Victims of Hurricane Harvey, which has swept through Texas causing severe flooding and damage, have reported that some stores have jacked up the prices of essential items.
Reporter Ken Klippenstein posted a photo to Twitter showing cases of water being dramatically priced up at a Houston Best Buy, with one case being sold for more than $40, Daily Mail reports.
"One Houston resident sent me a pic of water he saw being sold for *$42* at a nearby Best Buy," tweeted Klippenstein. "They were kind enough to offer $29 bottles too."
Online, cases of Dasani water are around $15.50. A sign near the $29 packs of Smartwater said that they had a "limited supply." Best Buy is reported to not normally sell cases of water.
"Hey Best Buy, check out what one of your locations in Houston is doing," wrote one Twitter user. "Pretty sick stuff."
"Best Buy now says it was the mistake of a few employees," noted another. "But WOW! Selling cases of water for $42?"
"If you got a hankering to report on crime around Houston, you should be out for stuff like this," wrote another user, "not people trying to feed their families."
A representative for Best Buy apologized for the incident, calling it a "big mistake."
"As a company we are focused on helping, not hurting, affected people," said Best Buy. "We're sorry, and it won't happen again."
The company added it was "deeply sorry that we gave anyone even the momentary impression that we were trying to take advantage of the situation."
Klippenstein said the price gouging wasn't limited to Best Buy. A spokesperson for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the office of the attorney general had received "550 complaints and 225 emails sent to an emergency address set up for consumers, and more are coming in pretty consistently."
"We have received complaints from consumers as well as some of our employees and investigators in the area concerning price-gouging happening with hotels, grocers, fuel providers and (most frequently) fresh water," the spokesperson said. "Unfortunately, price-gouging like this can be common following natural disasters."
Paxton warned that price gouging was illegal, and those who were caught would face fines of up to $20,000.
"If you gouge somebody that's over 65 the [fine] is up to $250,000," said Paxton.
At least one report claimed a store was selling cases of water for $100, according to CBS. Some gas stations have reportedly charged up to $10 a gallon for gas. One station was even charging $20 a gallon, according to KNXV.
"You're not supposed to artificially inflate prices of things that are emergency or needed during a disaster," said the Greater Houston and South Texas Better Business Bureau's Dan Parsons. Parsons advised those who suffered price gouging to save receipts and keep track of how much they were charged for later.
"You want credit card purchases, something you can go back to and say, 'Look, here's the prevailing market price. Here's what I was charged,' and even better go back in three weeks and say, 'Look what the price is now,'" said Parsons.