Price Gouging: A Bogeyman to Keep in Check

With prices soaring over the last year and especially in the last few months, everyday Americans are grappling with the causes and how to fight inflation from clawing into their quality of life. One of the reasons people have found is price gouging, and while it definitely happens, maybe the focus on price gouging is just another distraction from the larger picture and potential solutions.

As Americans, in either party, we keep a watchful eye on our government. It’s up to us to keep it in balance, to educate ourselves enough to know when corruption is apparent and when we could be overestimating the diabolical schemes of those in power. Seeing price gouging as the culprit for inflation and not a partial reason or result could actually give it more power, especially if we expect it as a corporate norm.

Price Gouging Probably Not in the Driver’s Seat of Inflation

It’s easy to get to thinking that people are conspiring against you. Some people are, but not all. In a system built with checks and balances, that allows us to take action against those found to be price gouging, it seems reasonable to assume that price gouging is much like any other crime — those that see the benefits as outweighing the cost are going to do it and those who have too much to lose or that are guided by a more moral compass will not.

For the most part, we recognize that increased pricing across our economy gets passed down to the consumer so that companies can offset the increases and retain profits. Price gouging is when they’re doing it without sufficient cause, and this is something that if properly informed we should be able to reason through with ourselves. Many companies have seemingly been caught in the act of late, with executives bragging about price hikes and recording record profits. However, overall, the cost of doing business has risen over the past year at about the same rate as consumer inflation.

The obvious conclusion that should lead us to, is that some companies are morally corrupt and driving the overall increased cost to consumers while others are eating their increased costs or being honest about how much more their business is costing them. This is just another time where as a member of a capitalist society, it’s your duty to exercise your buying power to support morally and ethically sound companies.

Leaving the Light On Those We Buy From

None of this is to say that price gouging should be ignored. What we should do is keep a watchful eye on it while not letting it add stress to our everyday life and decision making. If you’re informed and know what you’re buying then you can be confident you won’t be taken advantage of. Not putting up with it and finding a comparable or better product for cheaper is a duty that we rely on as a country to keep prices low.

A few of the companies mentioned in various reports about price gouging include Tyson, Visa, and Kroger. Personally, these companies being listed feels empowering and lets me breathe a sigh of relief on my spending habits. 

Tyson isn’t a product that anyone who cares about health, ethics, or morality typically purchases. Barring sale pricing for families on their raw chicken, there’s no value in their product and their egregious business practices have been documented for years. Visa is a credit company. Price hikes from them should be met with the obvious rebuke that since their product isn’t physical, most things are done digitally, their price increases should be minimal and mostly to cover employee cost of living. 

As far as Kroger goes, that one hurts more and is less easily avoidable, however, this gives us a chance to look around our local markets and even chains, like Trader Joe’s, that source food locally. While their prices may increase during inflation, farmers aren’t as quick or ruthless about it as corporations. This could give you a chance to get a better product for cheaper than the big guys offer their mass-produced basics.

Stay Informed and Trust Your Purchasing to Fight Price Gouging

Price gouging is going to be in our lives, but like most fearful things, focusing on it or accepting it as something to be feared will only make it worse. Every once in a while we need to turn the light on to reassure ourselves there’s nothing in the dark, and to stand up to it if there is, but it shouldn’t be too often. Check in on the companies you buy from every once in a while, adjust accordingly, and you can go through life knowing you’re doing your part and prepared for any companies trying to operate in the dark.

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