Price gouging reported in SWFL ahead of Hurricane Dorian

Reporter: Morgan Rynor Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

We are seeing some stores across Southwest Florida attempt to sell customers packs of water for almost $40. And people are wondering if this is a case of price gouging taking place. Thousands of complaints have been reported across the state.

We looked into reports of price gouging from Lehigh Acres south to businesses in Collier County, as people continue to prepare for Dorian and the remainder of the Atlantic Hurricane Season Saturday.

Bobbi Vallini still remembers the grocery store that went above and beyond to help her after Hurricane Charley swept through Southwest Florida in 2004.

“My son was just born then, and we didn’t have any extra milk or anything,” Vallini said. “We went to Naples. We go inside, and the lady goes, ‘Listen I’m not supposed to give out the ice, but you know what it’s an emergency we want to help out your baby.’”

So Vallini is upset to see gas stations and convenience stores raise goods to exorbitant prices during a time when necessities are vital during the state of emergency in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.

“It’s ridiculous,” Vallini said. “Yesterday, I was telling my mom. I go ‘It’s $2.40 whatever right here, and down the road just going up three miles, it’s $2.20 something.’”

Inside of a Circle K on Immokalee Road, there was a case of water with the asking price of $36. We asked about the price hike but did not receive a response.

“Enjoy it now because when they become plentiful, we will not be back,” Vallini said.

The Office of the Florida Attorney General launched an app called NO SCAM. It was developed precisely for hurricane season and the purposes of reporting price gouging, since this is a time of year when these occurrences can become abundant.

MORE: Attorney General’s app helps report price gouging

Anyone can send pictures of signs like the one seen at the Circle K in Immokalee and write descriptions of what was experienced at any given store and more.

Price gouging occurs when someone charges an excessive price for a necessary item like water or gas during a state of emergency. Anyone violating the law can face a fine of $1,000 for each violation.

“You’d think they’d do the opposite really to help people out,” Vallini said.

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