Floridians run into trouble ordering hurricane supplies on Amazon

By Nancy Dahlberg / Miami Herald

MIAMI — It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Rather than schlep from store to store and wait in long lines to buy dwindling hurricane supplies, South Floridians tried to order their water, batteries, flashlights, chargers and Oreos through Amazon Prime.

It hasn’t been so easy. First, customers discovered water was being sold at prices much higher than usual, including a 24-pack of Ice Mountain bottled water going for $99.99. Amazon took a social media lashing, with some customers accusing the company of unlawful price-gouging.

The $100 water attracted the attention of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and there have been other reports of high prices for water.

In response, an Amazon representative told NBC News that the company does not engage in surge pricing and product prices do not fluctuate by region or delivery location. The representative said the examples shared on Twitter were from third-party vendors and that better deals were not available at the time. However, the episode has led to 12 merchants being suspended by the e-commerce giant, Bondi told Bloomberg.

But that was only the beginning. Now customers are complaining that they are getting messages from Amazon that their hurricane deliveries are being delayed, sometimes with no time frame given for the new delivery — even on orders placed as early as Monday. That was even while Amazon had been promoting two-hour delivery in a “storm readiness” section on its Prime Now site. (Prime normally promises two-day delivery.)

Due to incoming Hurricane Irma, there are fuel shortages in parts of Florida. This led to a dispute at a Mobil gas station in Miami in which one man pulled out a gun and pointed it at another driver, according to the Miami New Times.

Some Amazon customers reached through Twitter said they were told the delays are at the local delivery sites, delaying deliveries by a day or so. But customer Eric Kobrin will have evacuated before his battery charger is now scheduled to arrive. Valeria Perez was told to expect her generator delivery Friday or Saturday — that’s cutting it close as Hurricane Irma is expected to begin bearing down on South Florida Saturday evening. Others gave up on the wait Friday morning and went out to the stores to stock their hurricane kits.

Now, apparently, Amazon has been deluged with orders and is making no such promises of delivery before or even just after the storm hits. On Thursday afternoon, an order seeking one-day and two-day delivery for water and D batteries would take until Sept. 13 as an estimated delivery time, the website said. An Amazon spokesperson said Thursday evening the company was looking into the matter.

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