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The virus of greed: Profiting from the public’s fears


With the continued health challenges facing Britain, Europe, the United States and many other countries in the global north due to COVID 19; supermarkets have been experiencing a high demand for items that have long term shelf lives. Such items include pasta, rice, and tinned foods and have led to restrictions on items, with many outlets permitting only 2 items of the same product. Hygienic products such as hand
sanitisers, disinfectants and bleach have also been in high supplication.

While many major supermarkets in the UK have not exorbitantly increased their prices, some smaller independent grocery shops have taken full advantage of the populations stockpiling trends. As of Saturday 14th March, Sterling Chemist in Wimbledon, London was selling Enliven hand gel professional Garden Mint in a small bottle for £8, though has since reduced this price to £4.50.

On Wednesday 17th March, Jhoots which operates a chain of outlets in the West Midlands was retailing 200ml bottles of Calpol for £19.99. Jhoots has allegedly been selling a pack of 32 paracetamols for £9.99. This recent price inflation is thought to be at least two, three and in some cases four times the usual price it is known to be sold at. After numerous complaints and after Majid Mahmood, a local councillor for
the Hodge Hill ward declared that he had been bombarded with phone calls from concerned members of the public, Jhoots have since suggested that the rise in price was a communication error and has welcomed customers to claim a refund. The outlet has also stated that since the outrage, they have taken steps to correct the failings.

Local resident Martha from Walsall where Jhoots also operates from said furiously ‘’This just highlights our (black peoples) vulnerability’’. Although she admitted this vulnerability does not exclusively apply to black people, she asked ‘’Where is afiwe (for us) stores?’’ and expressed her disgust at the shameless manner that shops have been inflating there prices before saying ‘’There is nothing we can do. If
Sainsbury’s, or Asda don’t have what I need, where can I get my toilet roll? Do I have to use newspapers?’’

In 2017, motivator orator and author Khadijah Ward published the thought-provoking book ‘Black Sterling’. The page preceding the contents page poses a scenario that is far from identical to the current situation of black people in Britain and much of the
global north, but the following abstract does have some gross similarities that are definitely worth pondering on.

‘’If a law was passed tomorrow stating:

We are no longer housing black people on our council estates, we are not lending black people money for mortgages, we are not allowing black people in our supermarkets, we are not allowing black people to work on our corporate plantations’’.

After posing this scenario to her readers, Ward then asks ‘’How would you survive?’’

At this very moment, there is something people can do to at least address the avaricious profiting off of people’s heightened anxieties. Contrary to Martha’s claim that ‘’There is nothing we can do’’ customers are being encouraged to report alarmingly inflated prices to The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

CMA is currently in the process of establishing a coronavirus taskforce to specifically tackle companies that are cunningly exploiting the current predicament regarding COVID-19.

To report a company that you believe is guilefully selling products at unacceptable prices, please call 0203 7386000 or for further details visit:

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/competition-and-markets-authority

By David Myles

1 Comment

  1. John Rowlands says:

    ‘….we should all make a distinction between the supermarket bosses and their workers. Tesco took £585m bailout tax relief, and promptly paid £635m dividends to its biggest investors, some of which are the richest institutions on earth.’
    Source: Marina Hyde, the Guardian. Saturday 11 April 2020.
    Don’t we have a Tesco here in Harlesden? I don’t hear anyone saying they are boycotting Tesco!
    Just a thought.

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