Price gouging complaints weren't actually gouging

Price gouging complaints weren't actually gouging

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Whole Foods, Safeway, Don Quijote and 7-11 were all accused of running up water prices during Hurricane Iselle.  So were they gouging? We went back out today price check the same products.

Viewers sent us plenty of pictures of what they felt were price gouging. At 7/11 a 24 pack of Island Pure water was $15.60.  That's 65 cents a bottle.  Today they were charging the same price.

At Safeway the 12 pack of 1.5 liter Hawaiian Springs bottles was $24.34 or $2.02 a bottle.  Today it was $1.79. That's a difference of 24 cents a bottle or $2.86 by the case.

A Don Quijote customer showed us her receipt for a 35 bottle case Crystal Geyser water for $21.  The manager explained they ran out of water and brought in whatever water they could get. Since they don't usually sell the 35 pack case of Crystal Geyser it wasn't ringing up.  The cashier charged the normal individual bottle price which was 60 cents apiece thus 35 bottles for $21.  However the manager says he later changed the price per case to $16.99.

Whole Foods took heat for its prices charging nearly $30.96 for 12 bottles of 1.5 liter Hawaiian Isles water and $28.56 for 12 bottles of 1 liter water. However the store announced on Twitter it was typo on the signs. It should have said $15.48 and $14.28 respectively. The store also said the registers were ringing up the correct price.

"In these kinds of situations, we would never increase prices. Please be safe," tweeted Whole Foods Hawaii.

"In times of crisis it's always unfortunate when there is an error like that because it does reflect poorly on a business," said Tim Caminos, Hawaii Better Business Bureau.

The state received 103 calls and emails about price gouging.  The Hawaii Better Business Bureau fielded 87 reports.  So far there have been no confirmed cases of gouging.  It's more sticker shock with people not used to seeing certain brands or bottle sizes being sold by the case.

"I think that people should feel good about their community and the fact that we didn't have those issues of price gouging during the last hurricane," said Caminos.

Businesses don't have anything to gain by gouging, especially in this day and age where social media can mean instant bad publicity

"I guess in a way consumers can keep businesses in check," said Caminos.

There were also complaints about people online selling generators for $18,000 or water for $200.  While shady it's not illegal. Someone can sell almost anything consumer to consumer. If you buy an $18,000 generator from a guy demanding cash only that's your decision, albeit probably not a good one.

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