CBS 2 Confronts Business Owners Accused Of Price Gouging In Wake Of Storms
HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — After the one-two punch of Superstorm Sandy and the nor’easter, many homeowners are on the hunt for supplies and repair work.
But as CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey reported Friday, some customers complained that vendors are showing no pity — and unreasonably raised their prices.
Dry ice is a commodity typically costing a buck or two a pound.
But just before Superstorm Sandy, Perry Ritter said he got sticker shock when he tried to buy 10 pounds of it.
“He said, ‘Well, $75.’ I said ‘$75???’ My wife just flipped out. She said ‘What do you mean $75? What are you gouging?’” Ritter told CBS 2’s Hennessey on Friday.
Ritter and his wife said they went to Tullo Ice in Hasbrouck Heights, and claimed the salesman immediately dropped the price of the dry ice to $35, which Ritter paid.
“Their defense was well we’re the only ones that have this. That’s why we can get what we want,” Ritter said, adding when asked if the company really said that, “Yeah, yeah.”
Hennessey went to owner William Tullo for some answers.
“We never price gouge or excessive pricing ever,” Tullo said.
Tullo said his company, which has a complaint of price gouging against it with the state’s Attorney General’s Office, would never take advantage of customers, but he did admit his prices did increase just before Sandy came ashore.
Hennessey: “What were you charging pre-Sandy for dry ice?”
Tullo: “Various prices.”
Hennessey: “Give me an example.”
Tullo: “I can’t. I can’t. You’re asking me a lot of questions. I can’t incriminate myself.”
Hennessey: “Incriminate yourself? That would suggest you’re doing something wrong.”
Tullo: “I’m not doing anything wrong. I’d never charged $35 for 10 pounds.”
Hennessey: “What would you charge for 10 pounds?”
Tullo: “Ten dollars, in the storm $20.”
In Rockland County, Watson Morgan said he was looking at the damage to his yard and to his wallet after paying more than $700 to replace a chimney cover blown off by Sandy.
“It shouldn’t have cost that much,” Morgan said, adding when asked he felt ripped off, “Absolutely.”
Morgan said his was a $200 job tops, but with Wednesday’s nor’easter bearing down and a hole in his roof, there were few options but to get a chimney cover.
“They’re not available in the stores right now, so they have you over a barrel,” Morgan said.
Morgan said Gary’s Gutter Service of Congers was the company that took him over the barrel, for minimal work.
“The guy was gone in 10 minutes,” Morgan said.
Hennessey found Gary, himself, at his home, but he wasn’t interested in talking prices.
Hennessey: “I want to talk to you about the prices you’ve been charging. We talked to a customer who …”
Gary: “I can’t talk.”
Hennessey: “You can talk. Gary, you don’t want to back up your prices?”
Hennessey called a half dozen companies to compare prices, and while some said they’d have to send someone out to look at the chimney to give a good estimate, those who gave prices over the phone ranged anywhere from $100 plus tax to $175 plus tax, nothing like what Gary’s Gutter Service was said to be charging, which was more than three times that amount.
Morgan said he called Gary’s Gutter Service of Congers for an explanation but had yet to hear back.
In Sandy’s aftermath, it’s definitely buyer beware.
Have you witnessed price gouging by area businesses? Please tell us about it in the comments section below …