How online retailers are handling the COVID-19 gold rush


There is high demand online for disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer facemasks. Things people hope will prevent corona virus so much though that we've seen inflated prices for those items on Amazon and Ebay even on Walmart's online store in places like oetzi other online sellers are making claims that certain products will help. When there's no proof they actually will. Amazon has removed over a million items from third party sellers and says it's working with officials in multiple states to prosecute the quote worst offenders for price gouging on corona virus related items and Ebay is blocking new listings of disinfecting wipes and ninety five surgical masks and hand. Sanitizer LOUISE Metaxas covers online platforms for wired. I think the Ebay story says two things. One Ebay doesn't really have the capacity to handle this on a listing by listening. So they're just like you know we're not going to deal with this anymore and then secondly I think it points to how these platforms are really responsive to public relations. Crises doesn't sell something that a bunch of people are really upset about Amazon doesn't either but I think that Amazon is more willing to kind of go listing by listing. And try and take a scalpel at this rather than a hammer and Ebay is just like we can't even we don't have the capacity to even deal with this right now. What ABOUT AMAZON? Does it actually have the resources to sort of scalpels this problem in the near future and beyond? I honestly don't think so. I'm still seeing a lot of price. Gouging still seeing a lot of misleading listings for the kinds of face masks. That actually won't protect you from the virus so I think that these issues are going to continue to be a problem and I think that they show that just like social platforms how to respond to misinformation about a public health crisis. These e commerce platforms also have to figure out how to have like a very controlled response. I think that this is one of the first big crises where these ECOMMERCE platforms have had to figure out a content moderation strategy just like the social platforms. Have it and I don't know if they were really ready for that in the same way. I wonder if this is an an arena where it like with so many things with tech platforms some regulation would help you know a tech platforms have resisted a lot of regulation and oversight but I wonder if they might be just. It would be helpful for them to have a rule to follow. Instead of having to sort of like going to a secret boardroom and make a role. Actually think that that's a great idea. I've gotten a ton of emails from people who work in contracting and construction because they actually need to wear these masks to do their job by law and a lot of places I mean. They can't get a hold of so they're contracting jobs. That are on hold right now because they can actually get the supplies that they need those sorts of unintended consequences or the sorts of things that regulation can prepare for ahead of time. I think that'd be great. It also makes it a lot easier for Amazon to make this decision very quickly. And not have you know. Pushback from their cellars or pushback from consumers. And they can just point off the regulators and say this is already a pre made decision and we're following the regulation rather than having to exactly scrambling come up with their own piecemeal decisions here which I think is is really ineffective and creates a lot of backlash for them. I think they would actually welcome. Not and then as a result of course we're seeing sellers inflate prices and other sellers even offering products that they say will guard against Krona virus when they actually won't right. How widespread is this sort of generalized? Misbehavior with complicated here is that there are legitimate. Supply chain issues. As well. So on one hand I think there are opportunistic sellers who are trying to kind of Jack up the price of hand sanitizer Jack Up. The price of face masks to entice. Shoppers were scared and willing to pay more than they usually would. But I think that there are also issues where I've heard from sellers were saying that distributors are actually raising their list prices. Because they're having trouble getting a hold of stock or they're having trouble actually producing these goods at the level of which their demand. So I think that you are seeing some legitimate supply and demand issues here. In addition to opportunistic people who are trying to make a off of a crisis. So I think this is a really kind of you know multifaceted issue and it's not a simple just like. Oh you know this guy wants to make a bunch of money off people who want to sanitize their hands more than usual. It's also that this. Is this really complicated? Supply chain that we've created where people are accustomed to going on Amazon and getting something cheap in you know as little as twenty four hours to their doorstep when that's not possible you kind of see the cracks in the infrastructure here where there are legitimate issues. Where within China? Where was the epicenter of the virus? Originally where all these factories are. Where a lot of things I can't sanitizer and mass are actually created so. I think that they're kind of more issues here than you might expect. From a from a supply chain perspective

Coming up next