Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Fri Nov 2 2012 23:45:11

Post Hurricane Black Market Thrives on Craigslist

By: Ina Steiner

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Gasoline is hard to come by in some parts of New York and New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Demand is high - used not only to power motor vehicles, it's used to power generators for those without electricity, and the gas shortage is making headlines.

So New York hustlers took to Craigslist to advertise high-priced gas. $50 for a gas can; $100 for 5 gallons of gas. One seller was far more "reasonable" - $10 a gallon for gas, 120 gallons total.

Buyers also advertised on the popular online classified site - "Gas Wanted gallon will pay double," read one listing under "items wanted."

Posters on Reddit questioned the legality of the sales and the potential for scams. "People have been seen siphoning gas from cars. I wonder if this is one of em," said one. "Id pay 20 a gallon, im just worried its watered down or something," wrote another.

Whenever there are shortages, black markets arise, it's interesting to see people using Craigslist this way. What would you do in this situation?

Thanks to EcommerceBytes Contributor Brian Cohen for the story, who thankfully survived the storm!




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Readers Comments

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Sat Nov 3 11:53:02 2012

Disasters bring out the best in people... and, sadly, the WORST in people as well.

I have no idea what I'd do if I was in such dire circumstances. The more desperate someone is, the easier it is for others to take advantage of them... and that's truly tragic.

My husband and I have not become as obsessive as the ''Doomsday Preppers'' ... but we've taken reasonable steps to always have at least three-days worth of non-perishable food and water, as well as gasoline for our generator, small propane canisters for our camp-stove, etc. But if the disaster was longer than our supplies would hold out, it's entirely possible that we might reach that level of being willing to pay any price.

www.redcross.org/charitable-donations

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Sat Nov 3 14:22:15 2012

Supply and demand can get ugly in times like this. I agree with Annie. I don't have a fallout shelter or a bunker full of guns (though my brother, who lives with me, has several weapons and knows how to use them), but I do keep a good supply of food on hand, along with batteries, water filter & treatment tablets, and other camping-type supplies. I've always liked to keep my kitchen well-stocked, so I could probably live off the food in my house for several months, if I had to.

It's only common sense to be able to take care of yourself when a disaster hits. I had a discussion with a friend recently, who was aghast that I would have my brother put new brakes on my car instead of having an "expert" do it. It seems like a growing percentage of people have begun to think themselves incapable of doing even simple tasks like car repairs or other kinds of DIY tasks. I've had friends act shocked when I present them with homemade jam, like they think it requires some complex equipment or magical process inaccessible to ordinary humans. It's not rocket science (and even rocket science isn't out of reach for anyone with a little smarts and some decent math skills.

We don't all have to be experts at everything, but when did it become a bad thing to have some basic skills? It's kind of sad. I am far more afraid of being dependent on the government or anyone else to take care of me than I am of attempting to do things for myself. Sadly, it's those who don't prepare ahead who are the most likely victims of black market profiteers.

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by: trickstunt This user has validated their user name.

Sat Nov 3 15:39:31 2012

If you haven't seen it yet, read about the #sandylootcrew hoax and how one of the web's biggest fearmongers got trolled and owned.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ed Gadfly

Sat Nov 3 20:30:10 2012

There is always looting after natural disasters. The ''smart'' criminals don't brag about it on Twitter.

Naivety keeps looters like eBa'al in business.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Bijoux Dragon
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Sun Nov 4 01:08:59 2012

My personal feelings towards people (and I use the term loosely) are not even vaguely printable.  At a time when people should be helping each other, these vultures are turning a profit on other people's misery.  It's a form of profiteering called price gouging and is illegal during time of crisis and natural disaster.

that said, I live in a rural area, have 2 generators used in the summer for the irrigation well and in the winter for emergency back-up.  always have about 3 weeks worth of gas.  

Gas warning - if you are going to store containers of gas, be careful about anything even remotely flammable and use gasoline stabilizer, easily purchased at auto supply stores.

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by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Sun Nov 4 10:49:45 2012

I remember the gas lines back in the early 70's in NJ.  They were rationing it to $2.00 worth of gas a car and they had a small sign they would place on your trunk saying "Last Car"....people were selling that sign to others left in the line!  Disasters do bring out the worst in some people!

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 5 00:17:47 2012

Okay Patricia--I'll play the Jersey Game with ya--Where ya FROM?

It was $5 worth of gas for one thing.  (Not quibbling just sayin)  And if you had a motorcycle--we had 2--you were exempt so we would sit in line and then siphon it out--and yes,  sell it.  There was also an Odd/Even license plate number system in place.  When my husband was hit and severly injured on one of the motorcycles during this the gas station waived the odd/even plate requirement so I could GET to the hospital.  

When you get lemons---we also sold coffee and papers and food to the people waiting on lines.  And got paid to sit in other peoples  cars FOR them.  We also invested in locking gas caps to keep OUR gas in OUR vehicles.

Now I live in the wilds of Upstate NY.  Not affected by Sandy.  But---we also installed a generator we can move between our two houses (a relative lives in one).  And we have a propane stove---and gas cans!  Wood in the shed.  A furnace we can run off of the car charger with a power invertor.  (Yep. Heats our whole house.  Burns kero.  Fan runs on wall power) ) A large freezer and plenty of other food.  Kero lamps.  Candles.  Snow plow blade for lawn tractor if it  really gets desperate!  

I will say tho---my husband had a customer call who wanted to take a generator and other items to family in Hoboken NJ.  Which happens to be where my sister lives.  Who was stuck on the 7th floor of an apartment building with no power or hot water for this whole time.  My husband mentioned that we have family there.  This perfect STRANGER offered to take whatever we might want to send TO MY SISTER for us.

So---there is the OTHER side of looting (which I am very well aware of in several forms not just smash n grab) and profiteering.

Just sayin'

PS as we were standing in line to pay for that generator someone went to the sales desk and offered the STORE a higher price if they would sell it to THEM instead of US.  This was BEFORE the storm.  

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by: diecastmike This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Nov 5 12:08:59 2012

Two different issues here, people helping people in times of need, disasters etc, and others offering services or items for inflated prices. There will always be scalpers at the ball game or concert, and there will always be people who buy from them! To someone out there, a gallon of gas for $100 could be a life saver, and who are we to condemn them for paying it, or condemn the guy selling it. I had a guy cut a tree down leaning towards our home 2 days before Sandy was to hit, I had quotes of $100 all summer to do it, now I call and one guy says I can be there tonight for $250. Did I hesitate? Was $250 worth it for my family safety, or course. Yeah I kicked my butt for not doing it before, same as many must of for not being prepared..Like the comments above all say,..be prepared and be smart! We all learn from our mistakes dont we!  

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This user has validated their user name. by: eBankrupted

Mon Nov 5 16:18:09 2012

This is the free market at work. If you don't want to buy $20/gallon gas, then don't. If the demand is high enough to support the price, then it is a natural reaction to a short supply.

The two arrests I've read about were for filling and storing gas in 5 gallon buckets, with the lids coming off from the vapor pressure. If the gas cans are the proper type, there's nothing illegal about filling them.

If the sales and income are properly reported, a sale of gasoline should be legal.

Don't we all have the same supply and demand behavior with rare items? If a 200 year old item is in high demand, and low supply, the price people will pay at auction is the market price. Just because someone might get $1000 for a doll, or a vase, doesn't mean they were 'gouging'. It just shows the market reaction to supply and demand.

When I was a kid, I could turn 1 gallon of gas into $30 in one day by mowing lawns. I was the only yard worker knocking on doors. Should I have done each lawn for my cost just to be 'fair'?

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by: AngelaTC This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 5 19:01:12 2012

Inflated prices are just the free markets way of rationing, and sending signals to markets that there are shortages.  If government didn't ration gas *and* the price didn't rise, the first people would buy all they could stash.  Higher prices force those people to limit their purchase to what they can or want to afford.  And on the other hand, the station owner has no idea when or if his next tanker will arrive.  He has to earn enough to tide him over until his inventory is replenished, including the higher prices he will likely pay for the staples he consumes.    

You can't legislate Economics 101.  

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by: spirit-of-shiloh This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 5 20:30:33 2012

I would immediately cancel ALL sales of gasoline on ANY site. How dare they?

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This user has validated their user name. by: eBankrupted

Mon Nov 5 22:21:24 2012

How dare anyone make a profit on anything. Those of you who buy rare items at yard sales knowing full well that a $5 item might fetch 1000% profit should be arrested!? Would you tell the seller of the $5 item that its really worth 5 grand, or would you happily hand over your $5 and laugh all the way to the bank?

What's with this anti-profit false morality trend lately?

If your pediatrician buys 5 gallons of gas from a street corner dealer, and makes it to your quintuplet birth; aren't you happy?

No one is _entitled_ to gasoline (or anything else) at a certain price. If the price is too high, ride your bike, buy a horse, stay home and fly a kite..

That 5 gallons of gas bought on CL might have gotten the utility worker to carpool the linemen who restored electricity to your neighborhood. Gasoline should not only be sold on CL at whatever price it can bring, fuel should be something we can brew at home and sell for whatever price the market brings!

Veggie diesel conversions can allow a diesel vehicle to run on grease reclaimed from doughnut shops and fast food restaurants. Used Vegetable oil is for sale daily on CL, and some restaurants beg for it to be pumped off and used as fuel.

All this hysterical morality surrounding fuel sales online is silly. Check the Los Angeles CL, and you'll find pot delivered to your door, like ordering a pizza.

There's more to worry about on CL than buying 5 gallons of gas to keep your generator running and stop your house pipes from freezing and flooding.

If you want to outlaw suffering, make hurricanes illegal. That would solve it.



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