ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A popular New Mexican restaurant is under fire tonight, accused of taking advantage of people during a time of crisis. El Pinto said it had a few cases of toilet paper on hand that it did not need, so it tried to sell the rolls on Facebook. However, the restaurant was not expecting the criticism that followed.
“We made a mistake,” El Pinto Director of Marketing and PR Douglas Evilsizor said. “We made a mistake for even attempting to help.”
El Pinto restaurant is facing backlash after being accused of price gouging on Facebook. “I think what happened on social media is a lack of information,” Evilsizor said. “We could have done a better job of explaining it.”
Yesterday, the New Mexican restaurant posted a menu with various items for sale. One menu item that jumped out to customers was the sale of one toilet paper roll for $3. People commented and called the price ridiculous. However, the restaurant argued that it was not a bad deal.
“It was $3,” Evilsizor said. “Our cost on that was $1.70. They are extremely large and a specialty type of toilet paper, so we had a little bit of markup on them but not by much.”
The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office said it has received a couple of complaints about this and sent El Pinto a cease and desist letter. “We are continuing to monitor it to ensure no other further illegal activity occurs,” AG’s Office spokesperson Matt Baca said.
The AG’s Office said they have received 50 price gouging complaints across the state as of today, the majority being about businesses up-charging toilet paper. “Unfortunately, there are those that take crisis as an opportunity to take advantage of people,” Baca said. “We are absolutely eyes wide open about that and will use every tool we have to enforce the law against them.”
El Pinto has since deleted the post and said it is no longer selling toilet paper. “Honestly, we are not in the toilet paper business,” Evilsizor said. “We are in the food business.”
The restaurant was also criticized for selling $6 hamburger patties. The restaurant said that its local, grass-fed meats are going to be higher than what you find in a store.
The AG’s Office said there is actually no specific price-gouging statute in New Mexico and plans to work with the legislature in light of the coronavirus outbreak to address that in upcoming sessions.
Right now, the AG’s office is evaluating claims against unfair practices and false and misleading advertising acts. Those who violate may face fines.