Coronavirus
A Profeco agent seizes a product being sold as hand sanitizer. A Profeco agent seizes a product being sold as hand sanitizer.

Street vendors making a killing off sales of antibacterial gel

Unlabeled bottles are going for as much as four times the supermarket price

With the shelves empty at pharmacies, supermarkets and other stores, people selling hand sanitizer on the streets of Mexico City’s historic center are raking in the profits, getting three to four times the regular market price for the product.

“Even by the 20-liter jug,” said one police officer working on Avenida Juárez, alongside the city’s famous Alameda Park.

Vendors here and elsewhere in downtown Mexico City have posted signs advertising hand gel, much of it sold in containers without labels.

The newspaper Reforma found a vendor in Chinatown, just to the south of the Alameda, selling 525-milliliter bottles bearing the labels of the Blumen brand for 100 pesos (US $4.30). Supermarkets were charging around 30-40 pesos for the same product before stocks ran out.

The same vendor also had unlabeled 280-milliliter bottles for 50 pesos and even smaller ones for 15 pesos.

The federal consumer protection agency Profeco announced on March 21 that the average black-market price for hand sanitizer in Mexico was 13.83 pesos per 60 milliliters. At that price, a liter costs 230 pesos. A 1-liter bottle of Blumen hand sanitizer cost around 55 pesos in the supermarkets.

Three days later, Profeco agents seized 1,435 unlicensed, unlabeled bottles of hand sanitizer and face masks.

The agency warned of the danger of such products in a press release, saying that the hand gel “might not disinfect, or could even contain a prohibited ingredient.”

But fear has bolstered demand on Mexico City streets and the commerce, although illegal, is evident.

“I see them get it from that booth there,” said a shoe shiner on a corner of the popular pedestrian street Calle Madero.

Reforma reporter Jorge Ricardo found a wide range of prices on the street. He saw 60-milliliter bottles being sold for as low as 10 pesos to as high as 50 pesos.

Bootleg hand gel vendors are finding they can’t even make enough to meet demand. Ricardo asked a group of young people who passed him with bags full of unlabeled 5 and 10-liter plastic bottles if they were going to sell them.

“Yes, but not until tomorrow, because we ran out of alcohol,” one of them replied.

As she sold the last of her plastic bottles, a vendor in the La Merced market told Ricardo that she did not believe that all the hand sanitizer would even do any good.

Still, she was able to ask for as much as 180 pesos for an empty 2-liter plastic bottle.

Despite benefiting from the fear caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the vendor claimed not to believe the news of the virus and said that people were wasting their money on hand sanitizer.

“It’s a rumor. The whole world’s getting sick, but this is utter nonsense from the federal and world governments,” she said. “You go and find out who caused this disorder.”

Source: Reforma (sp)

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