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Online stores for survivors and preppers saw massive sales spike as the coronavirus outbreak worsened in the US – but interest isn’t coming from survivors or preppers. It’s from people who until now hadn’t thought of emergency preparations.
“What we are seeing now is people are finally seeing that the world is a fragile place,” Adam Handelsman, a spokesperson for Mira Safety, told BuzzFeed News.
Mira Safety was founded a little over a year ago and is an online shop that focuses on emergency supplies in forest fires such as respirators. According to Handelsman, the shop is currently re-ordering all of its products for three weeks, including military-grade respirators, protective suits and Geiger counters.
Handelsman, however, waved off the notion that it was members of the prepper community who were stocking up in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, which had hit 128 cases in the US and nine deaths as of Wednesday.
“The fact is, the derided Doomsday Prepper community isn’t buying our product,” he said. “You’ve had this stuff for years.”
Instead, his customers are people from big cities like New York or San Francisco who have never thought about disaster preparedness. “I really have to play the harp: Doomsday Preppers in America, they are faked, there are shows,” he said. But “they are ready for it.”
He’s also seen a huge surge in interest in the other survival arts company he does public relations for: Gladiator Solutions – which sells body armor. “People are more concerned about riots,” he said.
Handelsman said the interest shocked him and the wealthier customers were demanding more money for supplies that were running low. But Mira Safety didn’t increase its prices, he said, which created a secondary market on sites like eBay.
“There are some Jagoffs who buy masks and sell them on eBay and discount prices,” he said. “People are scared. If you look at eBay, they sell masks for $ 450. “
That can be a low estimate. As of Wednesday, eBay sold 12 boxes of 20 surgical masks for $ 5,000 and a bundle of about a dozen hand sanitizer bottles sold for $ 3,500. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization reported that a shortage of medical devices such as masks and gloves is putting health workers around the world at risk. Both listings were deleted after being reported by BuzzFeed News on eBay.
“We are closely monitoring and monitoring the problem to ensure the safety of our employees and customers around the world. This was and is our top priority. We’re taking action both internally and in the marketplace, ”an eBay spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
The bidder website has carried out manual reviews on a regular basis to remove products marketed under the term “coronavirus” for violating their policy on unsubstantiated health claims. It also removes elements such as masks, the price of which is significantly higher than the standard price.
Keith Bansemer, the president of My Patriot Supply, another disaster preparedness online store and survival artist that specializes in emergency food and water filtration services, told BuzzFeed News that he has seen price drops on eBay and other websites.
“They are the scum of the earth who do that,” he said. Bansemer welcomed Amazon, which recently removed 1 million coronavirus-related entries due to misleading claims and price cuts.
As with Mira Safety, My Patriot Supplies is experiencing extreme demand and long shipping delays. Bansemer estimates the store has hit roughly 100 times its normal sales volume since February. A second food processing facility had to open this week to meet demand. Like Mira Safety, Bansemer said that the majority of orders don’t come from so-called doomsday preppers.
“We are a company that deals with emergency preparedness [and] Right now we are working with emergency reactivity, ”he said.
This applies to the entire American prepper community. Ron Hubbard, the CEO of Atlas Survival Shelters, a company that builds emergency shelters, tornado shelters, and types of basements, told BuzzFeed News that interest has increased since the outbreak.
“The grocery store is out of supplies, but lodging sales are not really increasing,” he said. “Long-term survival food is sold out.”
That kind of panicky, sudden curiosity has affected prepper meetups as well. Jason Charles, who heads NYC Preppers, told BuzzFeed News he expected the surge in interest to end the moment the outbreak subsides and that the community’s reputation will be back where it started.
“As soon as [the outbreak] Passports, we’ll be back to the ‘crazy people’, ”he said. “People ask responsible questions. Nothing crazy. It is unnecessary panic, but it is good to prepare for it. “