By Carol Tannenhauser
Thomas Drugs, on Columbus Avenue between 67th and 68th Streets, was fined by the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for allegedly price gouging, the Daily News reported on Wednesday. Gueye Damm, who has managed the drugstore for 26 years, denied the allegations to WSR, though Thomas did have to lower some of its prices.
“Thomas Drugs is facing $20,000 in fees for 40 alleged instances of price gouging face masks, gloves and cough medicine…” the News reported. “…the department said it’s actively inspecting stores, issuing fines for markups of 10% or more on vital supplies like disinfectants, soap, cleaning products and medicine.”
“They are not understanding,” Damm said in a phone interview on Thursday. “Our primary wholesalers are completely out of stock of every single thing, so we have to go to the secondary wholesalers who are more expensive. Now, if you are buying something from the wholesaler, it’s $10 instead of $5. You have to do it. It’s a matter of getting things for the neighborhood. People are desperate. If I’m selling at a 30%-40% markup, that’s routine, that’s UWS prices.”
Damm marveled at how his public image could change so quickly from hero to villain. “The other night we were on CNN about how we’re putting our lives in jeopardy by opening the store,” he said. “The next day it was this. It really hurts you. We never closed in all these last weeks trying to serve the community. I’m exhausted. Every day when I come in, I pray to God to keep me safe. It’s not easy.”
Damm added that the department had returned to reinspect Thomas Drugs on Monday and “gave us a clean sheet.”