Amazon, Business, Buzz, Climate Environment, Hurricane Irma

Water bottles reach insane prices on Amazon as monster storm bears down


Image: scott olson/Getty Images

As Florida stocks up on supplies for another monster storm, those looking for bottled water on Amazon have been frustrated to find monster price tags to match.

Prices for water on the site reached as high as $100 for a single 24-pack of bottles or $63 for a single 100-ounce jug as of Tuesday morning, according to screenshots from people in the area. While most of the more outrageous listings seemed to come from third-party sellers (oftentimes when Amazon itself had already sold out of a particular product) at least a few were also set by the company’s own price algorithm.

The prices come as the state braces for category-5 Hurricane Irma, which meteorologists say could hit the east coast in coming days. Many people are particularly sensitive to the issue after widespread reports of price-gouging in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and its flooding aftermath.  

A screenshot of a deal from someone in Florida.

A screenshot of a deal from someone in Florida.

Amazon didn’t immediately return a request for comment, but the company has denied in the past that it uses Uber-like “surge-pricing” to make the most of high-demand situations. It does, however, use a proprietary algorithm that adjust prices by time and location, and some research firms claim to have found evidence that the system behaves in effectively the same way.

Based on screenshots reviewed by Mashable, the steep water prices don’t seem to be confined to any specific geographic areas, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t prompted by demand in certain places.

But the worst offenders were mostly independent vendors apparently attempting to make a quick buck from shortages caused by the massive stockpiling. In ones of these cases, a seller called ValoMarket marked up a 100-ounce jug of water to $64, around 32 times the average store price of $2.

While Amazon doesn’t have any hand in setting these prices, it does have a responsibility for the transactions that occur on its platform, and it’s oftentimes not immediately apparent whether a product is listed with Amazon or another supplier selling through the site.   

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