In the horrible aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, I remember waiting on long gas lines for the opportunity to pay jacked up prices for gas. Many stations participated in the practice, and I've not returned to those stations in the years since. There was never a shortage, just the typical market inefficiencies found in the aftermath of that disaster of a storm. Those gougers, and others like them proved the lie that "we all come together in the face of adversity". The greed showed by those price gougers proved that they were just the worst of the worst.
In Florida now, Hurricane Matthew is bringing many areas to their knees, and we will no doubt hear about more price gouging in the aftermath of this storm. Hopefully, the perps will have the full weight of law fall upon them.
Some recent examples of pharmaceutical price gouging are particularly galling. Folk anti-hero Martin Shkreli became the face of unbridled greed when his company bought the drug Daraprim and raised the price over five thousand percent. He was quite properly vilified, but sadly, the system that permits such abuse is allowed to continue.
Mylan Labs, seller of Epi-Pens, also showed where it's corporate heart is by raising the price of the device to eye-popping levels. The fallout has been impressive, but once again, the system that permits this abuse continues unchecked.
Natural disasters and life saving drugs make price gouging particularly heinous. When the very necessities of life are controlled by a market system that allows this kind of unethical profiteering, the gougers are quite properly described as unethical at best, evil at worst.
Wouldn't it also be true of the gouging of items that are not necessities of life? Is the action any less unethical, if not rising (or sinking) to the level of evil, if the items being price gouged are merely discretionary?
This week, the smash Broadway show Hamilton announced a new block of tickets were going on sale. Not newsworthy in and of itself, but for the reported price of the tickets. They are being offered at $998.00 each.
No one needs to see a Broadway show. Life goes on for those that can't afford it. But, what does it do to the perception of the industry as a whole, when the general public comes to believe that insane prices like that may be commonplace? Does the prospect of seeing a Broadway show fall off the radar of typical tourists or local theater goers that have been weaned for years on discounts and the TKTS booth? Like I said, I have never returned to the gas stations that price gouged during Sandy.
The price gouging of Hamilton is completely unethical, but it doesn't hurt the public. It does, however, hurt the industry.