While Houston brims with stories of people helping each other amid the devastation of caused by Tropical Storm Harvey, some people have tried to take advantage of the disaster to squeeze some money out of fellow Texans.
Gladys Flores sent her husband to pick up a gallon of milk at her local grocery store in southeast Houston. But he came back empty handed—the store clerk asked $10 for the bottle.
He asked the clerk why was the milk so expensive. She replied it was because he was taking the last one. “So?” he asked. The clerk then started to haggle—she offered $9. The man walked away.
The couple already tried a few other supermarkets in the area but all were sold out. Flores wasn’t ready to give up that easily.
“I couldn’t believe that she was doing that,” she wrote on Facebook.
She picked up the bottle herself and went to the register. Only this time she had her cellphone camera recording.
“I get to the register and ask her for the price she smiles and thinks about it then tells me $8,” she wrote. “I looked at her and was in shock.”
Price gouging is illegal in Texas. If sellers hike prices of goods and services needed in emergencies after an emergency is declared, they can face up to $20,000 fine for each violation. If the buyer is over 65 years old, the fine can reach $250,000. The law covers things like drinking water, food, batteries, generators, gasoline, and towing.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office has received hundreds of complaints of price gouging since the record-breaking storm hit on Friday, Aug. 25, CBS reported.
The office encourages people to first bring up the issue with the seller. “Speak to them respectfully but be frank,” its website states. If it doesn’t help, one should save the receipt and file a complaint.
Flores seemed more concerned with the ethical realm of the situation.
“[W]e should be working together to help each other and then this happens,” she wrote. “[T]his isn’t how Houston works.”
You can report post-Harvey price gouging at Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Toll-Free Hotline.