When The Face Mask Goes Viral

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There are winners and losers in every walk of life, and a viral epidemic is no exception. The ongoing spread of the coronavirus has led to the tripling of the price of a face mask. Whereas a month ago, a box of 50 surgical face masks cost me less than 5 euros, I’m now having to pay around 15 euros for the same product. But I am not one to think about increasing costs when it comes to health issues.

Some time after the 9/11 attacks, I bought a book entitled, “Crossing The Rubicon,” written by Michael Ruppert. It was one of those conspiracy theories that ran around like wildfire after a major event. I have to say that the way Ruppert endorsed what he wrote with bulletproof evidence, was very convincing. “Surely not,” I thought when I read that just maybe, certain people knew what was going to happen, let it happen, and cashed-in healthy stock-market profits after it had happened. “No,” I continued thinking. “Now, just who would do a thing like that?”

Having replenished my stock of face masks this week, I just might think with less cynicism about what Ruppert wrote more than 15 years ago. In making sure that people pay the full price for, in their opinion, protecting themselves against upcoming suffering, those who sell face masks remind me that profiting from a crisis is still big business. In the same way that there were those who made money on the black market whilst others were being sent to concentration camps, disinfectant and face mask distributors are making big money on the back of the coronavirus.

It’s a sign ot the times when, faced with a threat that has the potential to cause widespread misery, moral values sink to a new low. Each to his own, I suppose, and there’s no better time to make your own fortune than when others depend on a commodity that only you can sell. These unscrupulous people would probably sell their grandmothers, if there was a market for them.

The French government has decided to requisition 15 million face masks in order to make them available to health professionals and patients infected with the coronavirus. The finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, has also made it clear that he will investigate any irregularities concerning the price of a face mask that is sold to the general public. The online giant, Amazon, has also warned retailers not to overcharge for a face mask, or run the risk of being barred from the site. I have seen face masks on Amazon currently selling at 50-60$ per pack of 50, excluding shipping costs. I must count myself lucky, then.

Profitability doesn’t always rhyme with philosophy, and even less with morality. Big companies are supposed to pride themselves in their social responsibility, ranging from saving the planet to wiping out poverty. But what about retailers, the people in the middle? Rather like the agent of the modern-day football superstars, these people are out to make money, no matter how.

In an ideal world, the retailer identifies the cheapest source for obtaining products from the suppliers, and passes on the advantages to the consumer. If I assume that the product’s direct costs and other related expenses has not tripled in the last month, it can only be that the retailer has decided that, under current circumstances, the value of face masks has tripled.

When I spoke to my retailer about this, his answer contained a strange mixture of morality and economics. He assured me that his stock of face masks would not run out, because only regular customers would be able to buy them from him. I was being rewarded for my trust in his services. On the other hand, he could do nothing about the astronomical increase in pricing that was due to “circumstances.”

It seems that all dental retailers have caught onto the fact that money is to be made from a virus that is worth much more its weight in gold. A strange example of a price war, I thought, where all warring factions are, in fact, on the same side.