The commodification of face masks


Photo by Sarah Tyler

Face masks have very quickly become a global necessity. The Regional Council of Waterloo recently passed bylaws requiring the wearing of face coverings on public transit as well as all enclosed spaces. Those who are found guilty of disobeying bylaw are subject to fines upwards of $1,000.

Prices for face masks have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 epidemic began. The entire manufacturing and marketing of face coverings has turned into a rapid peddling of a profitable commodity. 

Rather than corporate conglomerates doing their part to keep society healthy and as economically stable as possible, they’ve found yet another way to profit.

It’s nothing more than another predictable demonstration of corporate greed— the commerce industry finds a need within their society and matches it with a costly solution.

Ontario has made menial efforts in attempting to protect consumers from businesses raising prices of necessary goods, stating that those caught gouging customers with high prices are subject to financial penalty. 

According to Premier Doug Ford and the Government of Ontario, “individual offenders can face a ticket of $750, or, if summoned to court and convicted, could face a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and one year in jail.”

Yet, we continue to fall victim to price gouging. Every business imaginable is capitalizing off the fear and panic of society, charging ludicrous prices for single-use disposable masks that won’t even make it home. 

God forbid you forget the eleven dollar, napkin thin mask you bought from Foot Locker at home. You’d then be gifted the ‘invitation’ to spend another five dollars on a damp surgical mask upon entry to your vape dispensary ctory of choice.

Businesses are beginning to market these face coverings as ‘fashion masks’, as if the legal and ethical necessity of wearing a mask was irrelevant to their sales teams. 

It’s the equivalent of marketing condoms as ‘penis hats’ — you don’t have to wear one but you should and it’s stupid not to. Masks are a blatant necessity. Without one, your social freedom ranges from your backyard to your neighbour’s shed. 

So what’s the solution? Regardless of government intervention, businesses continue to take advantage of consumers in need of legal necessities. 

For now, the best we can do is focus on our health and safety, ignoring the fact that we’ve been fleeced directly out of our own pockets. 

Not everyone knows how to work a sewing machine or owns their own veterinarian clinic so in a way, this is our only option.

What’s more important than masks priced at a premium is the act of wearing a mask at all. 

Disregard the witless sheep known as the anti-mask community. It’s been scientifically proven that masks, at the very least, have the ability to limit and slow the spread of COVID-19 while still allowing us to function at an economically sound rate.

For those refusing to wear masks while in enclosed public spaces, eat your own ignorance, read your confederate flag a bedtime story and stay the hell at home. 

Patriotism is about standing behind your country, doing your part to better your nation’s safety. Your arrogant density reflects more on your illiteracy than your crude attempt to flex your fundamental rights and freedoms.

Yes, mask prices are too high but there’s not a lot we can do about it—at least not at the moment. It’s more important to protect the health and safety of our society than to rebel against the conglomerates acting exactly how we should expect them to.

I don’t care if you’re trying on starchy briefs at Winners or buying mislabeled Paul Malls at the gas station, if your mother never taught you to work a needle and thread, buy a mask and wear it.

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Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.