Dubai: There is a new term floating around and, yes, it is connected to the coronavirus scare – it’s called ‘coronacapitalism’. Apparently, there are a whole bunch of people attempting to make a ‘killing’ from the pandemic.
I saw the term first in a column in The Guardian, and thought it was just a bit of cheekiness by the writer. However, several reports later, has come the realization that coronacapitalism is real.
Just log on to Amazon.com and you can see the prices for yourself. Hand sanitisers that used to sell for Dh8, would now cost you Dh32 – four times more. And this is just basic rubbing alcohol.
Well, it is a case of supply and demand and free market economics. However, it also raises concerns of exploitative price-gouging.
A case and point being the story of Matt and Noah Colvin, as reported by The New York Times. The brothers drove around numerous American low-cost stores to buy up sanitisers and antibacterial wipes in the first week of March. They then sold it on Amazon with multiple mark-ups at prices ranging from Dh30 to Dh250. They made ”crazy money”. But, the online retailer shut them down within a day or so, along with suspending thousands of other sellers like them. So, now the Colvins have 17,700 bottles of sanitizer, but nowhere to sell it!
Amazon issued a statement at the time: “We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis.”
We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis.”
Along with self-hygiene and cleaning products, some of the tech products driving people’s fortunes include augmented reality glasses that have the capability to read body temperatures. By a company called ThirdEye, the glasses have a thermal imaging add-on, which gives you a heat signature for people around you. So, if anybody has fever, you would know.
Air purifiers are also doing really well, with devices earlier priced at Dh250 and 300, now retailing at over Dh2000 globally. But, the absolute star are spit-shielding hats, that look more like something the riot police might use, but in this case is supposed to keep Covid-19 drool at bay.
But, it is not all fear driving the boom for some.
A Dubai-based Amazon employee who prefers not to be named told Gulf News: “In general everything seems to be selling really well especially gaming CDs, Playstations, Nintendos and other gaming related equipment. I think this is happening because children have almost a month-long holiday. And, to avoid Coronavirus, parents are not encouraging them to go out or mingle with other children, instead they are being asked to sit at home.”
E-commerce is flourishing in the times of corona, especially maid services, deep cleaning services, food delivery apps, grocery platforms, are all doing brisk business.
Athena Khan, who usually shops online for her weekly groceries, told Gulf News: “I buy almost everything online, and it is convenient. Usually I would get either same-day or next day delivery from the bigger supermarket chains. Now, I get a delivery slot that is set for 5 to 6 days later! The delivery staff told me that it is because the demand for home deliveries has sky rocketed.”
A sentiment shared by another Gulf News reader. Adeline Mendes said: “I ordered at 4.30pm for some milk and vegetables on an app. I’m located in Muhaisanah. The estimated delivery time was between 6 to 7.30am. It was not delivered even after 24 hours! My husband decided to physically go to a store, as we needed the items.”
But, this profiteering from a pandemic is not limited to retailers of essential items, there are social media celebrities cashing in.
The Keeping Up With the Kardashians star is selling T-shirts and hoodies through his brand Talentless (quite a telling confession) that has ‘PLEASE WASH YOUR HANDS printed on them. They are priced at around Dh500. His account has mama Kardashian and Kendall Jenner modelling them. Seriously!