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NY Attorney General Subpoenas Craigslist For Post-Sandy Price Gougers

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the what-the-market-will-bear dept.

Crime 458

TheSync writes "In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the New York State Attorney General has subpoenaed Craigslist, demanding that the site identify more than 100 sellers whose prices on post-Sandy gas, generators and other supplies were of an 'unconscionably excessive price' during an emergency. AG Eric Schneiderman said: 'Our office has zero tolerance for price gouging [and] will do everything we can to stop unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives.'"

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458 comments

Morons. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41925947)

Price controls have exactly the same effect in an emergency that they have at any other time. If you prohibit higher gas prices, you guarantee shortages.

Re:Morons. (1)

Bigby (659157) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926079)

I know. They were going to have no gas because it was too cheap and supply was low. Or they can have some gas because it is really expensive. Either way, most people aren't getting gas.

Re:Morons. (-1)

Zalbik (308903) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926421)

I know. They were going to have no gas because it was too cheap and supply was low. Or they can have some gas because it is really expensive. Either way, most people aren't getting gas.

Huh?

If the gas was cheap, many would buy it. So they would have gas. With the price gouging the prices are exorbitantly high, so few can obtain it.

These people increased the scarcity of these items (buy buying large quantities for themselves) to try to extort money from people who needed them. Regardless of what your hero Ayn might think, a completely free enterprise doesn't always work.

Re:Morons. (4, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926495)

When gas is cheap, many use it incorrectly (for an emergency scenario); idling for an hour to "keep the engine warm", using it for lighter fluid, driving a block away, etc. when it's expensive, it's treated as precious.

Re:Morons. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926481)

I know. They were going to have no gas because it was too cheap and supply was low. Or they can have some gas because it is really expensive. Either way, most people aren't getting gas.

it's just another form of political correctness. emotion where logic is most needed (a crisis). feel-good bullshit that either accomplishes nothing or is predictably counterproductive. i wish they would identify this as a disease and admit the USA has a pandemi of this contagious mental disease. then we could inoculate people with some logic and critical thinking, maybe also some basic economics, make them immune to the disease. but of course the people who could make that happen are politicians and they benefit from not changing it.

but hey "we go after those EVIL price gougers!" sounds good to the dumb and shallow, and theres lots of those, so if NY elects attorneys general most of the constituents will eat this shit up. just like the "tough on crime" politicians who are so big and so badass that they throw non-violent and otherwise law-abiding people in jail for smokin a joint even though they have victimized nobody. at least colorado has recognized the tyranny of telling people how they may deal with their own bodies and states of consciousness.

sorry but a nation where never offending anybody is considered the highest virtue doesn't deserve to prosper. and it won't. lots of life situations are anything but inoffensive and requires grown-ups who act like grown-ups to handle them. politicial correctness is a way to be emotionally like a two-year-old without having to admit it, paint it like a virtue instead, yeah that is double-plus-good.

Re:Morons. (4, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926289)

You know what else guarantees shortages? FEMA diverting shipments from gas stations to FEMA and state distribution points, where it gets doled out for free to the politically connected. Plenty of gas at the one near my house (and it's available all the time, though the gas stations are closed after 6pm whether they have fuel or no fuel by order of our fascist mayor), none for regular old peons.

Re:Morons. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926447)

Yeah, damn those politically connected fire departments and utility workers!

Re:Morons. (3, Interesting)

berashith (222128) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926361)

apparently they tried to stop shortages by outlawing "hoarding". They arrested a guy and confiscated gasoline because he collected from neighbors and went beyond the gas shortages to bring back gas to them. The big screw up on his side was putting it in non-gas approved containers, but the charge was actually hoarding supplies.

Re:Morons. (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926545)

apparently they tried to stop shortages by outlawing "hoarding". They arrested a guy and confiscated gasoline because he collected from neighbors and went beyond the gas shortages to bring back gas to them. The big screw up on his side was putting it in non-gas approved containers, but the charge was actually hoarding supplies.

His "crime" was showing by his example how passive and lazy most other people were. Most people who are embarassed by a better example seek revenge, as though their lackluster ability to plan for eventualities is the fault of anyone else; this is just a collective form of such childishness codified into law. Too many think the government is going to make it all better so they don't keep some emergency supplies on hand to be prepared, even when they could afford to. It's not that they are so stupid. It's that they feel so privileged, that concern for their own well-being should be someone else's job.

Incidentally, getting what you can and then sharing it with your neighbors is the very opposite of hoarding. Not only should the charge be thrown out, the law enforcement officer who issued it should be fired.

Re:Morons. (1)

Alomex (148003) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926503)

Assuming there are reduced supplies. This seems to be the case here but in others it is not always the case, like in the Irish potato famine, which took place while the granaries of England we full.

Re:Morons. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926681)

So either I can't get gas because there's a shortage, or I can't afford gas because the price was too high. No difference to me. However, it is somewhat reassuring to know that some sleazy asshole isn't pocketing excessive profits off of misery in the former case.

Its a political stunt ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926903)

Price controls have exactly the same effect in an emergency that they have at any other time. If you prohibit higher gas prices, you guarantee shortages.

The NY AG is a politician. He just wants to be on record, and in the news, as "doing something" about price gouging. Whether that "something" is helpful, useless or counter productive does not really matter to voters. Politicians in the US seem to be graded on their stated intentions not their actual results.

Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41925949)

or just pandering bluster for the nit wits?

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (2, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#41925989)

Buying up stuff at retail after a disaster and reselling it at huge markups is not free enterprise

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926073)

So when at what point are the supply and demand curves "illegal"?

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926265)

At the point where they are artificial, and umm, "unconscionable"
For scumbags who don't know what unconscionable means, we have courtrooms available to explain it to them.

Taking advantage of other people's pain is not viewed as favorably as it is in Russia. But what do I know, I'm a right wing nut job who believes in God and ethics and irrelevant crap like this.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (2)

blade8086 (183911) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926373)

Evidently, in New York, when they involve:

a) hurricanes
b) large sodas
c) trans fats
d) taxicabs

but not when they involve:

a) Facebook IPO valuations
b) High frequency Trading
c) Fake watches, purses, etc. south of Houston St.

Everything else is determined by a thumb war between Mayor Bloomberg and an 19 year old russian model from Brighton Beach
who is 6'2" and weighs 2.35lbs, Referreed by Bill Clinton and an overweight Jewish Malcom X impersonator named Herschel.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (0)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926791)

This is not Home Depot marking up prices

These are scumbags going to Home Depot buying up all the generators and reselling them to people too busy cleaning out the ruins of their homes or trying to feed their kids

Legit businesses will try to increase their supply with msrp prices at the most in times like this

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926089)

What part of it do you think isn't compatible with the government placing few restrictions on the activities and ownership of businesses?

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (5, Insightful)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926105)

How is it not exactly? It really is kind of text book free enterprise. That is taking advantage of the market when it benefits you most and guarantees the highest rate of return on your investment.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (3, Funny)

DriedClexler (814907) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926169)

I guess most of free enterprise isn't free enterprise then.

"How *dare* you buy up food from farms on the cheap just to sell at a fat retail markup, just to profit off of people who can't make it out to the farms to buy their food!"

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926855)

I know you were smiling as you were typing this and thought you were being quite clever. The only thing you've done, being the average drone on Slashdot is expose how little you know about anything.
You don't know anything about actual farm costs, amortizations and subsidies.
You know less about legislated retail markups.
And nothing of transportation costs or who pays for them.
You are an average big mouth American who has spent too much time in school and not enough time doing anything useful. But you have been told that your vote counts! Which is why you keep shooting your big mouth off about things you aren't qualified to offer your priceless advice.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926879)

"How dare you complain that I've gotten monopoly contracts from all the farmer, and now you can't get any!"

"How dare you complain that I've released locusts after harvesting my farms, and created a famine!"

Keep trying, keep trying.

Maybe one day, you'll learn to avoid the petty fallacies.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (1, Interesting)

RajivSLK (398494) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926189)

Allowing price gouging post disaster can be very dangerous because it exacerbates any shortages. No only are people in need vying for scare resources but price gougers who buy and hold much more than they individually need in an effort to reap a profit on resale. This causes more gouging and hoarding as people become scared that prices will increase. The ultimate result is that people will go without and possibly die while resources go unused.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (1)

Bigby (659157) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926491)

That makes no sense. Raising the prices actually preserves the supply. In either situation, a lot of people won't be getting gas. But with gouging, you at least have the option.

Also, with high prices, it makes it more profitable to redirect supplies to the disaster area. If you have price controls, the incentive to bring supply in is not there. You may actually lose money because of the risk of driving into a disaster area.

Under your scenario, a lot of people bought the gas on the cheap and hoarded it anyway. So it still went unused. And when a true emergency happens and they need gas, the retail store won't have any to sell.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (1)

RajivSLK (398494) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926633)

Gouging is not 100% efficient- gouger's will inevitably buy and store more than they sell and still make a profit. Furthermore gouging causes people to hoard. If I know that gas will remain a roughly the same price it is now and likely return to normal in a week or so, I am probably just going to fill the tanks in all my cars and maybe get a small jerrycan before the storm. If I think gas will rocket to $20/gallon after the storm I am going to buy a 500 gallon tank rush to the pumps and suck them dry before everybody else does.

Our behavior will create massive shortages, nothing like what we currently see. Creating an incentive to direct supplies to a disaster area is something that government can do far more efficiently than price gouging.

Also, we haven't even talked about those people who can't afford increased prices. Those people would certainly go without in a gouging scenario. In a large disaster I would imagine that would result in civil unrest, increase crime and violence.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926689)

That makes no sense. Raising the prices actually preserves the supply. In either situation, a lot of people won't be getting gas.
 
Yes. It preserves the supply for the 1%. Fuck the poor.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926909)

Allowing price gouging post disaster can be very dangerous because it exacerbates any shortages. No only are people in need vying for scare resources but price gougers who buy and hold much more than they individually need in an effort to reap a profit on resale. This causes more gouging and hoarding as people become scared that prices will increase. The ultimate result is that people will go without and possibly die while resources go unused.

Yeah, but these are also "gougers" who will sustain a 100% loss if no one can buy what they are selling. It is in the "gouger's" best interests to set a price that the market will bear, even if that price fails the criteria of "higher than RajivSLK would approve of".

If a scalper prices his concert tickets at $100 billion each, he is going to lose whatever he invested in buying the tickets. The concert will end before he could possibly sell them - total loss. Food etc. will expire and become inedible before the "gouger" can sell them - total loss. Gasoline will either expire or we will recover from the disaster and return to normal markets before the "gouger" can sell the gas - huge loss for the "gouger". Huge losses up to 100%, and more than 100% if you include opportunity cost and wasted time, well those do not attract self-interested sellers.

Again this is basic economics. Prices are mostly determined by two things. Supply and demand primarily, and secondarily, what the market will bear. Markets tend towards an equilibrium. "Gougers" who get too greedy end up with nothing.

The very best way to avoid being "gouged" is to stop trying to control entire markets and everybody in them. Instead, have at least a few days of critical supplies on hand at all times. When times are good and shit is cheap, stock up. Then you can weather the storm. Only the sheeple wait until the hurricane is battering their town to think about privisions. Any extra money they pay to "gougers" is merely a Stupidity Tax, or if you like, a "this is your alternative to starving to death" tax.

Ever read Aesop's Fables? The Ant And The Grasshopper comes to mind. Most people insist on being the grasshopper, for some confounded reason. They are not victims. They made a choice. They made a bed and now they lay in it. Stop feeling sorry for them. Honestly, you are making it worse with your misplaced compassion. These are adults. Not only is it okay to expect them to plan ahead, it's pathological not to.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926243)

Buying up stuff at retail after a disaster and reselling it at huge markups is not free enterprise

When there is blood on the streets... buy property.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926711)

No, buy guns and ammo.

Re:Cracking Down On Free Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926507)

Buying stuff and reselling it at huge markups IS free enterprise. "Whatever the market will bear." is an essential part of capitalism. I've always wondered about the difference between indecent profits and price gouging...both seem identical to me.

We've certainly had prices of gas skyrocket, week by week, for almost a year, but we didn't make any arrests or give any fines for that.

Its the law - no price gouging during emergencies (3, Interesting)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926299)

As a criminal offense, Florida's law is typical [myfloridalegal.com]. Price gouging [wikipedia.org] may be charged when a supplier of essential goods or services sharply raises the prices asked in anticipation of or during a civil emergency, or when it cancels or dishonors contracts in order to take advantage of an increase in prices related to such an emergency. The model case is a retailer who increases the price of existing stocks of milk and bread when a hurricane is imminent. It is a defense to show that the price increase mostly reflects increased costs, such as running an emergency generator, or hazard pay for workers.

Not quite sure how it is price gouging (1)

fsck1nhippies (2642761) | about a year and a half ago | (#41925953)

A private seller should be able to put any price they want on something. $100000 for a bubble gum wrapper if they want.

Re:Not quite sure how it is price gouging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926031)

many sellers on CS are commercial retailers(i.e. they have a license to sell goods),. i don't think they state will be propsecuting private sales

Re:Not quite sure how it is price gouging (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926205)

What they should be able and what they can legally do don't have to be the same.

I should be able use marijuana, but legally I can not. I should be able to keep and bear a fully automatic assault rifle but legally I can not. I should be able to use the services of a prostitute, but legally I can not. I should be able to commit adultery, but legally I can not. I should be able to sell my property for an unconscionably excessive price during a declared emergency, but legally I can not.

Now different people will disagree on which of those you "should" be able to do, but they are all against the law in New York.

Re:Not quite sure how it is price gouging (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926283)

Or then there are the Craigslist posts where people were offering gasoline for sex. I guess whether that's a reasonable price or not depends on who responds and how good they are in bed?

Re:Not quite sure how it is price gouging (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926287)

I wonder if he will go after Ebay sellers too. After all, an auction is by definition a price maximizing enterprise.

And I also wonder if he will go after the out-of-state people who came from hundreds of miles away, just so they could make money selling generators and hard-to-find provisions. After all, those people probably incurred significant expenses buying inventory and driving to New York on such short notice.

Re:Not quite sure how it is price gouging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926771)

You don't want the government regulating your sale? Fine, then don't get them involved when I bring a firearm to help "negotiate" the sale price.

Or how about this... (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year and a half ago | (#41925967)

Looking for gasoline, post-refinery-fire that is excessively expensive, and consists of price gouging....

90% of the people in CA would loveit.

Re:Or how about this... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926039)

Haha I was thinking something similar. They're after price gougers in the aftermath of a natural disaster, but the everyday gougers walk free.

Some nanny state.

Re:Or how about this... (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926117)

The outcome will be the same, exactly nothing. This is just bluster, these guys aren't really going to do anything.

Re:Or how about this... (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926067)

The day after power was lost here in Long Island, there were guys selling 5 gallon cans of gas for $50, and people were buying!

Re:Or how about this... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926143)

We pay $10 a gallon for "gas" every day, you insensitive clod

Signed, Great(est) Britain.

Re:Or how about this... (1)

vux984 (928602) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926179)

That's less than double the regular price around here. Expensive, sure, but 'unconscionable gouging' doesn't really fit.

Re:Or how about this... (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926881)

No offense meant, guys. Here in the U.S., a 5 gallon can of gas should cost less than $25.00, we are spoiled here. That's the reality though, and here it is considered 'gouging'.

What about Bloomberg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41925973)

Why aren't they subpoena'ing Bloomberg, who set up much-needed generators for a marathon rather than to help the people who needed it?

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:What about Bloomberg? (1)

Bigby (659157) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926115)

What about the media, that had the equipment, know-how, and generators to help people? Instead they just stood there and talked to a camera.

Re:What about Bloomberg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926135)

they don't call him king bloomberg for nothing.
i'll be happy if i never set foot in NY again.

the only thing good about the entire state is the Adirondacks.

Re:What about Bloomberg? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926141)

Why aren't they subpoena'ing Bloomberg, who set up much-needed generators for a marathon rather than to help the people who needed it?

-- Ethanol-fueled

Actually, I think it was the private race organizers that had the generators.

But even if they turned the generators over to the city, what would the city do with them? Just parking a generator in front of an apartment building does nothing to help the residents. Do you just let residents run extension cords out their windows?

Was there an actual shortage of mid-range generators that could be used safely? (I'm not talking about a 1KW generator that someone may put on his balcony, fueled by carrying cans of gasoline through the livingroom, no city emergency services agency would condone a setup like that). Possibly some multi-megawatt generators could have been used to light entire buildings, as long as electricians could provide adequate connectivity, but there's still a safety issue, temporary power is hard to do right, especially in a disaster when you don't have access to all of the electrical supplies you may need.

Re:What about Bloomberg? (1)

Fast Thick Pants (1081517) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926625)

Actually, I think it was the private race organizers that had the generators.

Yes it was, until they were shamed by the New York Post. They suggested that they be donated or at least lent to the recovery effort in some way. Even though the race was cancelled, the generators still just sat there in the park. Bloomberg, as a mayor and billionaire, is the kind of person who probably could have arranged for the generators to be commandeered, but he didn't, and neither did anyone else. (I'm not judging, especially because there's probably more to the story.)

Do you just let residents run extension cords out their windows?

Sure, why not? They would also be handy for running elevators, powering the pumps for the plumbing in buildings big enough that higher floors have no water pressure, lighting and heating for the lobby at least...

Re:What about Bloomberg? (3, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926873)

Actually, I think it was the private race organizers that had the generators.

Yes it was, until they were shamed by the New York Post.

Actually, I think it was the Mayor who wanted the race to go on, they just went ahead with his wishes

Do you just let residents run extension cords out their windows?

Sure, why not? They would also be handy for running elevators, powering the pumps for the plumbing in buildings big enough that higher floors have no water pressure, lighting and heating for the lobby at least...

Why not? Because having 100 residents run 100 extension cords out their windows to the streetside generator is street is unsafe. Even ignoring the overloading "Look mom, we can plug in the refrigerator, this space heater *and* my hair dryer" issues, the generator is not on the same ground plane as the building so there's an additional shock hazard unless you get an electrician to ground the generator to the building ground (and possibly installing a local grounding rod at the generator, depending on local regulations)

But if they wanted to power the elevators, it's not as simple as just buying a long extension cord at Home Depot. The elevators in my building run on 480V 3 Phase power and are on a 150A breaker, so they may need a few hundred feet of 00 or 000 gauge cable just to hook into the electrical panel. I don't know if it's even legal to run unprotected 480V cables on the floor, or to run an energized panel with the covers off if there's no cable inlet to hook up the cables.

And, of course, you need electricians to do all of this work - electricians that could be working on repairing damage that's preventing entire buildings from being energized instead of hooking up temporary power for an elevator that might be used for 24 hours before power comes back up.

Re:What about Bloomberg? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926223)

Because that isn't selling something at an excessive price. Just because I'm not allowed to sell you something at an excessive price doesn't mean i have to give it to you.

Zero tolerance... (2)

langelgjm (860756) | about a year and a half ago | (#41925975)

How horrible that all those people were forced to buy from Craigslist sellers at excessively high prices...

Price Gouging Is News For Nerds?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41925985)

Why is this story on slashdot?

There's not tech aspects or any geek relevance whatsoever.

Re:Price Gouging Is News For Nerds?? (1)

killkillkill (884238) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926047)

the New York State Attorney General has subpoenaed Craigslist, demanding that the site identify more than 100 sellers

Rather appropriate for the YRO [slashdot.org] section that has been on Slashdot as long as I've been a reader

Re:Price Gouging Is News For Nerds?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926147)

You're not a nerd anyway, so fuck off and go somewhere else, like under a bridge, or anywhere but here.

Re:Price Gouging Is News For Nerds?? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926267)

The net been up but no gas, people using tech to seek/buy/trade/the comments about what the 'gas' can be traded for .... the type of person and picture needed to even be considered in some listings.
People boasting they have deep supply lines and saved up supply (not a person with a few cans at home ie commercial ownership with clear local/federal laws in time of need). They kept gas back for 'special' deals for a subset of woman and not for "cash".
So you have the net been used, images having to be sent up a powered telco network in a zone with not much power and then the 'price' or 'act' needed to ensure you get a can of gas.
The legal, moral, networking and 'alternative' payments just after a few days of power/gas shortages are very telling. US law enforcement is still working in the areas, ip's been collected and tracked. Yet the ads read like a few months have gone by and its a legal free for all.
US infrastructure is unable to cope or help? Just in time computer controlled supply lines have been pushed to their limits with no local supply even with days of storm warnings...
Local gas stations in a storm/flood zone where not required to be fitted with backup on site wired in power?
Lots of news for nerds and the US press I would say.

What's wrong ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926017)

Isn't this simply capitalism ?

And what's wrong with that ? Unless someone is saying they desparately need a certain type of medicine to survive and the seller is saying "OK, $1million"

Re:What's wrong ? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926343)

If your not young, female, pretty, of the correct race, able to send a photo and willing to engage in a list of 'acts' .... NO gas for you.
Most parts of the world would offer gas to *anyone* who waits in line - with a police office keeping order until the tanks are empty for a fair cash payment.

50 busy AGs come Christmas... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926025)

Because I'm 99.9999% sure that WiiU and such will be hard to find on the shelves but the asshole 'price gougers' will have plenty of 2-3x MSRP units on eBay and Craigslist for us.

Waste of time for government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926037)

The power companies have monopolies and don't upgrade their power lines and infrastructure. Areas where people pay enormous taxes and utility bills are approaching two weeks without power. But the power companies are doing things slowly and cheaply because they have geographic monopolies. The government has no ability to refuel gas stations after nearly two weeks of no new gas truck deliveries to stations. Staten Island, Long Island, and New Jersey are devastated.

But Manhattan is fine and the city government wanted to run the marathon. Now they are worried about 100 Craigslist postings, many of them are fake like the "will trade blowjobs for gas" posts that are clearly there for laughs, instead of the hundreds of thousands being fucked with by the monopolistic power companies.

In a free market, high demand means high prices (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926051)

Does Craigslist hold a monopoly on advertising emergency supplies for consumers? The last I heard, sellers can charge whatever price they want to, so long as (1) they're not preventing their competitors from selling in the same market and (2) they're not colluding with their competitors to raise the price.

The N.Y. AG knows this. This is nothing but a political stunt.

Re:In a free market, high demand means high prices (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926431)

Read the ads, its not just 'sellers' - its people who have held back bulk supply for sex.
ie not just a random person who has a few extra cans at home and wants a deal.

Supply and demand (5, Informative)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926077)

If I remember the first thing we learned in Macro 101 correctly, if supply goes down, price remains the same and demand remains the same or increases, you run out of supply pretty quickly.

If you increase prices, you can afford to resell more expensive gas, trucking it in from further out of state.

What would you rather have: expensive gas, or cheap but non-existent gas?

Re:Supply and demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926363)

It seems they'd prefer to have super long gas lines where after waiting for hours you discover they've run out, instead of paying the fair market price for gas. Do people really think there time is so worthless? Do they really think a lottery is the best way to choose who needs gas the most? *sigh* Worse, some of the examples of price gauging were doubling in price. If you let people sell generators for more, they might stock up on them before the storm and you'd have more on hand.

Re:Supply and demand (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926449)

That's not gouging, that's just costs resulting in a higher price. Gouging is when you increase your margin (sometimes by orders of magnitude) in order to take advantage of people being desperate and shell shocked. It results in miss-allocation of resources.

They're not talking about $10 or $15/gallon gas trucked in, they're talking about $120/gallon gas.

Re:Supply and demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926693)

They aren't even just talking about $120/gallon gas.

They're talking about $100/gallon empty gas containers.

Re:Supply and demand (1)

aXis100 (690904) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926485)

No-one is arguing that goods are more difficult to come by in an emercency, and suppliers often have higher costs when source goods. It is normal and reasonable to then pass those costs on to the consumers.

The issue is when the price increase far outweighs the increased costs, and becomes "'unconscionably excessive". Given the emergency nature, this is hugely immoral.

Re:Supply and demand (2)

explosivejared (1186049) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926571)

The interesting thing about this whole episode is that, despite no obvious interventions by the state, the market itself failed to raise prices to clear the market. [marginalrevolution.com]

In shortages like this, the logistics of gasoline make it difficult to really up capacity even by significant price raises. The gasoline market is highly segmented. It's not very easy to divert supplies from elsewhere and ship gasoline in the quantities needed, unlike with things like food and water.

What "price gouging" can do, however, is eliminate hoarding and frivolous use. $8.00 a gallon really makes you think twice whether you need that generator running 24 hours a day. That can help to calm down the shortage.

The puzzling thing is that gas stations seem to be much to afraid of being seen reaping a windfall profit by raising prices. So instead, we get lines miles long, essentially a gasoline lottery.

Re:Supply and demand (2)

Bigby (659157) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926607)

It was stupid. I am in Jersey City. One of the most affected gas shortage areas.

If I owned a gas station, I would have turned it into a "club" gas station. I would have charged $50 to enter my property for the right to buy gas. Then charge normal price. Price gouging is the best way to handle the situation. Like you said, it would have made all the suppliers send gas to the area, because it would have been more profitible for them. But instead you enforce this idea of "government only" solutions: price controls and forced supply lines. We always want someone to get dictatorial over it.

For me, it was simple. Don't use gas. No one here was going to work anyway. You couldn't. And with no heat, you used some extra blankets. Boo hoo. I even have a 20 degree rated sleeping bag that I didn't even need to bring out.

For those not prepared. Move if you aren't prepared for stuff like this. The Federal government and other governments don't need to be subsidizing this area. I don't want someone in Kansas paying for stuff in NYC, just like I don't want to pay for something in Kansas. You are only distorting the market, enticing people to move to disaster prone areas, and causing more deaths.

Re:Supply and demand (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926839)

Reminds me of the toiletpaper and gas shortages in the Soviet Union; often times the only way to get the stuff was on the black market...

Rationing by price rises is desireable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926109)

Idiots.

Price rises in time of shortage cause limited supplies to be distributed to those who really actually do REALLY need them, because those with lesser needs just won't pay the inflated prices.

Adam Smith wrote about this in Wealth of Nations - back in the late 1700s! he spoke abouy grain prices rising in time of shortage, and the complaints the government made about it - when in fact by rising prices, they caused consumption to decline *gradually*, rather than keeping prices the same such that consumption remains unchanged and then after six months there's NOTHING LEFT.

Re:Rationing by price rises is desireable (0)

aXis100 (690904) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926567)

Bullshit. If someone earns $1M a year and wants to pay $100 a gallon for gas for his sports car, is his need greater than the guy who earns $30k a year and wants to drive his family to work? The remaining goods go to those who can afford it, need has very little to do with it.

Of course prices are affected by supply in an emercency, the issue here is deliberate price hikes far beyond the increased supply cost, made specifically to profit from someone's hardship. It's immoral - in a fucked up capitalist kind of way - thought it may be a bit too "left" for many Americans to understand.

Not sure if you realise but the rest of the world is quite disgusted by the way America treats its less fortunate. Katrina was very telling, and there's aspects of this disaster that are similar.

Auctions? (2)

ebonum (830686) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926123)

What about Ebay auctions? Are they going to come after me when buyers overpay for the stuff I'm selling?

Perhaps the government should set prices on everything to keep things simple.

Patience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926229)

Perhaps the government should set prices on everything to keep things simple.

Give them a chance. They are working towards that end and they'll get to it. These things take time!

Private transaction? (1)

forceman130 (1233754) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926155)

If this is a private transaction between two individuals, how is the government even involved? I can see if it is a regulated or licensed company like a hotel, but just 2 people on Craigslist?

Re:Private transaction? (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926311)

This is New York, the liberal nanny state, where every aspect of your private life is regulated, right down to how much soda you are allowed to drink.

Re:Private transaction? (2)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926753)

And this is a case of distorting the word "liberal". In the rest of the word, it means freedom both personal and economic.

Re:Private transaction? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926565)

If you only want woman and have a comment about body size and race...?
Adding in your running a licensed fuel company and held back.... ie way beyond "2 people"

Lets define this (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926191)

NOT PRICE GOUGING
Someone needs a medical service and is charged $20,000/day from the local tax payer subsidized hospital which has the protection of the local criminal syndicate (city/county/state) that passes 'regulations' allowing them to sustain this exponentially inflated non-market price by operating without competition.

PRICE GOUGING
A private individual sets a price to sell his own goods or services that will only be paid by people willing to freely pay it, (a/k/a fair market value) but the local criminal syndicate (city/county/state) decide they don't like this price, probably because they are not getting a big enough cut.

"Better yet, leave it to the private sector." (4, Insightful)

bennomatic (691188) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926195)

This is exactly what was wrong with Romney et al's stance on FEMA. If there's a profit motive, then you're going to get the highest possible cost for the least possible value of goods and services. Where there's reasonable infrastructure, competition can reduce that, but a post-hurricane disaster zone is more likely to resemble turf-based economies (drugs, prostitution) than it is to resemble truly competitive markets (e.g. bazaars).

If your kid is at home coughing up a lung due to a flu and there's no heat in the house, and if phone lines and emergency services are basically unavailable because of the greater circumstance, you're going to buy that last can of chicken soup from your corner market rather than shopping around for a better deal further away. Call it supply and demand if you will, but shopkeepers who engaged in price gouging are profiteering off of others' misery, plain and simple, and there should be consequences.

On the other hand, there are stories of great generosity, like the pizzeria that kept making pies throughout the peak of the crisis, and gave away something on the order of 1000 pizzas to hungry families and emergency workers. That business deserves to prosper. I hope that some anonymous millionaire hands them an envelope containing ten times the profit they would have made had they sold all those pizzas. Hell, maybe FEMA should cut them a check for helping out. At the very least, they should be able to write those costs off for tax purposes.

Re:"Better yet, leave it to the private sector." (4, Insightful)

PrimaryConsult (1546585) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926425)

you're going to buy that last can of chicken soup from your corner market rather than shopping around for a better deal further away

Except, when prices are allowed to rise, if you *really need* that can it is still available. If the store is forced to keep it at their normal price, the can would have been gone hours before you got there, to some random person who could have done just as well with a can of ravioli.

Re:"Better yet, leave it to the private sector." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926817)

The issue, as it says in TFA, the law only prohibits "unconscionably excessive price[s]" during an emergency.

So it's perfectly legal for a store to, say, double the price of a can of soup if it can demonstrate that their costs have gone up by that much.

It is NOT legal for someone on Craigslist to try to sell a 5-gallon gas can for $500, or for individuals to sell generators that they had bought before the storm at double their retail value.

This isn't just slightly increasing costs to cover expenses. This is trying to make a profit off of people in need.

Re:"Better yet, leave it to the private sector." (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926457)

In its purest of essences, the Neocon / Goldman Sachs idea of 100% free "capitalism" (actually, I'd argue it is not capitalism at all) boils down to:
Everybody can do everything! Even if that means murdering children for profit!

And, also in its purest of essences, the *actual* idea of socialism boils down to:
Let's just everybody be *fuckin'* nice to each other for a change!! How about that?

I don't know about you... but I’m going with the latter. Teamwork is a cornerstone of humanity's success. Let's just damn be *nice*! What an idea!

It is sad, that the mindset "socialism" is apparently defined nowadays, on the basis of a couple of failed states that had not much to do with being nice and everything with being fuckin' asshole dictators!

Just as it is sad, that the above twisted definition of "capitalism" is missing plain and simple human dignity and fairness. Keeping a business partner, not because he has no choice even though you rip him off, but because you won't rip him off even if you can, since you want to gain and deserve his respect and trust! *That* is real capitalism, with real long-term success, in my opinion!

And as you can see, those two do not conflict at all! The whole either-or is completely made up! Good capitalism is social! Good socialism supports good capitalism.

And I for one, will be nice to you in all my deals. I don't have the heart to rip people off. And if that means I will lose on the market, then so be it! At least I'll lose with my heart still at the right place, and me still being a fuckin' human being!

How about zero tolerance for mortgage fraud? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926251)

Or is that asking too much? I'm sure it's a lot easier to crack down on a few dozen individuals looking to gouge a quick buck than well-connected corporations scamming billions.

You know what is unconcionable? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926273)

The price of textbooks, in any weather.

After the fact (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926339)

I can't say I agree with the people out there doing this kind of thing, but... I also think there should be fair warning that gouging behavior in a stricken area like this will be prosecuted. Kind of like Marshal law but not. There will always be those out there to take advantage of the situation and if you put them on notice and the do it anyway rather than doing the right thing, go get 'em...

Shouldn't apply unless these were businesses (2)

John3 (85454) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926389)

If these were ads from storefront businesses then the AG should get involved, but if it was private individuals reselling items at a market price then I don't see a real case here for prosecution. I own a hardware store and we have been crazy busy these past two weeks trying to keep up with demand for batteries, gas cans, generators, extension cords, and other storm goods. Our prices are the same today as they were a month ago, and in fact some of our batteries are on sale and we kept them on sale. I know of a few stores that did raise their prices on generators and some other goods, seems like a poor decision as the customer will likely find out later (or already knew) and will remember that price gouge when choosing where to shop during "normal" times.

Oh really? (3, Insightful)

kurt555gs (309278) | about a year and a half ago | (#41926521)

And how about pharmaceutical companies that charge $1000s for pills that cost less than the plastic bottle they come in? Want real price gauging?

Now I get it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926835)

Now I understand. Those $1000s for pills that cost less than the plastic bottle isn't price gouging, even if people die because they can't afford them. If they had been selling for "only" $500s for those pills, then double after a disaster, then that's price gouging...even though there is no difference in the end price or profit.

Damned if you do. Damned if you don't. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926653)

If you sell cheaper than everyone else, you're accused of dumping.

If you sell at the same price as everyone else, you're accused of price fixing.

If you sell more expensively than everyone else, you're price gouging.

It's how the Socialists condemn Capitalism no matter what Capitalists do.

In Soviet Union... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926663)

From The Article: "New York law prohibits taking advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive price” during an emergency.".
Ok, a law is a law, but really, what happend to America?
Prohibiting some good enterprise of selling goods or services to consumers (and yes... even "taking advantage" of them, as in normal trade - and who can tell which trading part is "taking advantage" of the other?) and forcing by law solidarity to the community is Communism!
I really think that you people (well, most of you... i know about Katrina) in the USA do not need those laws, since already have compassion and sense of duty - you killing the ideas that made you example for the rest of the world... so sad!

Gas in Canada (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41926719)

I live in Canada. There is gouging on gasoline 365 days a year here. Price of oil goes up, gas price goes up. Price of oil goes down, price of gas goes up.

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