Greedy retailers attempting to profit off the pandemic by overcharging customers for hot coronavirus commodities have racked up a hefty bill with the city Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, the agency said.
From March 5 through Wednesday, inspectors issued 7,600 price-gouging violations in stores from Manhattan to Queens selling goods like cleaning spray, cold and flu medication, hand sanitizer and protective masks and gloves at up to a 150 percent markup.
With fines running as high as $500, the violators could owe the city nearly $4 million.
Trump Pharmacy — no relation to the president — in Jackson Heights is facing an $11,000 penalty for hawking cans of disinfectant spray for up to $24, according to one complainant.
“I asked the man behind the counter if they had Lysol disinfectant spray. He reached down into a box behind the counter and produced a 19 oz. can of Lysol disinfectant spray and stated that the price was $24.00,” George Ptacek wrote to Councilman Daniel Dromm.
When city inspectors visited on Thursday, they found a $22 can, a 16-count pack of Dayquil Cold and Flu for $14.99, a 12-ounce pack of Nyquil for $17.99, and a box of 20 Mucinex DM for $22.95. No one at the business could be reached for comment.
It’s among 10,100 businesses New Yorkers have complained about for price-gouging since the pandemic began.
The agency has filed lawsuits against seven retailers who refuse to comply, even after they were issued violations.
Metro Drugs on Third Avenue is facing a $37,500 suit for 75 price-gouging violations, including selling 20 N95 masks for $400 to an inspector on March 7. When the DCWP went back on March 11, Metro Drugs had knocked the price in half, but still well above the “normal market fluctuations” the DCWP requires businesses to follow.
The store claims to have finally ditched the dirty dealing.
“No, no not at all,” said Vinnie Ognibene, assistant director of pharmacy, when asked if the store was still selling N95s. “All of that was from back in middle March. That’s old news, unfortunately.”
These businesses were cited by the city for price-gouging:
- Trump Pharmacy, 85-26 37th Ave., Jackson Heights: 19 oz can of Lysol, $24
- Metro Drugs 3rd Ave. Corp., 931 Lexington Ave., Upper East Side: 20-pack of N95s, $400
- Hong Kong Supermarket, 157 Hester St., Lower East Side: 24-pack of CVS-brand hand wipes, $38
- Thomas Drugs, Inc., 171 Columbus Ave., Upper West Side: 20-count Mucinex DM, $21.99
- Flannery Home Store, 3395 E. Tremont Ave., Schuylerville: 33-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer, $45