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Australian man denied refund for $10,000 worth of toilet paper and hand sanitizer

Toilet paper was a hot commodity Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, at the Walker Road Fred Meyer in Beaverton. (Grant Butler | The Oregonia/TNS)
April 17, 2020

An Australian man who purchased AU$10,000 worth of hand sanitizer and toilet paper was denied a refund by a supermarket owner after the man requested one.

The man, who has remained unnamed, purchased the items as news spread about the deadly coronavirus causing a worldwide pandemic. He contacted the supermarket requesting a refund after he was unable to sell the items on eBay.

“I had my first customer yesterday who said he wanted to get a refund on 150 packets of 32-pack toilet paper and 150 units of one-liter [hand] sanitizer. I told him that,” the supermarket owner, John-Paul Drake said as he showed his middle finger to the camera, Newsweek reported.

The Australian man’s story comes amid an international pandemic and panic-buying. Many stores’ shelves have been emptied and are quickly emptied when they are re-stocked. While many buy for their own storage in case of a long-term quarantine, others like the Australian man seek to profit off the shortage by selling the goods online using price gouging.

As a result, 33 state Attorneys General have asked eBay, Amazon and other online retailers to stop price gouging on their platforms amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We believe you have an ethical obligation and duty to help your fellow citizens in this time of need by doing everything in your power to stop price gouging in real-time,” the attorneys wrote in an open letter on March 25.

In Australia, the man’s account was shut down in an effort to crackdown on price gouging during the pandemic.

“In the conversation [the shopper said] ‘my eBay site has been shut down, so we couldn’t profiteer off that’,” Drake said, adding that the sum of the products totaled to around $10,000.

According to Drake, the man had a team of people buy the products because stores limited people to only purchasing one at a time.

“So, you do your sums at 150 separate purchases to buy these. Absolutely disgraceful,” Drake said. “The rest of my team [is] over this sort of behavior and having to police people taking more than they need – that’s a tough thing to deal with.”

In Australia, there are 6,500 confirmed cases of the China-originated virus and at least 66 deaths. Globally, there are more than 2.2 million and more than 150,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins’ latest research tracking data.

Other people in Australia have been caught hoarding similar products, some have even been charged with a crime.

Woolworths, a supermarket that operates in Australia, issued a statement denying refunds to people who purchased similar goods, like toilet paper, pain relief medicine, bacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer.

“From Wednesday 11 March 2020 until further notice, we will not provide a refund where you have simply changed your mind about products purchased from Woolworths,” the supermarket said in a memo.

Additionally, two women in Sydney were charged with affray for hoarding toilet paper.