NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A mom-and-pop shop in SoHo says it plans to fight a $14,000 fine from the city, which accused them of price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic.
The city says it takes this very seriously, but the shop says they have receipts to prove they are not taking advantage of their customers.
“I was in a state of shock. I screamed,” said Jolie Alony, owner of Thompson Chemists.
Alony says she and her husband, Gary, have not slept since opening the letter from the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs fining their business $14,250.
“I can’t pay my rent. To do something, to get a fine, to pay something ridiculous … It’s awful. It makes you want to shut your door,” she said.
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The department says it issued Thompson Chemists in SoHo has 57 violations for price gouging during the pandemic for several items like disinfecting wipes and thermometers.
An inspector visited the store on July 15.
“No, I was not price gouging. I was going off of an invoice,” Jolie Alony said.
Their invoice, or bill from their supplier, shows they bought a three-pack of wipes for $42, or $14 each. They’re now selling each for $20. They’re selling thermometers for $16, when they bought them for about $8. They say they used to buy thermometers for about $5 and sell them for $10.
The Department of Consumer Affairs says if a business is paying more to obtain the items themselves, they must provide proof and any increase in cost to the customer must be comparable. So if a business was charged $2 more, they can’t then charge a customer $10 more, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
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The Alonys say they offered to show the inspector their bills on the spot, but she refused. The department says inspectors do not review bills – their job is to issue violations if they believe a price is excessive, based on department research.
“We’re not sneaky. We’re not thieves. We’re here to help the community,” Jolie Alony said.
Gary Alony is a cancer survivor who had pacemaker surgery in February. He says between worrying about the coronavirus and recent looting in the neighborhood, their sales at just 10% of normal. Adding a $14,000 fine is the last thing they need, he says.
“You’re guilty until proven innocent in this case,” he said.
They plan to fight at a hearing in September.
The city says if they have proof they did not price gouge, the violations will be dismissed.