In the corona crisis, traders try to capitalize on the fear and misery of their citizens. Internet marketplaces are teeming with dubious rip-off offers, protective masks and disinfectants and much more. But even with established dealers, you are not immune to unpleasant surprises, and even doctors fall victim to shameless traders.
The employees of a specialist doctor’s office in the canton of Lucerne, who were in danger of running out of protective masks, learned this recently. The staff set off on a desperate search for supplies, rattled Internet portals, and searched newsletters and brochures. Then finally an employee came across the offer of a Swiss retail chain that specializes in stationery and office supplies and also has protective masks in its range.
“Masks looked reasonable”
The employees were initially skeptical, but thought that the office supplies dealer, although not a specialist, had “found a new source of supply”, as the person puts it, who is informed about the incident and who does not want to be named here.
“The image of the masks looked very reasonable,” he says, “and an assistant ordered 100 masks.” A little later the great disappointment and disillusionment, yes: the shock. “What was then delivered could not even be a joke on Carnival.” The person familiar with the case describes the “protective masks” supplied as follows: “Transparent paper with two slips of paper. Quality paper handkerchief. »
Unsuitable goods, especially for a doctor’s office. The price also promised something completely different: the 100 masks cost just under 320 francs.
The doctor’s office immediately returned the delivery. The company promised to refund the purchase price. “It’s still a huge mess,” the observer says. “The doctor and assistants work every day until they drop. Everything has to be cleaned and disinfected before and after each patient. The effort is huge. The team is always ready in the evening. And then you want to rip them off and jeopardize their health. »
A look at the Internet shows: The cheap mask is obviously a Turkish product, in any case it is offered in Turkey for the equivalent of around 50 francs per 100 pieces. So less than a sixth of the price the Swiss retailer asked for.
How could it come to this? CH Media confronted the dealer: “According to our information, your company sold the cheapest masks to a doctor’s office, which urgently needed protective masks. Did you make a mistake or do you want to benefit from the Corona crisis in this way? »
A little later, the managing director contacted him personally by phone. The man was contrite. He didn’t even try to gloss over the incident. The mask went on sale at a completely overwhelming price. «We made a mistake, we were blue-eyed. We immediately pulled the masks out of circulation when we realized what we were selling. »
Dealer himself paid “excessive price”
The manager asserts that it was not intentional. His company had also bought the masks himself at a completely overwhelming price, but initially did not notice this in the heat of the battle. “We received it from a supplier with whom we otherwise have good experiences. I assume the supplier was already paying too much. »
Retailers like the business owner in question are currently facing a variety of problems. In the Corona crisis, they had to close their shops, the majority of the staff are at home. Only online trading continues, but sales have slumped.
Tricksters at work too
What is currently in great demand, among private individuals, but also from medical practices and clinics, are items such as protective masks or disinfectants. One problem, however, is that most retailers are unfamiliar with medical protective masks.
He constantly receives offers for protective masks and the like, says the dealer. Even obscure to criminal offers. Also those of tricksters who tried to trigger a bulk order at excessive prices by sending fake emails to a department in his company. The danger of falling for something like this is considerable, precisely because you run “on the gums”. “We are in a state of emergency,” says the man who has been in business with his company for more than two decades.
CHF 44 for one liter of disinfectant
The retailer, who of course would like to offer his customers the goods he is looking for, also because he wants to keep his business afloat, is also annoyed by usury offers that he receives from suppliers. “We were recently offered disinfectant for CHF 44 per liter” – about ten times the normal price.
A similar usury is in progress with the respiratory masks. The masks in China usually cost around 10 centimes in purchasing. Now, in the Corona crisis, there are about 20 centimes. In Europe, these masks are sometimes offered for around 4 francs, or twenty times. But much more is often required. So there are huge profits.
It is hardly Swiss retailers who make the big money. The said office supplies dealer, after having toppled the usury mask from the range, is now selling, among other things, a type 2 (PPF2) respiratory mask. Price: around 4 francs. His margin was less than a franc.
Shameless crisis profiteers
A sly guy currently sells the same mask on the Ricardo online marketplace for double: 75 francs for 10 pieces.
The business of people’s fear. Another usurer sold a “Surgical Face Mask” that had been bought and stored for “pandemic protection in Switzerland”. “So really the best quality,” says the provider. Price: For 1.60 pieces, or 50 pieces for 80 francs.
A comparison shows how shameless it is: the exact same mask, new and not expired, can currently also be ordered from an online pharmacy in Holland. Price: Less than 12 euros for 50 pieces.