Something doesn't smell right to me. The other day I went to the Royal Bank to do some banking, but my closest location had a locked door and one of those `this location is closed because of COVID19' signs on it. Interestingly, the sign directed me to two other Royal Bank locations that were not closed. I found it odd that governmental mandates would close a bank that is an essential service, and even odder that those mandates hadn't closed different locations of the same bank.
I drove, fairly far out of my way, to the designated location. It was open but had a colossal line-up of customers, and they were not moving. They were just standing there with despondent expressions ... waiting. The line extended out of the bank's door and stretched a half block down the sidewalk. It took close to an hour to wait out that line.
So here is the question: Did the Royal Bank inconvenience patrons to make more money, and then justify it by inferring COVID government shutdowns was the reason? It would be pretty brilliant, if not conniving. They could dump all the employees from one location and double up on the customers in another, thus pocketing a handsome profit. And since all this new COVID weirdness is the norm at the moment, no one would likely notice or question it.
Bare with me for a moment as I set up the framework for an unsettling observation.
In a briefly viral story, the CBC reported this headline. "Calgary-based company charged with pandemic price gouging" (1). Global News reported it this way: "Coronavirus: Calgary business charged with price gouging, Service Alberta says" (2). And the St. Albert Today reported the story with this hook; "'We're going to go after you:' Calgary company charged with pandemic price gouging"(3). The gist of that story was that a small business owner was selling PPE (he owned) at inflated prices, so he was stopped by the government and charged. The prices were inflated because his product was in demand due to the coronavirus.
I tested this theory a week ago. I have some 3M N95 masks, which are apparently as rare as a Gretzky rookie card. I tried to sell them through online classifieds. My ad was quickly taken down after posting, with an explanation that it was a violation. Apparently, I am not allowed to sell products that save lives, unless I check with some "governmental shadow agency" that determines what prices are permitted. I find it troublesome that the government is forbidding me from selling my private property at a price two parties would mutually agree to. Alberta seems to be moving away from a freer laissez-faire model to a more controlling communist framework. And I was foolish enough to think the NDP had lost the last election.
But back to the unfortunate businessman that the CBC was pointing their finger at. Here he is, crippled by a raise in the minimum wage, staggered by a new carbon tax, and contending with a disease that has vacated his customers from the streets. Facing bankruptcy, he has the good fortune to find in his possession a product that might postpone his demise, that may allow him to weather this catastrophe a little bit longer and stave off homelessness. But big brother government steps in and calls him evil, and they fine him. CBC reported that " Companies found guilty of price gouging face fines of up to $300,000". Not only did governmental policy (on multiple levels) help put him in this financial peril, it now had to agitate it further by micromanaging his daily operation - essentially hamstringing him into possible insolvency.
His product was masks and hand sanitizer. He was "price gouging". The Left loves making something normal sound distasteful. Oh the horror of horrors, he would have capitalized on COVID19 on those select products. An example must be made of him - and the government was gleefully willing. Yet a banks' product is its services and the availability of those services. By closing select locations (that were essential services and didn't need to close) and funnelling desperate customers into remaining ones, they are also padding their bottom line. They are also capitalizing on COVID19. I see little difference with a bank shutting its doors at one location to jam-pack another and a shop owner raising his prices. You are essentially sending half of your workforce home and saving that money, while simultaneously forcing your customers to wait an exuberant amount of time, and to unnecessarily waste their gas, in an attempt to use your product. Perhaps the government is only concerned when small mom-and-pop operations break their rules? Perhaps a bank has a lot more money to lawyer up than the common joe on the street, so the law treads lightly around them? I bet the bank spends a lot of money on advertising at the CBC. Whatever the case, I dislike a system that has a different set of rules for the "rich" than for the "poor". That's not what Canada used to be. Let our Calgarian brother go or fine the bank. Otherwise, you stink.
Or maybe, I'm just crazy!!
And that's honest Abe's opinion.
(1) Calgary-based company charged with pandemic price gouging
(2) Coronavirus: Calgary business charged with price gouging, Service Alberta says
(3) 'We're going to go after you:' Calgary company charged with pandemic price gouging