious examples of price gouging in the jewelry/chainmaille industry one only needs to look at one or two sellers. In essence, butted chains (not welded or soldered, basically 99.99% of chains) are significantly overpriced. As a guideline, an equivalent "perfect" butted version should be about 5-15% the cost of a properly made jewelry quality heirloom specimen.

Also, precious metals don't transform a low-quality piece into something desirable though many manufacturers mistakenly charge a premium regardless. Precious metals highlight a skilled artisan's workmanship just as they do the opposite for a wannabe; only the former deserves the upcharge.

Just as insidious are price caps, which are the endgame of anti-gouging legislation. A supposed free-market economy with government interference is nothing short of government-mandated price fixing and manipulation. They can't have faith in the system one minute and then deny all that makes it work in the next. Sadly, only the biggest industries with deep pockets and entrenched lobbyists will have their interests heard.

Posted by M: December 5, 2022

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