While stories of third party websites or individuals hoarding and/or price gouging crucial supplies are common in this time of panic brought on by Covid-19, or the Coronavirus, it’s not common to see a large corporation exploiting the opportunity. However, a large midwestern home improvement store chain, Menards, got in some hot water after complaints came pouring in about their inflated prices. (Ironically, their catchphrase is ‘save big money at Menards. Ha!)
The Michigan attorney general sent a cease and desist letter to Menards as a result of 18 complaints of price gouging. The products mentioned were face masks, bleach, and other supplies that are a hot commodity in the current context.
A public statement was released saying that “Menards appears to be exploiting public fear about Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) through a systematic effort of raising prices.”
While none of the price increases are astronomical, for example bleach raising from $2.54 to $4.99, it’s still predatory, and therefore illegal. There are currently laws in place to guard consumers from practices like this, such as the Michigan Consumer Protection Act and, recently, the Governor’s Executive Order.
Despite its illegality, this is a grimy and frankly, stupid move on Menards part. Not only are they using public suffering to make an extra dollar, but they are sacrificing their future reputation with customers for a temporary slight boost in revenue. When you’re not customer-centric, it’s never a good move for the long run. Personally, I will remember how companies respond in times of crisis: do they have tunnel vision on how they can benefit from this, whether it’s moral or not, or are they actively trying to help mitigate the devastation it is currently causing?
For Menards, the answer is clear.
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Hannah Michelle Lambert is the Social Media + Events Coordinator at Worthix, as well as the host of the monthly CX News Recap segment. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.