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OPINION: Companies exploit customers with price gouging

With Uber surge pricing its rides after the shooting in Brooklyn, the flaws with companies’ price gouging became clearer. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/QUOTECATALOG

A mass shooting took place in a Brooklyn subway Tuesday morning, where 39 people were shot or injured, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig. Uber took advantage of this and up charged its rides.

When the train pulled into the station before the shooting, the current suspect, Frank James, put on a gas mask. He dropped a gas canister and fired 33 shots, according to NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell.

Residents made to flee the city, but with subways shut down, many turned to Uber. That’s when people realized Uber’s prices had soared due to higher demand.

Uber isn’t the only — or first — company to take monetary advantage of desperate times. The act of price gouging and preying on the vulnerable is nothing new. This act shouldn’t be normalized and encouraged with the excuse of capitalistic supply and demand.

Surge pricing is written off by Uber as necessary to remain as a reliable choice, according to its website. This system is inherently flawed, as pointed out by some users on Twitter who expressed anger over this exploitation after the Brooklyn shooting.

A Twitter user shared a photo showing that seven-minute Uber rides leaving Brooklyn were priced anywhere from $85.05 to $145.47. The average price is $0.40 per minute, according to Ridesters. Under normal circumstances, the same ride out of Brooklyn would’ve been far cheaper.

Damage reparation is being handled, with Uber refunding the rides to all affected, according to its representatives.

This is a situation we’ve seen many times before, but without the refund.

When Hurricane Dorian hit Florida in September 2019, residents stocked up to prepare for the storm. With this in mind, stores and gas stations’ prices shot up, and the state’s attorney general received more than 2,400 reports of price gouging during that time.

One gas station was selling 24-packs of Nestle’s Pure Life water for $9, more than twice its normal retail cost, and other stations hiked prices at the pump by $1 more than advertised price, according to CBS News.

Again with COVID-19, the Florida Attorney General’s office said it received over 1,200 consumer complaints in April 2020 regarding overpriced face masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies during the pandemic.

Some stores were charging $26 for thermometers, $39.95 for face masks and $10 for a roll of toilet paper, charging over triple what the original retail price was, according to the Associated Press News.

Situations like these are excused as simple supply and demand, and have become normalized.

Surges in retail should be better mitigated by state officials, and loopholes that companies like Uber can use to take advantage of customers should be squashed legally.

If a system can be manipulated to exploit vulnerable consumers, the system should be fixed.