"Makes me want to cry." Customers accuse supermarket of price gouging, but owners blame suppliers

Posted at 4:40 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 22:09:29-04

OLD HICKORY, Tenn. (WTVF) — Customers believe a local Piggly Wiggly is price gouging due to COVID-19, but the owner said his prices have changed as suppliers are charging them more.

Charlotte Bennett is upset with the price of groceries at the Piggly Wiggly in Old Hickory. Bennett said, “It just don’t make no sense, it really don’t, makes me want to cry.”

With her work hours cut down due to the novel coronavirus, times are tough. On Tuesday she said she was unable to buy ground beef as it was too expensive.

Bennett said, “I’ll end up going vegetarian I guess.”

Customer Scott Johnson said he’s been tracking ground beef, chicken, and pork chop price changes at the Piggly Wiggly for a week. He believes there is some price gouging going on at the grocery store.

“This here is normally $1.99 a pound, and it’s $3.69 a pound for this,” Johnson said, “The other day I bought 6 pork chops and it was $15.37. Today I guess they had some complaints, and knew that they was probably getting ready to be put on TV or so, and the price had came down to about $8. That’s a big difference.”

Piggly Wiggly Owner Brian Allen did not want to do an on-camera interview. Over the phone he said some items are costing more from his suppliers, so that’s why prices have gone up. However, customers said this hasn’t happened at other nearby groceries.

“And there’s no reason that this should be going on," Johnson said, "With the other competitors their prices haven’t risen.”

Deputy Attorney General Jeff Hill works in the Consumer Protection Division. As of March 23rd, they’ve received 115 official complaints related to COVID-19. 85 of the complaints allege price gouging, and 3 of them include Piggly Wiggly stores in Tennessee. They include price gouging allegations on cheese, meat, and other products at the Piggly Wiggly stores in Tullahoma and Spring City.

Hill said, “Every complaint we get in, if we can track it down, we are.”

They have investigators who are looking into price gouging, and then they will require refunds to be issued when necessary.

Hill said, “If you think you see price gouging, please report it.”

Complaints can be filed over the phone, or online through the Tennessee Attorney General’s Division of Consumer Affairs. If you don’t use a computer and would like assistance call 615-741-4737.

The complaint needs to include the name and location of the merchant, the date and time of purchase, the payment method, the price of the items in days prior to the price increase, and the price you paid.

Disciplinary action has been taken against some individuals in Chattanooga involving a hand sanitizer case involving alleged price gouging.