Profiteering problems? Face mask prices skyrocket due to overseas manufacturers

WatchRetailers are increasing prices of face masks amid the global pandemic, but is this profiteering, or just necessary?

As demand for medical supplies increased across the province amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the prices for gloves, shields and face masks have also shot up.

Face masks are a hot commodity right now, and retailers have caught on.

“Everyone’s having a hard time getting masks. People are asking them to donate them to hospitals, and then you walk into the Great Canadian Dollar Store in Mill Bay and they have them priced for a $100,” said Robyn Houle, a regular shopper in the area.

The dollar store manager says they have no choice but to increase the price, as the cost to put it on their shelves has shot up.

“For each mask it costs me 95 cents, so I sell for two dollars each,” explained the manager.

Even though the retailers are paying more, that is still a 100 per cent markup for the general public, but they are not the only place in town charging hefty prices. The Mill Bay Pharmasave is also selling masks for $2 each.

Lyle Jordan, Chief of operations at medical supply company Medix EMS says that although stores are paying more, a 100 per cent markup is not fair.

“I would not personally be charging that much. The average markup on a company is 20 to 30 percent,” explained Jordan.

He too has seen his manufacturers raise the price on masks overnight, even though face mask production has ramped up.

“From what we gather, the manufacturing of masks has multiplied overnight. Everyone who has a factory that can do it, is doing it. So, aside from greed and gauging, there’s no reason as to why the prices are where they are.”

Not only has the costs of products skyrocketed, but shipping overseas items has also increased 1100 per cent for Medix EMS since the start of the pandemic.

Jordan says what used to cost him five dollars a kilogram to ship now costs up to 55 dollars a kilogram, and as a result, he’s had to increase his own prices.

He says they give the province first dibs on medical supplies at cost, and charges the public slightly more to make up the difference.

But some buyers, aren’t buying it.

“When it comes to supplying the community and your jacking up the price to 100 when it doesn’t cost that much, I just think it’s rude and not helping the community, with everything that’s going on with COVID-19,” said Houle.

After facing public push back, the Mill Bay Great Canadian Dollar store says they have donated all their remaining masks to a front line health care worker to pass on to a medical facility in need.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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