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Men who hoarded over 17,000 hand sanitizer bottles donate stockpile amid price-gouging probe

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3/16/2020 Jason Gonzales, Nashville Tennessean

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two Tennessee men who hoarded over 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer have donated their stockpile amid backlash and a price gouging investigation.

On Sunday morning, Matt Colvin, an Amazon seller outside Chattanooga, helped volunteers from a local church load two-thirds of his stockpile of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes into a box truck for the church to distribute to people in need across Tennessee, according to The New York Times

Officials from the Tennessee attorney general’s office took the other third. The office is investigating him for price gouging.

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Colvin and his brother Noah became the subject of national scorn after The New York Times published a story about how they cleaned out stores of sanitizer and wipes in an attempt to profit off the public’s panic over the coronavirus pandemic.

The article says while people across the country have stockpiled items such as hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes, internet companies like Amazon and eBay have enacted strict measures to stop those looking to price gouge.

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Noah Colvin, of Hixson, took a 1,300-mile road trip in early March across Tennessee and Kentucky, racking up thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer to resell online. 

Meanwhile, Matt stayed at home, waiting for pallets of antibacterial wipes and even more sanitizer to be shipped, according to a New York Times article.

The two then sold sanitizer online at a steep markup – $8 to $70 a pop. Amazon quickly removed their listings amid a larger effort to stop coronavirus-related price gouging.

The Tennessee Attorney General's Office ordered the brothers to stop buying and selling medical goods and products following the reports of possible price gouging while an investigation into their actions is underway.

a close up of a device: If you can't find hand sanitizer for coronavirus prep, you can make it at home. To make homemade hand sanitizer, use two-thirds cup of 99% rubbing alcohol and one-third cup of aloe vera gel. You can add 8 to 10 drops of essential oil like grapefruit, lavender or peppermint. © USA TODAY If you can't find hand sanitizer for coronavirus prep, you can make it at home. To make homemade hand sanitizer, use two-thirds cup of 99% rubbing alcohol and one-third cup of aloe vera gel. You can add 8 to 10 drops of essential oil like grapefruit, lavender or peppermint.

"We will not tolerate price gouging in this time of exceptional need, and we will take aggressive action to stop it," said Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III. "During this pandemic, we ask that you report suspicious activity to the Division of Consumer Affairs and refrain from threatening or hostile communication with individuals or businesses you may suspect are price gouging. Our team will review complaints closely and we are prepared to act to protect Tennesseans."

The Colvins told The New York Times that Noah Colvin hit “little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods. The major metro areas were cleaned out.”

Matt Colvin said he was simply fixing “inefficiencies in the marketplace.” Some areas of the country need the products more than others, he said to the Times, and he’s helping send the supply toward the demand. On Sunday he expressed remorse for his actions and said he didn’t realize the gravity of the coronavirus outbreak, or the severe shortage of sanitizer and wipes when he began buying the supplies.

“I’ve been buying and selling things for 10 years now. There’s been hot product after hot product. But the thing is, there’s always another one on the shelf,” he told the Times. “When we did this trip, I had no idea that these stores wouldn’t be able to get replenished.”

Click here to read the full article.

Contributing: Olivia Krauth, Louisville Courier Journal. Follow Jason Gonzales on Twitter @ByJasonGonzales.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Men who hoarded over 17,000 hand sanitizer bottles donate stockpile amid price-gouging probe

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