Black Market Offering: Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pies

Black Market Offering: Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pies Photo (cc) by Southern Foodways Alliance

Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pies hit the shelves of Wal-Mart in September with a modest $3.48 price tag. Fast-forward two months: The pies are in such hot demand that Wal-Mart can’t keep them in stock and people are paying up to $40 on the black market for one of LaBelle’s pies.

So, what’s the big deal with these pies? According to NPR, LaBelle’s sweet potato pie owes its popularity to James Wright, who literally sings his praises of the pie in a video posted on Facebook.

Wright’s enthusiastic taste-testing review of LaBelle’s pie quickly went viral. It now has nearly 9.5 million views. (Note: The video also contains language that some may find offensive.)

After Wright’s video went viral, LaBelle’s pies flew off the shelves at Wal-Mart, leaving many anxious (and hungry) consumers empty-handed.

“Walmart sold one pie per second for 72 hours straight last weekend,” a Wal-Mart representative said in an e-mail statement to The Huffington Post.

Kerry Robinson, vice president for bakery and deli at Wal-Mart, told NPR that the retailer is trying to get its stores restocked with the Godmother of Soul’s now famous pies.

“We are working very hard with our supplier to try and produce more product,” Robinson said. “We’re in the process of securing another 2 million pounds of sweet potatoes.”

Until Wal-Mart is able to replenish its supply of LaBelle’s pies, many pies are being scalped on the black market, at sites like eBay and Craigslist, for $30 to $40, which is basically a 1,000 percent markup.

All this talk of pies has made me hungry. I just checked my local Wal-Mart, and Patti’s famous sweet potato pies are in stock. I’m headed there now.

What do you think of the popularity — and price runup — of Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pies? Sound off below or on our Facebook page.

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