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Costco Will No Longer Let Hoarders Return Coronavirus Supplies

The retailer is no longer accepting returns on toilet paper, paper towels, sanitizing wipes, bottled water, Lysol cleaners, or rice.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Mar 20 2020, 9:36pm

Photo: Getty Images

Last weekend, the New York Times wrote a piece about Matt and Noah Colvin, the Tennessee brothers who drove 1,300 miles across two states to buy thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of packages of antibacterial wipes so they could resell them online at unconscionably inflated price points. (Matt listed those $1 bottles of Purell on Amazon for anywhere between $8 to $70 each.)

Amazon ultimately yanked Colvin's listings, citing the company's policy against price-gouging. And on Saturday afternoon, just hours after the Times' piece went live—and subsequently, viral—the Tennessee attorney general's office sent its own investigators to Matt Colvin's house to deliver a cease-and-desist letter, reminding him of the state's own law that prevents state residents from charging "unreasonable prices for essential goods and services [...] in direct response to a disaster." Before the weekend was over, Colvin was the subject of a state investigation, he'd been permanently banned from eBay, and the storage company where he kept his ultra-selfish hoard told him that he couldn't rent from them anymore. He was also essentially forced to donate all of the hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes that he'd bought, with a local church collecting the bulk of it, and the state attorney general's office taking the rest of it. All of the products will be redistributed to people who will actually use them, not profit from them.

Other "entrepreneurs" (or "dicks") who have stockpiled essential supplies and who have cleared out store shelves aren't going to get any sympathy from their families, their friends—or from Costco either. The Costco Deals Instagram account has reported that the retailer is no longer accepting returns on toilet paper, paper towels, sanitizing wipes, bottled water, Lysol cleaners, or rice.

"FINALLY!! I am so glad @Costco is finally doing this," the account wrote. "Wish they would have done this in the first place! Maybe we might still have [toilet paper] available for the rest of us." So if you bought enough toilet paper to construct a two-ply emergency shelter, then you're stuck with it.

And as for you food hoarders, the state of New Jersey intends to deal with your questionable behavior as well. On Monday, the state Assembly passed a bill that would make it illegal to return any food items that have been stockpiled during this pandemic. Anyone who violates the law—presumably by taking, say, 70 packages of Maruchan Instant Lunch back to the supermarket—could face a $10,000 fine for the first offense, and then a $20,000 fine if they try to do it again.

NJ.com reports that the bill was written based on a CDC report that suggested that coronavirus could live on surfaces for hours or days, so food packaging could potentially transmit the virus from person to person. "Following a quarantine or period of isolation, a consumer may attempt to return unused items purchased in bulk, which may contribute to the spread of COVID-19 if the items being returned are contaminated with the virus," the bill states.

According to the new legislation, the No Post-Pandemic Returns policy would include dairy products, meats, produce, "most drinks," cleaning products, toilet paper, and some health and personal care products that were purchased after Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency on March 9.

We're not going to say that it serves you right if you're stuck with hundreds or thousands of dollars of merch or food that you willingly bought and kept from others but…

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