shoppers drug mart canada

Shoppers Drug Mart accused of hiking prices amid coronavirus pandemic

Canadian consumers are slamming the country's largest pharmacy chain this morning for what they see as price gouging on essential household hygiene items during a global pandemic.

Like many Toronto retailers, Shoppers Drug Mart locations have been slammed over the past 24 hours with people "panic shopping" as confirmed cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus rise and offices tell their employees to work from home.

Supplies such as toilet paper (okay, mostly toilet paper) are in short supply at supermarkets all over the city, but Shoppers appears to be the only major chain (so far) capitalizing on this demand.

Customers of the Loblaw Companies Ltd.-owned chain are sharing photos online of outrageously high price tags for disinfectants, hand sanitzer bottles and, of course, disposable paper goods.

Packages of toiler paper containing just 12 rolls are going for as much as $22 by some accounts.

ROYALE original bathroom tissue, in particular, is priced at $14.99 in multiple Shoppers Drug Mart locations across Toronto.

That's for 12 rolls of paper, mind you, which equates to roughly $1.25 per 253-sheet roll.

Walmart Canada currently has the exact same item listed for $6.97 (though it is, of course, out of stock.)

Shoppers has responded to some of the dozens of complaints about this particular item and how it is priced on Twitter by asking customers to send them a direct message with the UPC of the product.

"No. Sorry. I didn't buy," replied one customer in response to the corporation. "I went next door to another store and paid $5."

Early Friday afternoon, the company started telling consumers on Twitter that $14.99 is the regular price for this specific product.

"We can assure you our stores are committed to providing the same value-for-money as they always do. This is our regular price for toilet paper when it's not on sale," wrote the brand to one customer. "Sale prices can often be significantly lower, as can other brands as options."

It's not only toilet paper going for more than what customers are used to, however.

A widely-shared photo of hand sanitizer bottles being sold for $8.99 also elicited a reply from the company's Twitter account.

"This product is not a centrally listed item but was brought in by the store to meet demand," explained the company's corporate office.

"Looking at the cost of the product, the pricing is still aligned with our price structure. We understand the concern and are committed to providing the same value-for-money as we always do."

Patrons aren't buying it. Literally — some are walking straight out the door without purchasing anything and planning to boycott Shopper's Drug Mart in light of what they see as blatant price gouging.

"Your #pricegouging has not gone unnoticed. Notified head office," wrote one customer to Shoppers on Twitter. "This will pass and once it does your ethics will not be forgotten. This goes for all price gouging companies. Shame on you all!"

"Galen Weston is one of the richest men in Canada," commented another Twitter user of the company's extremely wealthy owner.

"People quarantined are not going to be able to pay their bills and maybe even not be able to eat. One man's wealth would help a lot of people if we just took it."

Update: Shopper's Drug Mart has provided the following statement concerning its current prices:

"Shoppers Drug Mart has not changed our pricing practices on key essentials, including toilet paper or hand sanitizer. Recent posts show our regular retail price (not an artificially inflated one) for certain products, which would have been priced and planned many months ago. At the same time, we’re looking at ways to offer relief, like moving up our toilet paper sales to begin early."

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