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Hand Sanitizer Price Gouging or Social Media Overreaction?

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Z Skin Cosmetics has found itself in the midst of price gouging accusations.

There is no doubt that price gouging is all too real amid severe demand surges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. One brand, however, claims its good deed has been unfairly caught up in pandemic cancel culture.

Related: How to communicate with consumers in a pandemic.

Z Skin Cosmetics recently launched its Simply Hand Sanitizer (120 ml/$9.99). The brand claims that an unspecified Facebook post subsequently led to consumer complaints about price gouging and led to its e-commmerce site being banned by the platform. (Price gouging, according to the State of California for instance, is regarded as raising a product's price over 10% in a crisis.) The brand's other social platforms were similarly impacted.

Z Skin Cosmetics claims its retail price narrowly covers production costs and that it had actually lowered its prices ahead of the complaints.

"It's unfortunate actually," said brand founder Ryan Zamo. "All we did was post a picture of our Simply Hand Sanitizer saying that we're donating bottles to local hospitals and health care workers in need, we linked it back to our site, so people would know what it was ... It literally caused an avalanche of angry comments from thousands of people. Suddenly, we're being accused of price gouging and being told we're terrible for trying to take advantage of people, all because we sell our hand sanitizer for $9.99 ... I spent more time deleting angry comments than working last week."

Zamo added, "I understand that the price may be high for a large brand like Purell, but we're a small business, and unfortunately, we don't have the means to get our prices that low."