Tennessee man who stockpiled hand sanitizer donates 17,700 bottles ahead of investigation

A Tennessee man who went viral after stockpiling 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer donated all of the products Sunday after Tennessee officials announced they would investigate him for price gouging amid the coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 160,000 people worldwide.

A local church took two-thirds of the supply of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes from Matt Colvin, an Amazon seller who lives outside Chattanooga, Tenn. The church will distribute the supplies to those who need the products across the state, The New York Times reported.

Officials from the attorney general’s office in Tennessee took the other third of the supply, which they will give to the attorney general’s office in Kentucky, where some of the products were purchased earlier this month, according to the outlet.

Colvin and his brother Noah Colvin purchased thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes at stores large and small in Kentucky and Tennessee beginning March 1, the day after the first coronavirus death in the United States was announced. 

Colvin sold 300 bottles of the hand sanitizer at a markup on Amazon, the Times reported. The company later pulled his items and thousands of other sanitary products, warning sellers that they could be suspended from the site for price gouging.

After the Times’s initial report on the brothers Saturday, thousands of social media users called out Colvin for stockpiling the products Americans are searching for during the coronavirus pandemic. Some contacted Colvin with threatening messages, and his address was posted online. One man began banging on his door Saturday night, the Tennessee man shared with the newspaper.

Colvin apologized for purchasing all of the products Sunday, saying that he did not realize the spread of the coronavirus outbreak or the shortage of sanitary products across the country.

“I’ve been buying and selling things for 10 years now. There’s been hot product after hot product. But the thing is, there’s always another one on the shelf,” Colvin told the Times. “When we did this trip, I had no idea that these stores wouldn’t be able to get replenished.” 

“It was never my intention to keep necessary medical supplies out of the hands of people who needed them,” he continued. “That’s not who I am as a person. And all I’ve been told for the last 48 hours is how much of that person I am.” 

Amazon and eBay suspended his accounts on the sites Sunday. The Tennessee attorney general’s office also sent him a cease-and-desist letter over the products, the office announced in a Saturday statement.

“We will not tolerate price gouging in this time of exceptional need, and we will take aggressive action to stop it,” Attorney General Herbert Slatery III of Tennessee said in the statement

Under Tennessee law, the attorney general’s office can “put a stop to price gouging and seek refunds for consumers,” according to the release.  

However, Colvin and his brother bought the products before Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) declared a state of emergency on March 12, which put the price gouging law into place. Colvin also did not sell anything after the state of emergency was declared, the Times reported. 

In the U.S. alone, there have been at least 3,487 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 62 deaths. Around the world, there have been more than 166,000 confirmed infections, and at least 6,302 people have died.

Tags Coronavirus

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