BEAUMONT, Tx. – Concerned students reached out to SETINVESTIGATES.COM after taking screen-captures of what they believe is evidence of price gouging by Lamar University Dining and its charging of $25 for a case of Dasani 1-liter bottles of water, $25 for a case of 1-liter bottles of SmartWater, $30 for a case of Minute Maid, $25 for a case of 20-oz Powerade, $25 for a case bottled soda and $40 for cases of Monster Energy drinks.
Lamar Dining posted the prices on its Facebook page but then deleted the post after a backlash from students. Rather than back away from the pricing they posted a price comparison using Amazon as justification for the amounts.
“After seeing the responses and concern on our previous post here is a side by side of our bulk case pricing compared to other major retailers,” states the follow-up post. “This pricing is based by the case.”
A concerned individual asked Lamar Dining a question on its Facebook page about whether students on campus – many of which have no transportation – were forced to purchase water or if the university was providing it for them. The person also asked if the cases were donated to the university.
“These cases we (sp?) not donated. They were purchased ahead of time for emergency relief by our company,” states a follow-up rely from the Lamar Dining Facebook account. “The SETX Food Bank is giving out free water while supplies last. Bottled water is included with their meal at the dining hall.”
Another post on Facebook questioned Lamar Dining’s pricing stating, “This can’t be true, surely not.”
Other were pointing out the prices were for cases but quick comparisons showed many of the items are cheaper elsewhere and it looked as though Lamar Dining used the highest comparisons it could find to justify their prices.
The post does not make reference to the number of bottles in each “case,” however, a review of pricing by SETINVESTIGATES.COM shows Walmart selling a 15-count case of SmartWater 1-liter bottles priced at $15.98 and a case of Monster Energy Green, Blue or White 24-count 16-oz cans priced at $29.98. Both of those prices are roughly $10 less per case than the $25 and $40 amounts, respectively, being charged by Lamar Dining.
As for the Dasani water, Walmart lists 16.9-oz bottles in a 32-count case at $4.98 but Lamar Dining is selling cases of 1-liter bottles. Comparing the case of 1-liter (33.8-oz) bottles of Dasani was a bit more challenging because although Lamar Dining used Walmart as its comparison, bulk cases are actually purchased and shipped from Tal USA. That company sells through the Walmart website and is an independent supplier.
Sam’s Club was selling Powerade in 20-oz bottles by the case for $12.98. Lamar Dining is charging $25 for a case.
According to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, by Thursday morning, the agency had already received more than 900 complaints of price gouging in the state. The offense is a crime and punishable by fines of, up to, $20,000. If they are targeting someone 65 or older, the penalty is 20K per violation, plus an extra $250,000.
Jennifer Speller, a spokesperson at the Texas Attorney General, said anyone suspecting price gouging should document it and report it to the state for further investigation.
“Please take a picture of the product and pricing,” Speller told SETINESTIGATES.COM in regards to anyone suspecting price gouging. “Keep the photos because those are evidence.”
She said concerned citizens can report their suspicions online by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the AG Hotline at 1-800-621-0508.
Attempts to reach Lamar University Dining by phone and Facebook message was unsuccessful.