Bristol convenience shops are facing accusations of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic by hiking prices.
Customers have complained of newsagent stores charging as much as £9.99 for a 100ml bottle of hand sanitiser.
It comes as panic-buying leads to shortages of toilet roll, hand sanitiser and groceries in stores across the UK.
We investigated complaints on social media that Southville’s North Street News shop was “profiteering during a pandemic” by increasing toilet roll prices.
After entering the store, we carried a nine-pack of ultra-quilted Cushelle toilet roll and two-pack of Gentille kitchen towel to the counter.
An employee scanned the items, telling us the Cushelle would cost £5.99 and the Gentille £2.99.
When we pointed out the shelf price tag for the Gentille was £1.49, the staff member apologised and said she had made a mistake by asking for a higher amount.
We identified ourselves as Bristol Live and asked the owner Vish Trive if he thought £5.99 was a fair price for the toilet roll.
He replied: “The price is £3.99. She made a mistake.”
The total amount requested for the items was initially £8.98, before Mr Trive told us the correct bill came to £5.48.
We had visited North Street News following social media reports that the shop had price-tagged a four-pack of toilet roll at £1.99 but asked a customer for £3.49.
Mr Trive denied that claim and said: “We never overcharge.
“There has been a queue of more than half an hour for this stuff. We are not a charity.
“The wholesale prices have gone up in the last few weeks. It is very hard to get items. They are squeezing us.”
‘The prices are terrible’
We also spoke to the Premier shop on Southmead Road, after a Bristol Live reader complained: “It is selling 100ml of hand sanitiser for £9.99.
“The prices are terrible and the shop should be told it’s wrong.”
A spokesman for the store defended the price of the anti-bacterial product.
He said: “We are taking only 50p of profit on that. There is nothing on the market from wholesalers.
“We have only one or two left. Customers have come in and talked about the price.
“Some of them are upset about it, some of them are buying.”
The spokesman revealed the Premier previously sold hand sanitisers for £1.29, but said wholesale prices have risen.
He added: “The wholesaler is selling face masks for £1 each and we have been selling them for £1.75.”
‘No one wants to listen’
Prashant Patel spoke out on criticism of his shop, Coronation Road Convenience Store in Southville, after he put a post on Facebook.
The post, which displayed an image of anti-bacterial Carex hand gel, read: “£7.99 for 300ml. Sorry only one per customer. We only got 16 bottles in stock. Sorry for the price but we paid premium price for it.”
Mr Patel told us: “People criticising it on Facebook don’t understand. No one wants to listen to the retail point of view.”
He said the Carex bottles are being reserved for elderly and vulnerable people.
“People have been calling me left, right and centre for sanitisers, but we want to get the elderly safe first,” Mr Patel added.
“It’s costing us £5.40 plus VAT from wholesalers. I’m making about £1.51 per bottle. That’s a fair profit in my opinion.
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“We have never sold hand sanitiser before in our store. I feel stupid now. I should not have bothered buying them.
“We are still selling Dettol surface cleaner spray for £2, nine-pack toilet rolls for £4. No prices been put up.”
Mr Patel is reserving packs of toilet roll for elderly people due to high demand.