UPDATE: 3:02 p.m. – After a photo emerged that showed a Best Buy store selling cases of water for $42 in flood-ravaged Texas, the company has issued an apology for the pricing.
“This was a big mistake on the part of a few employees at one store on Friday,” a spokesperson for Best Buy told International Business Times in a statement Tuesday. “As a company we are focused on helping, not hurting affected people. We’re sorry and it won’t happen again. Not as an excuse but as an explanation, we don’t typically sell cases of water. The mistake was made when employees priced a case of water using the single-bottle price for each bottle in the case.”
Original story: A Best Buy store near Houston was accused of price gouging bottles of water in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, according to a story on GritPost by Ken Klippenstein. Photos shared on Twitter allegedly of a store in Cypress, Texas, showed cases of Smart Water being sold for $29.98, while cases of Dasani water were being hocked at $42.96.
Social media users decried the apparent price gouging for vital supplies like water — though it was far from the first time prices were raised in the aftermath of the disaster. More than 500 complaints were leveled against businesses about price gouging during Hurricane Harvey over the weekend, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNBC in an interview Monday.
“These are things you can’t do in Texas,” said Paxton. “There are significant penalties if you price gouge in a crisis like this.”
Price gouging can result in fines of up to $200,000, with an additional $50,000 if the victim in question was over 65 years old. Texans reported businesses driving up prices in the wake of the disaster as companies reportedly worried about supply and demand.
“I don’t think as large as our country is, as large as Texas is, that supply is ultimately going to be that big of an issue,” Paxton told CNBC.
Others reported cases of water going for up to $99. A television crew from KXAN-TV in Austin attempted to stay in a hotel about 20 miles from Corpus Christi Saturday — only to find prices at the establishment had been tripled. The Best Western Plus charged $321.89 instead of the standard $120 – $149 per night.
Multiple customers at a WingStop in Houston were overcharged over the weekend as well — patrons noticed ambiguous charges and “catering platter” fees on their receipts. General manager Estebanon Barnes acknowledged the issue and said the customers were…