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NY Attorney General Subpoenas Craigslist For Post-Sandy Price Gougers 458

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-the-market-will-bear dept.
TheSync writes "In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the New York State Attorney General has subpoenaed Craigslist, demanding that the site identify more than 100 sellers whose prices on post-Sandy gas, generators and other supplies were of an 'unconscionably excessive price' during an emergency. AG Eric Schneiderman said: 'Our office has zero tolerance for price gouging [and] will do everything we can to stop unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives.'"
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NY Attorney General Subpoenas Craigslist For Post-Sandy Price Gougers

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  • Morons. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 08, 2012 @07:22PM (#41925947)

    Price controls have exactly the same effect in an emergency that they have at any other time. If you prohibit higher gas prices, you guarantee shortages.

    • Re:Morons. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by russotto (537200) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @07:52PM (#41926289) Journal

      You know what else guarantees shortages? FEMA diverting shipments from gas stations to FEMA and state distribution points, where it gets doled out for free to the politically connected. Plenty of gas at the one near my house (and it's available all the time, though the gas stations are closed after 6pm whether they have fuel or no fuel by order of our fascist mayor), none for regular old peons.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yeah, damn those politically connected fire departments and utility workers!
        • by russotto (537200)
          Ha ha. No fire trucks or utility trucks to be found at the place I'm talking about.
    • Re:Morons. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by berashith (222128) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @07:58PM (#41926361)

      apparently they tried to stop shortages by outlawing "hoarding". They arrested a guy and confiscated gasoline because he collected from neighbors and went beyond the gas shortages to bring back gas to them. The big screw up on his side was putting it in non-gas approved containers, but the charge was actually hoarding supplies.

      • Re:Morons. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by causality (777677) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @08:12PM (#41926545)

        apparently they tried to stop shortages by outlawing "hoarding". They arrested a guy and confiscated gasoline because he collected from neighbors and went beyond the gas shortages to bring back gas to them. The big screw up on his side was putting it in non-gas approved containers, but the charge was actually hoarding supplies.

        His "crime" was showing by his example how passive and lazy most other people were. Most people who are embarassed by a better example seek revenge, as though their lackluster ability to plan for eventualities is the fault of anyone else; this is just a collective form of such childishness codified into law. Too many think the government is going to make it all better so they don't keep some emergency supplies on hand to be prepared, even when they could afford to. It's not that they are so stupid. It's that they feel so privileged, that concern for their own well-being should be someone else's job.

        Incidentally, getting what you can and then sharing it with your neighbors is the very opposite of hoarding. Not only should the charge be thrown out, the law enforcement officer who issued it should be fired.

        • Re:Morons. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by immaterial (1520413) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @09:04PM (#41927047)
          Umm, no. His crime was filling 30 5-gallon Home Depot buckets with gas, because Home Depot buckets are not made for or approved for holding/transporting gasoline. But don't let that get in the way of your (and the GP's) conspiracy theories.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by causality (777677)

            Umm, no. His crime was filling 30 5-gallon Home Depot buckets with gas, because Home Depot buckets are not made for or approved for holding/transporting gasoline. But don't let that get in the way of your (and the GP's) conspiracy theories.

            Conspiracy theories? Maybe there is a conspiracy preventing you from comprehending what you read. See the post I originally replied to? Well, you see, it contained this line:

            The big screw up on his side was putting it in non-gas approved containers, but the charge was actually hoarding supplies.

            Feel free to peruse the original post [slashdot.org] to which I replied, if you don't believe me. The charge was hoarding supplies. The charge was NOT incorrect containers for gasoline (which I agree is a bad, unsafe idea but as I have now spelled out for you, is completely irrelevant).

            And really, man, conspiracy theory? Really?? Are you so

        • Re:Morons. (Score:5, Informative)

          by darkmeridian (119044) <william@chuang.gmail@com> on Thursday November 08, 2012 @09:35PM (#41927293) Homepage

          Please read this article, look at the picture, and tell me you think the cop was wrong. [nbcconnecticut.com] The charge was violating the law on the handling of gasoline. This moron poured 150 gallons of gasoline into regular Home Depot buckets. By the time he was arrested, the tops of the covers were bulging. Yeah, that's dangerous because gasoline burns ... and gasoline vapors EXPLODE.

      • No, the actual charge was putting 150 gallons of gasoline into buckets, whose covers were bulging from vapor build up when he was arrested. Seriously, this was dangerous, and he was lucky he didn't blow himself up. [nbcconnecticut.com] Look at the pictures.

    • by Alomex (148003)

      Assuming there are reduced supplies. This seems to be the case here but in others it is not always the case, like in the Irish potato famine, which took place while the granaries of England we full.

    • Price controls have exactly the same effect in an emergency that they have at any other time. If you prohibit higher gas prices, you guarantee shortages.

      The NY AG is a politician. He just wants to be on record, and in the news, as "doing something" about price gouging. Whether that "something" is helpful, useless or counter productive does not really matter to voters. Politicians in the US seem to be graded on their stated intentions not their actual results.

      • Politicians in the US seem to be graded on their stated intentions not their actual results.

        This is so true. Reagan massively increased the size of the government and ran up huge deficits. Bill Clinton kicked millions off of welfare, and balanced the budget. Yet Reagan is champion of the right, and Clinton of the left, because their talk was the opposite of their actions.

  • Looking for gasoline, post-refinery-fire that is excessively expensive, and consists of price gouging....

    90% of the people in CA would loveit.

    • Haha I was thinking something similar. They're after price gougers in the aftermath of a natural disaster, but the everyday gougers walk free.

      Some nanny state.
      • The outcome will be the same, exactly nothing. This is just bluster, these guys aren't really going to do anything.
      • by causality (777677)

        Haha I was thinking something similar. They're after price gougers in the aftermath of a natural disaster, but the everyday gougers walk free. Some nanny state.

        An emergency situation lowers the barriers to entry; now anyone with a little foresight who can plan ahead (a minority, but anyone who wants to can do it) can do it. But it's spontaneous and it isn't business as usual. So it stands out.

        Everyday gougers tend to be politically connected. They tend to have lobbyists. The very finest example is the RIAA - once an initial investment is made, their cost to make perfect copies is marginal at most. The rest is entirely artificial scarcity. So they made cer

    • The day after power was lost here in Long Island, there were guys selling 5 gallon cans of gas for $50, and people were buying!
      • by vux984 (928602)

        That's less than double the regular price around here. Expensive, sure, but 'unconscionable gouging' doesn't really fit.

        • No offense meant, guys. Here in the U.S., a 5 gallon can of gas should cost less than $25.00, we are spoiled here. That's the reality though, and here it is considered 'gouging'.
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @07:24PM (#41925975) Journal
    How horrible that all those people were forced to buy from Craigslist sellers at excessively high prices...
  • Supply and demand (Score:5, Informative)

    by JBMcB (73720) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @07:33PM (#41926077)

    If I remember the first thing we learned in Macro 101 correctly, if supply goes down, price remains the same and demand remains the same or increases, you run out of supply pretty quickly.

    If you increase prices, you can afford to resell more expensive gas, trucking it in from further out of state.

    What would you rather have: expensive gas, or cheap but non-existent gas?

    • by sjames (1099)

      That's not gouging, that's just costs resulting in a higher price. Gouging is when you increase your margin (sometimes by orders of magnitude) in order to take advantage of people being desperate and shell shocked. It results in miss-allocation of resources.

      They're not talking about $10 or $15/gallon gas trucked in, they're talking about $120/gallon gas.

    • by aXis100 (690904)

      No-one is arguing that goods are more difficult to come by in an emercency, and suppliers often have higher costs when source goods. It is normal and reasonable to then pass those costs on to the consumers.

      The issue is when the price increase far outweighs the increased costs, and becomes "'unconscionably excessive". Given the emergency nature, this is hugely immoral.

      • by tmosley (996283)
        That immorality insures continued supply. Human beings are motivated by profits, primarily. If there is a lot of money to be made, it will make people get off their asses and get to providing. Stupid laws like this discourage people from doing so, meaning that only those who skirt the law will fill the void, raising prices and introducing violence, fraud, etc.

        You have to understand that everything you think you know about morality is just plain wrong. Backwards. Destructive. But who cares, at least
    • The interesting thing about this whole episode is that, despite no obvious interventions by the state, the market itself failed to raise prices to clear the market. [marginalrevolution.com]

      In shortages like this, the logistics of gasoline make it difficult to really up capacity even by significant price raises. The gasoline market is highly segmented. It's not very easy to divert supplies from elsewhere and ship gasoline in the quantities needed, unlike with things like food and water.

      What "price gouging" can do, however, is
    • by Bigby (659157)

      It was stupid. I am in Jersey City. One of the most affected gas shortage areas.

      If I owned a gas station, I would have turned it into a "club" gas station. I would have charged $50 to enter my property for the right to buy gas. Then charge normal price. Price gouging is the best way to handle the situation. Like you said, it would have made all the suppliers send gas to the area, because it would have been more profitible for them. But instead you enforce this idea of "government only" solutions: pri

    • by Type44Q (1233630)

      Reminds me of the toiletpaper and gas shortages in the Soviet Union; often times the only way to get the stuff was on the black market...

  • by ebonum (830686) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @07:37PM (#41926123)

    What about Ebay auctions? Are they going to come after me when buyers overpay for the stuff I'm selling?

    Perhaps the government should set prices on everything to keep things simple.

  • by bennomatic (691188) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @07:44PM (#41926195) Homepage
    This is exactly what was wrong with Romney et al's stance on FEMA. If there's a profit motive, then you're going to get the highest possible cost for the least possible value of goods and services. Where there's reasonable infrastructure, competition can reduce that, but a post-hurricane disaster zone is more likely to resemble turf-based economies (drugs, prostitution) than it is to resemble truly competitive markets (e.g. bazaars).

    If your kid is at home coughing up a lung due to a flu and there's no heat in the house, and if phone lines and emergency services are basically unavailable because of the greater circumstance, you're going to buy that last can of chicken soup from your corner market rather than shopping around for a better deal further away. Call it supply and demand if you will, but shopkeepers who engaged in price gouging are profiteering off of others' misery, plain and simple, and there should be consequences.

    On the other hand, there are stories of great generosity, like the pizzeria that kept making pies throughout the peak of the crisis, and gave away something on the order of 1000 pizzas to hungry families and emergency workers. That business deserves to prosper. I hope that some anonymous millionaire hands them an envelope containing ten times the profit they would have made had they sold all those pizzas. Hell, maybe FEMA should cut them a check for helping out. At the very least, they should be able to write those costs off for tax purposes.
    • by PrimaryConsult (1546585) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @08:02PM (#41926425)

      you're going to buy that last can of chicken soup from your corner market rather than shopping around for a better deal further away

      Except, when prices are allowed to rise, if you *really need* that can it is still available. If the store is forced to keep it at their normal price, the can would have been gone hours before you got there, to some random person who could have done just as well with a can of ravioli.

      • by Solandri (704621)
        On top of that, higher prices help hasten the recovery. If the price of canned food is allowed to rise in the disaster area, some enterprising person outside but nearby the disaster area is going to head to his local supermarket, buy 500 cans of food for $2/ea, load then into his pickup truck, drive 100 miles to the disaster area, and sell them for $4/ea. The area now has 500 more cans of food than if you'd forced the price to remain at $3/ea. If the price went up to $10/ea, then you'd have hundreds if n
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      At the very least, they should be able to write those costs off for tax purposes.

      This is a common misconception. They could write off those costs for tax purposes if they made 1000 pizzas and dumped them in the garbage, or if they took $1000 in cash and set it on fire.

      Businesses are taxed on the amount they take in minus the amount they spend. So, any kind of spending reduces their taxes, regardless of purpose. Now, for some purposes they could get other kinds of tax benefits like reductions in property taxes or state sales taxes on their purchases.

    • by superwiz (655733)
      You are an idiot. The only way to take advantage of the problem is to provide a solution. The only way to make a lot of money on providing a solution is to provide a solution where no other solution exists. These people provided gas which wasn't available from any other source. They deserved whatever money they charged.
  • If these were ads from storefront businesses then the AG should get involved, but if it was private individuals reselling items at a market price then I don't see a real case here for prosecution. I own a hardware store and we have been crazy busy these past two weeks trying to keep up with demand for batteries, gas cans, generators, extension cords, and other storm goods. Our prices are the same today as they were a month ago, and in fact some of our batteries are on sale and we kept them on sale. I know of a few stores that did raise their prices on generators and some other goods, seems like a poor decision as the customer will likely find out later (or already knew) and will remember that price gouge when choosing where to shop during "normal" times.

  • Oh really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@ovi. c o m> on Thursday November 08, 2012 @08:09PM (#41926521) Homepage

    And how about pharmaceutical companies that charge $1000s for pills that cost less than the plastic bottle they come in? Want real price gauging?

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Thursday November 08, 2012 @09:24PM (#41927193) Journal
    ... then sell the same stuff that people are being gouged on at a lower price.
  • Everybody who solves a problem takes advantage of the fact that the problem exists. If the private merchants solved the problem that NY state could not, the state owes them a thank you -- not a subpoena. Oh, and what an ass hole.
  • The AG knows full well he is morally wrong to charge people who provided solutions which the state could not provide. Otherwise, he would have subpoenaed these records before the election.

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