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Price Gouging in Hoboken, NJ After Hurricane Sandy + The Heroes of Hoboken

Hoboken, NJ businesses in the wake of Hurricane Sandy - many doing great things while a handful took advantage, what are your thoughts?

As we all braced for Hurricane Sandy to hit Monday it appears that many businesses in Hoboken were gearing up to overcharge residents for goods, foods and services.  New Jersey’s anti-gouging law, prohibits price hikes of more than 10 percent in an emergency. The law does make an exception for merchants who face increased costs, but the markup is still limited to 10 percent above normal. In short, a pizza that is normally $13 should not be sold for more than $14.30, several area pizzerias and food establishments have been reported for increasing their prices from anywhere between 25% and 200%.  Fines in NJ can range from 10k-20k for first offense violators.

 

While the power in Hoboken was out, many businesses with gas powered ovens stayed open and cooked and baked by flashlight and candlelight.  On Tuesday afternoon and night, via recent posts on citysearch.com and yelp.com, it appears that many area food establishments were price gouging.  It also appears that once they got caught, they brought their prices back to nornam, in an attempt to blanket their evil ways.

 

An uptown pizzeria on Washington st according to yelpers was charging $40 for a pizza that according to their menu is $11.25.  Furthermore the menu indicated Tuesday night is a special where 2 large pizzas can be bought for $15.  Other yelpers complained that this same establishment was charging $7 for french fries that are normally $3.50 and charging $16 for entrees that are normally $8.  According to NJ's anti-gouging laws, this pricing is extremely excessive and surpasses the state mandated 10%.

 

Another pizzeria in town nearer to downtown was reportedly caught selling their large pies for $40 per pie according to yelpers.  In addition a Yelpers also pointed out a falafel establishment had raised its prices from $2.50 to $4. While $1.50 extra, yet above 10% some argue that given the circumstances the price jump here could be related to food costs increased and variety of other reasons, and nothing else on the menu was spiked in price.

 

Elsewhere on yelp a pizzeria on Washington Street was reportedly charging customers $10 for 3 slices.  While $3 per slice, people were made to buy 3 slices for $10 due to the pizzerias reportedly inability to make change.  While it's not overcharging, it is forcing someone to spend money they weren't intended to spend.

 

There were lots of "good guys" too in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  Eugene Flynn, proprietor of both Amanda's and The Elysian Cafe was giving away free food last week to those that waited in line to get it.  Meatballs, french fries, crab bisque soup, macaroni and cheese all handed out to those hungry and at no charge.  If you wanted 2nd's, no problem.  Cugini Kitchen, located at 918 Washington St was another big hero in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  The eatery brought out a huge BBQ grill and cooked breakfast and lunch sandwiches for customers.  Breakfast sandwiches were all just $3 each with sandwiches topping out at $5.  Anthony David's, located at 10th and Bloomfield street cooked by generator and charged normal prices for everyone in the wake of the storm. 

 

Other local hero's open for business were Court Street Bar and Grill who never lost power.  The restuarant, who seeemed to be the only one with full kitchen and bar for days charged normal prices and extended it's specials nights for all.  Propietor Meghan Talbot even had a call from CNN to talk to her on air about being the only open establishment in town however due to the interview having to be done at night, Meghan told CNN she would pass on the 2 minutes of free advertising  to the world because she wanted t make sure all her customers were taken care of.  Local hot dog restaurant Windmill, located at 79 Hudson St was giving away free hot dogs for several days and on one day they invited residents with food that would spoil to use their grill to cook it, no charge of course.

 

Celebrity caterer Brett Bond, owner of Baltimore-based catering compnay Taste Events Catering, has served food for Elton John and is currently Brad Paisley's tour caterer. I was able to meet Brett at Moran's a few nights after the storm.  "I saw Mayor Zimmer's pleas for help on the new and had to do something about it.  I packed up my food trucks with 5000 pounds of food and drove 4 hours to Hoboken.  Over the course of several days Brett and his staff served round the clock free meals for hungry Hoboken residents.

 

What experiences did you have in Hoboken?  We're you price gouged at all or did you find any other loving business owners that were helping out the community?  Feel free to put your comments below.

 

 

 

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MomG November 08, 2012 at 05:52 PM
La Isla was also serving free hot food after the storm. Bless them all!
XJS November 08, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Torna's also was open in the blackout and NOT gouging. I think they were giving away slices or charging $1.
Jay Rattigan November 08, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I will never step foot in Molfetta's on 11th & Washington again. They charged us $50 for an order which, according to their menu, cost $24.95. Very scummy.
Dina Racciatti November 08, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Nothing to do with food- but Dina's Kiss & Makeup has a huge sale until Sunday to help women replenish lost beauty supplies. 50% off all makeup 40% off all skin care 15% off all jewelry
Jay Rattigan November 08, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Rory, any idea what state agency monitors this activity? Thanks. Jay
Rory Chadwick November 08, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Jay, Any consumer who has a complaint about price gouging or any emergency-related scams should call the Divison of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846. 1st offense the fine will max out at $10,000, for repeat offenders the fine will max at $20,000. It's important for people to comment about this. It is very important for the Hoboken community to know who the good guys are and who are the bad guys. I've heard about gouging all the way to people selling batteries and generators out of their cars. The more comments about who what and where will help us all greatly. Thank you.
Rory Chadwick November 08, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Personally speaking I found quite admirable of Court Street to turn away 2 minutes on CNN citing, "I'm more concerned about my customers than I am about talking to CNN". 2 minutes of advertising on CNN costs maybe $50k? Turning that down to make sure a customer has a hot meal and is satisfied, that is a tremendous amount of respect.
Jersey Girl November 08, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Great article, but why do reporters and contributors not care about spelling, grammar and proofreading. Where is the journalistic integrity?
Rory Chadwick November 08, 2012 at 07:22 PM
When I start getting paid, I'll start using word lol. I do my best to get it right the first time, Patch blogs do not have an editor, they're just posted.
711Willow November 08, 2012 at 08:52 PM
The term "price gouging" is, in the first place, subjective. When is a business price gouging? Whenever the government decides they are? Accurate prices, especially during a crisis, are essential for keeping economies healthy. They are the primary information sellers and buyers use to establish what accurate supply, demand and value exists. When prices fail to reflect actual economic realities distortions occur. When a government intervenes and forces businesses to lower their prices this is both practically and morally wrong. In many cases 'price gouging' can stave off a crisis. Consider a gasoline shortage during a hurricane. Artificially lower prices can cause a run on gas and deplete the supply far quicker then had the true supply/demand price been in effect. One has to wonder about how many businesses in town didn't even bother to open since operating at even +10% price levels wasn't profitable or worth the effort. Why does anyone have a right to cheap pizza? Why should the buyer set the prices? Why does anyone have a right to someone else's property or labor? Why should a buyer be allowed to 'take advantage' of a seller? Trade in a free society should be a peaceful transaction at an agreed upon price by two or more parties.
XJS November 08, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Good point. Let them starve next time!! smh
Ojo Rojo November 08, 2012 at 09:10 PM
And if you don't like the price or don't like the way those 2 pizza places treated their customers, never buy pizza from them again. I for one will never patronize those establishments ever again. The businesses that helped their neighbors however will be at near the top of my list for dinner this weekend!
711Willow November 08, 2012 at 09:33 PM
That's how the free market works. Good for you Ojo Rojo!
MichaelE November 08, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Mulfetta's pizzeria was price gauging big time. Never going there again! On the flip side, Charritos was giving out free food.
Jay Rattigan November 08, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Price gouging is actually not subjective. It is defined by law. I am not qualified to argue free markets (and I assume you are not either since you fail to mention the assumptions that must be present for a free market to exist - none of which are present during an emergency - maybe your professor forgot to mention this when you defended your PhD thesis). Anyway, if you have ever visited Molfetta's you will notice that the combined education level of the owner/operators is perhaps high school so I doubt that free markets were on their mind. They simply saw a situation where they could make more money which I thought was a scummy thing to do. I agree with you on one thing - I can choose to never visit there again.
Rory Chadwick November 08, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Price gouging is illegal only when there is a statewide or countrywide disaster. You're allowed t do it whenever you outside of these disasters. For instance at St Pats Day in Hoboken, you're free to charge what you want and it's legal. It only becomes a crime when there is a state of emergency or a disaster is declared. Molfetta can charge $40 a pie for St pat or leprecon all day long, it's ok but what they did during the disaster was illegal and therefore they must be held accountable.
711Willow November 09, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Sorry Rattigan, I'm not in the position of judging people's education level when I look at them. You wanted to stuff your pie hole and you didn't like the price so you got upset. That's all that happened. You were suffering from no emergency, not that it matters. Obviously the cretins at this pizza parlor exist to serve you at the price you set. Never mind that they had to go to their store and open it and run it and all the risk that entails during a storm. How dare they name their price to you Rattigan! Aside from ignoring the several other points I made please define the "assumptions" that MUST exist in order for a free market to exist and then prove why they are so.
Padraic Gallagher November 09, 2012 at 03:17 PM
The guys at Charrito's were serving free food for days. They were out there from morning till late afternoon as well. Very much appreciated by the community.
Captain Kirk November 09, 2012 at 03:26 PM
711Willow is right. It's heartbreaking to see people in need of food, water, heat and gas. I am without many myself. But prices work. If gas went up and say floated to 10$/gallon no one would be in line to fill up their tank "just in case" Prices force conservation during shortages. This odd/even stuff is nonsense. IF a family really, really really needs gas, they'll pay the price for getting it. That may sound heartless but I think it actually frees up a scarce resoure for the folks who need it the most.
Captain Kirk November 09, 2012 at 03:30 PM
An addendum...this really isn't a binary decison. Their are shades of gray between price controls and lesiez fair. I think its perfectly fair to say an individual can only buy so much gas. Price is the best weapon to promote frugality. We throw that weapon out to our own detriment.
Jeff November 11, 2012 at 12:14 PM
What were the other places that were gouging? Name names so we know to boycott them in the future. Amanda's was also giving out free food and I understand Karma Kafe was too although I didn't see that one. Also heard Benny Tudino was giving out slices.
Martha Pickerill November 12, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Tudino's? i heard that they were jacking up their prices, not giving out free slices. Anyone have firsthand experience there? Because I was ready not to go to Tudino's again, even though we were there for lunch the day before the storm. Do tell
XJS November 12, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Someone sent me this link about Benny's: 3 slices for $9, no change provided. So most people had to pay $10. You couldn't buy by the slice. Had to buy 3. http://www.yelp.com/biz/benny-tudinos-pizzeria-hoboken Then I saw this one: http://www.philly2hoboken.com/blog/archives/2012/11/beer-and-loathi.html Seems like it's true.
mrvrnj421 November 12, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Great article...increasing prices due to rising costs is one thing, but some of these places should be ashamed of themselves. $40 for a pizza? It is times like these when we should be doing everything we can to help our neighbors and stick together, not capitalizing on a tragedy to make a quick buck. Kudos to all the places that did their part to help out. Here's hoping that the greedy businesses get run outta town!
Jay Rattigan November 12, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Do you own Molfetta's?
mrvrnj421 November 12, 2012 at 09:10 PM
To me, regardless of what is legal or not legal, it is more about helping out the community during a time of need. You can argue all day about economics, but it is not necessary to charge $40 for a pizza. The people you are ripping off are the same people that help you keep the lights on, and that is a good way to lose customers and go out of business.
07030 November 15, 2012 at 02:02 PM
The tiny grocery on the corner of 3rd and Garden was in the dark but open the morning following the storm and all days after. There was no price gouging (large 8'' tall votive candles for $1.79) and they had a full supply of just about anything you would want. Thanks guys and Happy Dawali - good karma coming your way for sure.
mrvrnj421 November 15, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Beowoof, the pet store (I believe it's on 5th and Madison), opened up soon after the storm despite no electricity. They provided miniature electric "lanterns" to help people shop around and there was no change in prices. Kudos to them for helping pet owners care for their animals and not taking advantage of anyone. While it is sickening to hear about businesses trying to capitalize on this tragedy, it seems there are far more businesses that did their part to help out than there are businesses that exploited the community. THAT is what it's all about.
Christine Marshall November 15, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Beowoof is on 106 Fifth Street between Bloomfield and Washington. This is by far the best pet store in Hoboken. Christine
mrvrnj421 November 15, 2012 at 02:48 PM
That's right, thanks for the correction Christine.

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