September 19, 2020

Someone says they have 2 million N95 masks for sale. The asking price is six times the usual cost.

In normal times, an N95 face mask would cost a big corporation a buck or less — particularly if it ordered a million of them.

But these aren’t normal times, and the pitch from industrial supplier Hatfield and Co. to sell as many as 2 million masks to a major U.S. oil company last week wasn’t your typical offer. The Texas-based supplier wanted $6.3 million for a minimum order of 1 million masks, with an option of buying 2 million for nearly $13 million, sales documents and interviews indicate.

At a time when the new coronavirus is rapidly spreading across the country and health care professionals are desperate for these face masks — which filter out at least 95% of airborne particles — to protect sick people and themselves, critics say a price like that smacks of profiteering and price gouging by someone in the supply chain.

“You’re not just marking it up like 50 cents. This is highway robbery,” said an industry salesperson familiar with Hatfield and Co.’s pitch, who is not authorized to speak to the media and requested anonymity. “It’s just disgusting to me.”

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