Hurricane Harvey is proving once again that large-scale disasters bring out the best and the worst in people, and that includes those who run local businesses.
A shining exemplar of the best side is Houston furniture store owner Jim McIngvale, known locally as “Mattress Mack.” As the seemingly endless sheets of rain started to flood Houston, Mattress Mack put out the word that those who needed shelter could come to one of his stores and have a warm, dry place to sleep. As Heidi Glenn and Daniella Cheslow reported for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition”:
Houstonian Jim McIngvale, known as “Mattress Mack,” has turned his two furniture stores into temporary shelters for Tropical Storm Harvey evacuees.
As the city started to flood, he posted a video online with a simple message: Come on over. He gave out his personal phone number. And hundreds of people streamed in.
“We sell home theater furniture that you watch TV in, they’re sleeping on that. They’re sleeping on recliners, sleeping on sofas and love seats. We have sleeper sofas, they pulled them out and slept on that,” McIngvale tells NPR’s Morning Edition. “They’re sleeping on hundreds of mattresses throughout the store. They’re sleeping on the couches — wherever they can find a place that’s comfortable, and God bless ’em.”
One station sold gas for a whopping $20 a gallon. A hotel reportedly charged guests more than twice the normal rate. One business sold bottles of water for a staggering $99 per case — more than 10 times some of the prices seen online.
As people in southeastern Texas face the devastating floodwater left by Hurricane Harvey, they are also grappling with predatory businesses that are selling basic necessities at astronomical prices. As of Wednesday morning, the state attorney general’s office had received 684 consumer complaints, a majority of which involved price-gouging of bottled water, fuel, groceries and other necessities.
I’m betting that we’ll be hearing more stories of kindness, sharing, and courage during the days, weeks, and months to come. Hopefully those accounts will inspire the best in others and overcome some of the less wonderful practices that exploit people during the most trying of times.