TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- Two days after being shamed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for alleged price gouging in the buildup to Hurricane Irma reaching Florida, 7-Eleven was being thanked on Twitter for providing free water at stores in Port Orange, Orlando and Oldsmar, Fla.
On Sept. 7, three days before Irma would make landfall, WFTA Tampa Bay reported the attorney general's office had received more than 30 complaints about 7-Eleven stores charging $26 or more for a case of bottled water. Photos on social media confirmed the reports.
“Shame on anyone who is going to do that with bottled water," Bondi said, promising to shame and prosecute retailers like the store who gouge consumers during an emergency. "That's wrong. That's immoral," she said during an appearance on CNN. She also appeared on Fox News (see below).
Two days later, 7-Eleven pledged $150,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Irma disaster-relief efforts. It also donated 4,800 cases of its 7-Select purified water for free distribution at the three Florida convenience stores and encouraged customers to make in-store donations to the Red Cross.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been or who may soon be affected by Hurricane Irma, including our 7-Eleven employees and customers,” Chris Tanco, 7-Eleven's chief operating officer, said in a Sept. 9 press release. “We encourage all who can to support them by donating money or volunteering time to relief efforts.”
On Facebook, 7-Eleven responded to unhappy customers.
"This matter ... is of grave concern to us. While franchisees are independent contractors and have sole control over the price of products in their stores, we are tremendously disappointed with the small minority of franchisees that have implemented these pricing practices," the company said on the social-media site. "We are aggressively taking steps to resolve these issues and have made it very clear to them that we as a company strongly discourage these practices. 7-Eleven and the vast majority of its franchisees stand ready to serve their communities during this difficult time."
Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc. operates, franchises and/or licenses 10,900 c-stores in North America, including more than 800 stores in Florida.
FREE WATER is headed to Florida! Look for trucks with this banner in Port Orange, Orlando & Oldsmar. Tomorrow starting at 8AM! pic.twitter.com/spE315h4iX— 7-Eleven Relief (@7ElevenRelief) September 9, 2017