Matt and Noah Colvin had bought nearly 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, packs of antibacterial wipes and boxes of medical masks — and resold some online for upwards of $70

By Dave Quinn
March 16, 2020 11:56 AM
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Two Tennessee brothers have donated tens of thousands of antibacterial supplies to those in need after they were accused of profiteering from a pandemic.

Matt and Noah Colvin, of Hixson, Tennessee, received a sea of online backlash over the weekend after The New York Times profile on Saturday highlighted their efforts to re-sell the nearly 1,800 bottles of hand sanitizer, packs of antibacterial wipes, and boxes of medical masks they had bought amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The pair had first started scooping up the supplies on March 1, a day after the first coronavirus-related death in the United States was announced. Noah spent three days cleaning store shelves of all their stock — first at Walmart, Dollar Tree, Home Depot and Staples in the Chattanooga area with Matt by his side, and then alone, at other stores across Tennessee and into Kentucky.

In the end, Noah had driven 1,300 miles and filled a U-Haul truck to the brim. Matt, meanwhile, prepped for pallets of even more wipes and sanitizer he had ordered online.

They went on to list 300 bottles of hand sanitizer on Amazon, selling them for between $8 and $70 each. “It was crazy money,” Matt said to the newspaper.

But Amazon caught wind of what they were up to, and the next day, banned their account, warning of price gauging. EBay followed suit.

“It’s been a huge amount of whiplash,” Matt told The New York Times. “From being in a situation where what I’ve got coming and going could potentially put my family in a really good place financially to ‘What the heck am I going to do with all of this?’ ”

That was on Saturday. By Sunday, Matt and Noah were cleaning out their storage unit to donate the supplies — some going to a local church and others back to Kentucky, the Associated Press reported.

They had received an outpouring of criticism, too, including hate mail and death threats, The New York Times reported.

I am beside myself with where we are with my family and I’m scared for my family’s safety,” Matt told WRCT-TV, adding that he was not trying to take advantage of people during a state of emergency and had not anticipated there would be a nationwide shortage of sanitizer. “I didn’t think it was going to blow up into a situation where everyone is being told to stay home.”

“If by my actions anyone was directly impacted and unable to get sanitizer because I purchased it all, I am truly sorry for that,” he told the outlet.

Matt had similar things to say to the Times, in a follow up interview. “It was never my intention to keep necessary medical supplies out of the hands of people who needed them,” he confessed, crying. “That’s not who I am as a person. And all I’ve been told for the last 48 hours is how much of that person I am.”

Meanwhile, the Tennessee attorney general’s office have sent Matt and Noah a cease-and-desist letter for triggering an anti-price gouging law, WDRB reported.

“We will not tolerate price gouging in this time of exceptional need, and we will take aggressive action to stop it,” Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III said in a statement.

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