In the wake of the – let’s call it “enthusiastic preparation” – related to the coronavirus spreading across the globe, specific medial and safety items have been selling at much higher rates than usual. Wipes, cleaners, masks, and other related sanitary and sanitizing products have been flying off store shelves. Big box retailers and larger pharmacy stores such as CVS and Walgreens have put out messages saying they might experience “shortages” of disinfecting products including wipes and hand sanitizer.
In the wake of these announcements, as well as those empty shelves, some savvy shoppers have turned to the internet to stock up on supplies. Enter the scammers. Countless bad actors have flooded popular web-based shopping sites advertising products which are supposedly “effective” against coronavirus, while others have offered common items at drastically inflated price points. Complaints began pouring in as angry consumers posted screenshots on social media.
Then things escalated.
Tech industry media publication, Wired, published an article detailing how some sellers on Amazon were “gouging” prices of face masks, or trying to scam the system by not changing the price but charging “exorbitant shipping costs.” These articles created an immediate digital PR issue for Amazon, as more and more people were going to Amazon for these kinds of products.
In response, Amazon announced that they have “pulled more than one million products” out of the marketplace for breaking rules including price gouging or false advertising. In a statement, Amazon reassured customers that, “(Amazon) always requires sellers to provide accurate information…” and that it is unacceptable to set a “significantly higher” price or “mislead customers.”
Amazon added: “We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis. In line with our long-standing policy, we have recently blocked or removed (many) offers… We will continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies…”
The quick response indicates the importance of the messaging around this issue for Amazon, as well as other big online marketplace sites. They need to maintain consumer confidence, especially in a time when emotions are already running high. Consumers might not like to encounter scammers, but they know to expect it. Amazon’s response in this situation makes all the difference between customers who are both worried and angry and consumers who are reassured that Amazon is looking out for them in a time when they are focused on trying to protect themselves and their families.
That said, with a site as big as Amazon, this will likely remain a moving target, so the company should not just sit back and celebrate this early win. They need to continue to reassure consumers they are on the case and protecting their interests.