WTF Island

A Simple Mistake Turns Into Price-Gouging Accusations Against Gerardo's [UPDATED]

Inside Gerardo's Drive-In.
Inside Gerardo's Drive-In. Photo by Jeff Balke
A Katy food truck owner has accused a popular Mexican market and drive-in of price-gouging, posting a picture of his "friend's" receipt on Facebook, and then removing it after a call from the Houston Press.

Curbside Sliderz-Katy trainer Leo Villareal claimed in a viral post that his friend was charged $32 for a pound of barbacoa at Gerardo's Drive-In Grocery in Near Northside on August 28. (Villareal wouldn't identify his friend, who he identified as male, because the friend was undocumented.)

Villareal called the 40-year-old Gerardo's "scums," adding, "People like this shound [sic] not own there own business! !! Share this folks so people can boycott there business!!!"

Although Villareal was not the actual customer, his post was shared thousands of times and threw fuel on what should have barely been a fire.

The daughter of Gerardo's founder, Jose Luis Lopez, said it was a simple mistake, compounded by another family member's emotional Facebook post  — since deleted — that also helped drive things to the next level. Like, Facebook posts saying "You should burn in hell" next level.

Here's the story per Lopez's daughter, who asked that she be identified only by her first name, Angie: According to Angie, a customer, Lily Calderon, was accidentally charged for roughly 2.5 pounds instead of 1.5 pounds of barbacoa. (The store sells it for $12.75/pound).

Per Angie, Calderon didn't find out until later that day that she had been overcharged. She then posted a complaint on her Facebook page, and was contacted that evening by Angie, who apologized for the mistake and offered to resolve the situation. However, Angie — who runs the store's Facebook page — hadn't realized at the time that another family member posted a mini-rant about Calderon.

"When I hung up with her, we had settled everything," Angie said. "And then something happened that night on our Facebook page that was not condoned."

click to enlarge
The order in question.
Facebook screenshot
Angie says she had to take down the store's Facebook page because of the threatening comments.

"They were vicious, " she said. "I got physically ill."

She said her father, who turned 77 last Friday, still doesn't recognize the significance of the social media backlash.

Price-gouging allegations have been on the rise in the wake of the devastating floods brought on by Hurricane Harvey. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said his office has received hundreds of complaints — including stores selling a case of water for $99 or a gallon of gas going for $20.

But Villareal told us Friday morning that he didn't know for sure how much barbacoa his maybe-a-dude-but-also-maybe-a-woman friend bought, and he declined — by hanging up on us — to say whether he felt it was responsible to post such an allegation if he didn't have all the facts. Villareal removed the post after he hung up on us, but it has been posted on reddit.

While the receipt says Calderon was charged $5.50 for "1 Coke," the photo of the food clearly shows a 12-pack.

When we told Villareal that the picture also appeared to show more than a pound of barbacoa, Villareal said — ostensibly without spotting the irony — "Pictures are deceiving."

Villareal also stated that he couldn't say for sure if his incognito pal bought a pound, only that the shapeshifting cypher "told me he bought a pound."

We reached out to Calderon and will update accordingly.

Update, September 1, 4:23 pm: Calderon is sticking to her story that this was a deliberate price-gouge and not an honest mistake. She said she posted her complaint and the pictures as a way to save others from alleged price-gouging.

"It got their attention real quick," Calderon said.

Strangely, Calderon posted another receipt that she says somehow proves she was the victim of price-gouging: On that receipt, the person was charged less than $12.00 a pound. This suggests Calderon was somehow individually targeted, or that perhaps Gerardo's modus operandi was to screw over every fifth customer, and Calderon just had bad luck. Whatever the reason, this is just an example of how things can spiral out of control, and common sense can be tossed to the wind.
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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow