This story was updated at 6:43 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, 2020, with more information.
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After spending the day fielding death threats and prank pizza deliveries, Matt Colvin just wants this stuff out of his life.
"I'm trying to figure out where to donate it to," he said. "I didn't anticipate the magnitude of what was going to be happening now."
Colvin, a 36-year-old Hixson resident, was featured in the New York Times on Saturday in a story about the massive stash of hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and face masks he picked up in bulk over the past couple of weeks to resell for a profit on his Amazon store. When Amazon stopped allowing the resale of those items to keep people from cashing in on a public health crisis, Colvin thought he'd become the face of frustrated online sellers who are stuck with in-demand inventory they can't move.
That's not how it worked out.
"The amount of hate has been unreal," he said. "It's been a disaster. People are tweeting guillotines at me."
Colvin spent Saturday trying to figure out what public health agency or local hospital might be willing to take 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and an unknown number of medical masks and antibacterial wipes off his hands.
"I've had a dozen serious offers to buy it," he said. "I just want to get it to someone who can get it to someone who can use it."
That wasn't the original plan, though.
Colvin has been a full-time online reseller for the last five years, dealing in everything from candy and toys to dog treats. His expertise is in tracking and anticipating trends, and when he and his brother Noah, 21, started scouring stores across the state for bulk buys of hand sanitizer, wipes and masks a couple of weeks ago, the coronavirus fear was just starting to amp up. They figured the products would be in high demand and they could turn a tidy profit.
But, the brothers both said, they never anticipated the escalation of the situation over the last few days.
"Everybody was laughing when I was out getting it," Noah Colvin said.
Now shelves have been stripped of supplies by panicked shoppers, and this is the first time he's been left holding something for resale that people can't get anywhere else, Matt Colvin said.
"Did any of us think we'd be where we are right now?" he said. "I wouldn't be running around trying to get this stuff right now."
They had sold about 200 bottles of hand sanitizer, and hadn't really gotten very far into their plan yet, when Amazon brought the gate down on resellers. But they could have executed their business plan if they had just a little more time to move inventory, Matt Colvin said.
"If Amazon had let us keep selling for four more days, we'd be done with it — it would be gone," he said.
As he talked, a delivery driver from Papa John's pulled up with a stack of pizzas. Colvin met him at the door.
"I went viral on the web this morning and people have been playing pranks on me all day," he told the driver. "I'm sorry, man. Domino's and Pizza Hut called first, so maybe let them know back at the store not to come here today."
He probably spent $10,000 to $15,000 on the stuff that is stacked in his garage and at another storage site, but he isn't worried about that any more, Colvin said.
"If donating the product stops the death threats, it's worth it," he said.
Contact Mary Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.