By Ryan Velez
As of this writing, Hurricane Irma is currently going on a swath of destruction through Florida, and while evidence shows that the storm is not as powerful as it could have been when making landfall in the U.S., this is little comfort to those who are currently affected, as well as those in the Caribbean who took on the brunt of the storm when it was stronger. As is often the case in natural disasters like these, stories are coming out about both courage and generosity of both professionals and average people doing whatever they can to try and help those in need. Stories like “Mattress Mack” letting people stay in his stores or Houston Texans player JJ Watt eclipsing fundraising goal after goal during Hurricane Harvey are sure to warm anyone’s heart.
However, in the lead-up to Irma, there were also unscrupulous individuals trying to use the well-deserved concern before the storm to line their pockets, and a recent EURWeb article covers some of the activity. To note, it’s not just scammers or criminals who are taking advantage, but ordinary retailers price-gouging survival essentials, to the degree that Attorney General Pam Bondi activated a hotline for people to report businesses suspected of taking advantage of people preparing for the storm. As of last Tuesday afternoon, the hotline had 143 calls.
Sometimes, in the concern, other companies are getting caught up. For example, Amazon faced complaints about raising its prices on water, only for an investigation by Fortune to determine that this was not the case not just in Florida but in several states. Amazon also stated they don’t engage in surge pricing, and denied that bottled water prices have changed recently.
However, one industry that is coming under fire for surge pricing is the airline industry, taking advantage of people trying to escape affected areas. One customer told Yahoo News that he paid $159 for an American Airlines ticket from Miami to Hartford, CT, only to see that the price had spiked to $1,020 when he attempted to book another flight the same day. An IRA Matrix search would confirm price surges to areas like Atlanta, Phoenix and New York, but also that prices tended to flip-flop a lot. When the storm passes and the recovery begins, it will be interesting to see what type of business reprisal these companies will see, if any.