Reselling From Thrift Stores – Is It Ethical? Both Sides Of The Argument
Thrift haul YouTube videos. Vintage clothing Instagram shops. Poshmark resellers. Suddenly, shopping at thrift stores is not only cool but it has also created careers (or at least an opportunity for some extra income) for thousands. But how ethical is it when it comes to these thrift store resellers who go from shop to shop, looking for all of the best items they can flip for a profit? I’ve done a lot of research on the arguments of each side to see: is reselling from thrift stores ethical?
Side One: Thrift Resellers take all of the best items from low-income shoppers, in order to turn over a profit
Many people believe that thrift stores are a prime opportunity and an inexpensive way for low-income shoppers to provide for their families. Because of this, thrift resellers are seen as scalpers – people who are going in, taking everything and upcharging it insanely. Some people online have even go as far as saying that thrifting as a trend is classist, and negatively impacts low-income households. This argument is rooted in the idea of privilege – people who can afford to shop at new clothing stores are taking everything good out of local thrift stores, leaving nothing fresh or in style for people who can’t afford to shop otherwise. And beyond just the people who are shopping there to fill their own closets, thrift resellers take all of the “good” items and then resell them for way more than they even bought them for. Instead of someone being able to buy a $3 vintage band tee at a thrift store like Goodwill, they’ll have to, instead, buy it online on Depop or Poshmark for $50.
It begs the question: is reselling from thrift stores a fair business practice? What makes this type of online business so “trendy” and why have they not gotten huge amounts of backlash online?
That’s where argument two comes in.
Side Two: Thrift resellers are taking items out of thrift stores that are at risk of being thrown away – In 2018, 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills
As mentioned, in 2018, 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills. “Only 28 percent of people donate used clothing, and a mere 7 percent of people purchase used clothing, according to Savers 2018 State of Reuse Report.” Because of these statistics, people on this side of the argument see thrift reselling as an environmental practice. While they might be taking a few items from low-income buyers – is the environmental impact enough to offset it? If someone is taking clothing that may end up in a landfill and using it to make a profit, is it still unethical?
The argument takes on a new identity, begging the question: isn’t there enough for everyone? And in doing so, some argue that it really doesn’t bother them if resellers want to make a profit out of old thrifted clothes. Especially, because some people point out the time and effort thrift reselling takes. Many “thrift” or “vintage” accounts take an extreme amount of time not only shopping (as in digging through Goodwill bins for hours looking for sellable items), but they may even take time to repurpose items and upcycle them, take photos or model their products, promote them on social media, even record/edit video content if they produce thrift haul videos. Does this amount of time/effort make their business practice legitimate?
What do you think? Is reselling from thrift stores ethical? Which side of the argument are you on? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!