Hoffman's Houston
at what cost?

Ken Hoffman gets testy with a major online retailer for pandemic price gouging

Hoffman calls out a major online retailer for pandemic price gouging

Binax Now
A major retailer is selling these tests for far more than the normal cost. Abbott.com

Two things to know about COVID rapid-result home testing kits, the hottest-ticket, hardest-to-find products to hit pharmacy and department stores since, well, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes at the start of the pandemic.

1. The home testing kits are designed to detect antigens found in the COVID virus. You get your result in 15 minutes. They are accurate, especially if you are symptomatic, certainly accurate enough for you to get a more definitive PCR test if your result is positive.

2. As is sadly typical, whenever a product is wildly popular and in short supply, there will be sources that take advantage and jack up the price. There are people, for whatever reason, that can’t find a public testing place or can’t wait in hours-long lines or have money to burn, willing to pay two, three, four times the retail price for a home COVID test kit. Be aware and beware.

That said, I thought there was, but if there isn’t, there oughta be a law against price gouging on products that people need during a crisis.

Last week, I received an email from Tanga, an online middleman that sells all sorts of products at discount prices. They’ll boast “Deal of the Day” and “Shop the Best Deals Online.” I’ve bought a few things from Tanga, like backyard mosquito zappers, phone chargers, and porch lights. You can catch a bargain, that’s for sure.

Except this one: Tanga is offering BinaxNOW home COVID kits: $49 for one box (containing two tests), $250 for five boxes, and $520 for 10 boxes. That’s more than double (in some cases, triple) the store price for a medical product during a pandemic emergency.

That’s outrageous and disgusting. How is this possibly legal?

Walmart sells BinaxNOW test kits for $14. CVS has them for $24. Walgreen’s $24. The problem is, they’re sold out the moment they hit the store shelves.

If you hover over a computer, like many people did during the first rollout of vaccines, you might catch home testing kits for sale online. I bought a BinaxNOW kit at Walmart.com. 

People are rightfully scared of catching and transmitting the virus. Getting tested (and vaccinated and boosted) is the smart and responsible thing to do.

Remember the early days of COVID in 2020, when you couldn’t find hand sanitizer and people were racing from supermarket to pharmacy like a wild scavenger hunt? That’s what’s going on now with at-home COVID test kits. And along come unconscionable sources offering test kits for $50 (and higher) per box.

This is price gouging pure and simple, especially when testing for COVID could be a matter of life, hospitalization or death.

I contacted Tanga for a comment but haven’t heard back.

There are other websites, like Slickdeals and Dealnews that relay bargain offers from retailers. They currently link to $14 BinaxNOW kits from Walmart and Sam’s Club. 

There are several brands of COVID home test kids on the market now. Most of them are approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration but only two, BinaxNow and Quidel QuickVue, are proven to detect the Omicron variant of COVID.

Like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in 2020, the shortage of home COVID tests will ease soon. Stores are stocking up and the government has ordered 500 million kits that promise to be available for free online later this month.

An interesting” tribute to Betty White

Most interesting tribute to White, who died on New Year’s Eve at 99, came from her longtime friend Carol Burnett: “I loved Betty very, very much. The world has lost one in a million.”

I know Carol Burnett meant that as a compliment, that Betty White was unique and special. But currently there are 7,953,952,577 people in the world.

That makes Betty White just one of 7,953 people who are “one in a million.”