Brothers Fill Garage With Hand Sanitizer & Wet Wipes, Are Accused Of Profiteering As Amazon Halts Resale

They bought all the supplies they could find in hopes of making a profit, but it backfired.

Bottles of hand sanitizer
Samuel Corem / Getty Images

They bought all the supplies they could find in hopes of making a profit, but it backfired.

As the majority of the world continues to worry about COVID-19 and what kind of dangers can come from the coronavirus, other people are thinking differently. Matt and Noah Colvin are brothers who thought that this pandemic was a good way for them to profit off the fears of those looking for help. They went and purchased nearly 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and tried to sell them at higher prices, but sites like Amazon and eBay aren’t going to allow it.

In an interview with The New York Times, the brothers said they went around Tennessee and Kentucky on a 1,300-mile road trip. They bought all of the hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes that they could find and filled up the back of a U-Haul truck along with their SUV.

In addition to those finds, Matt had ordered even more of them to arrive at his home. After they had a full stockpile, they began posting them for sale on Amazon. At the beginning, 300 bottles of hand sanitizer were listed for sale and they went fast, for anywhere from $8 to $70 a piece.

The Colvin brothers believed they were making some “crazy money,” but others didn’t feel the same way. Within 24 hours, Amazon pulled their listings of the hand sanitizer, wipes, and face masks. eBay followed up by doing the same thing and putting very strict guidelines on the sale of those items.

Matt Colvin ended up selling 50-pack face masks for $50 or more, and the brothers unloaded at least 2,000 of those before their listings were pulled. It was this type of “price gouging” that led to Amazon threatening to suspend his account permanently.

Despite the fact that he has 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of other items in their garage, Matt said he wasn’t trying to swindle anyone.

“If I can make a slight profit, that’s fine. But I’m not looking to be in a situation where I make the front page of the news for being that guy who hoarded 20,000 bottles of sanitizer that I’m selling for 20 times what they cost me.”

Colvin said that stores like the Dollar General in the “middle of nowhere outside Lexington, Ky.” didn’t have a high demand for those items. He said that there were “inefficiencies in the marketplace” and they were simply trying to correct them and help others.

A shopper wearing a mask is pictured near a sign advising out-of-stock sanitizer, facial masks and rubbing alcohol at a store following warnings about COVID-19 in Kirkland, Washington.
  Jason Redmond / Getty Images

Once sales started to soar, Colvin thought he and his family were going to be in a great place financially. Since Amazon and eBay pulled his listings, he’s now left wondering what to do with the stockpile of supplies that’s doing him no good sitting in his garage.

The backlash on social media has caused a lot of criticism to be aimed directly at the Colvin brothers, but they are far from the only ones trying to profit during this crisis. A number of other people did the same thing and made a great deal of money before being shut down by online retailers.

Not only are sites like Amazon and eBay cracking down on people price-gouging others in this time of need but the government is as well. Attorney generals offices in multiple states are fighting against it while also having hand sanitizer distributed for free so people don’t have to pay for it. COVID-19 has caused a lot of panic as well as serious distress, and those profiting off of it will not be allowed to continue.