Is There Greed in Buying For Resale?

by Katy on October 28, 2014 · 82 comments

The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group is a great resource for readers who want more of an interactive experience. Dozens of members post on a day basis, varying from non-consumer related links to questions to inspirational quotes. I try to keep a close eye on the group, but for the most part it’s an extremely positive and safe place for its almost 6000 members. (And since it’s a closed group, people often post very personal things.)

However, on days that I work, (when I’m gone from the house from 6:15 A.M. – 8:30 P.M.) the group has to function without a moderator, which is generally no big deal as we’re all adults.

But yesterday one member posted this:

“I have seen several posts on this group as of late about buying an item for a low price just to sell it for more. What gives? I would think being a NCA you would want other people to find a good deal or sell something at a good price. Not sure my thoughts follow the greedy mentally I have seen in the last several posts that have graced my newsfeed.”

By the time I came home from work, there were 172 replies, and the original poster had left the group in an angry huff.

I wasn’t part of the conversation, but many were. Mostly from group members who questioned why it was considered “greedy” to supplement one’s income by keeping an eye out for underpriced thrift store items to sell. I do it, as has anyone who ever operated an antique store or resale shop.

Buy low, sell high. It’s commerce.

I do it to supplement my family’s income so that my sons can have a sliver of a chance of graduating from college without a mountain of debt. And yes, I do buy from thrift stores. I also buy pretty much everything else my family owns from thrift stores. Our furniture, clothing, bedding, most gifts and our household items. It’s all from thrift stores.

I think the original poster’s issue is that she sees thrift stores solely as a resource for the poverty stricken; and that those who are able to pay their bills have no right to shop there, as each purchase of an item by a financially comfortable person then deprives someone in need.

Has she seen the excess of stuff in thrift stores?! Umm . . . there’s enough for everyone!

Also, most thrift stores exist to raise money for their individual causes. Whether it’s for animal shelters, barriers to employment, homeless outreach or teen challenges, thrift stores want anyone and everyone to spend their money in their facilities.

When I buy an item at Goodwill for the sole purpose of cleaning it up for resale, I’m supporting that particular cause just as much as anyone else. I’m supporting my own goal of working part time while my kids are at home, and I’m sourcing cool stuff for buyers who have neither time nor interest to browse through their area thrift stores. I take the time to research my finds, clean and/or repair them, photograph and then list them for sale.

It’s not greedy.

No one buys anything from me who isn’t looking for that exact item. They’re happy to have found the perfect (and freshly shampooed) rug for their daughter’s room or the exact fireplace andirons that their grandmother had. (True examples.)

Being a non-consumer doesn’t mean that I’m not working to boost my income. And I give credit to anyone who puts in the time and work to do the same.

Do you feel it’s unethical to shop thrift stores with an eye for resale? Please share your respectful responses in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura October 28, 2014 at 10:42 am

When I was a student I bought things for re-sale, for fun AND profit and I would do it again if I needed extra income. Now when I donate stuff that I could perhaps sell if I made the effort, I think to myself of the younger (or maybe not so young) versions of me, still out there enjoying the thrill of the chase and supplementing their incomes and I am happy about it. It is two sides of the same coin.

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Ellie October 28, 2014 at 10:50 am

Perhaps the OP is jealous they aren’t exerting the energy to make a few extra bucks? Anyways, it’s a normal practice, like you mentioned. For some it’s a needed way to make money, for others it’s a hobby. Either way, I dig it (and I do it too).

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AnnDenee October 28, 2014 at 11:47 am

The OP later admitted that she and her husband frequently purchase run down cars to repair and sell. The catch being they choose to sell them for only their actual costs and don’t include any extra in the price for their time or to make a profit.

It was minutes after dropping this bomb that she left the group, so we weren’t able to explore it deeply, and were left to speculate. *sigh

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Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom October 28, 2014 at 10:54 am

I would only see it as greedy if someone went in every day and cleaned out the store of everything that was usable leaving nothing left for the other shoppers.

I don’t think picking out a few choice items to make a little extra money would be greedy. There would be plenty left for everyone else.

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John October 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm

There are pro’s who take things a bit far IMO.

For example, at the Grand Goodwill in Portland, a regular pro fills his cart with shoes for re-sale. As a professional, he is able to recognize any pair of shoes put out that is ‘underpriced’ by eBay standards.

For this reason, I’m virtually unable to shop for shoes at this Goodwill.

There is a difference between occasionally buying an item for resale and clearing out every possible item that can be sold for a profit.

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Elaine in Ark October 29, 2014 at 5:25 am

That is not allowed at some of the thrift shops around here. They (the thrift shops) are in business partly to minister to people who can’t afford to shop at regular stores. Wiping out the inventory of a specific type of item at a thrift store is just plain greedy.

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kittkats January 21, 2016 at 7:19 pm

Well I see it this way, that is his job, at least he is not stealing the shoes. I would say beat him to the punch ask the Goodwill when they usually stock and then come in before he does. On another note, not only does goodwill sort through thier items and has several distribution centers they also have a website where items are shipped to certain locations. And they have their own bidding site, and more often than not everything sells higher than eBay auctions go for. Talk about Greedy, lets talk about Goodwill taking items out for regular consumers end up being unable to purchase, plus in store they have started to mark up their items to try to boot out the re-sellers I am assuming but that just makes it harder for low income people to afford anything. Plus the re-sellers will find some place else to go and their sales will drop. What is sold on eBay is sold on eBay, local its not going to happen, its not eBay!

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Brandy May 21, 2016 at 11:37 pm

Exactly. I don’t know why don’t get that. But there are some people that do buy the high priced stuff or it would be still sitting on the shelves for weeks. I think a lot of people think they can get PRIMO dollar for stuff. I wonder how much wasted money people spend on things either sit there and don’t sell or they take a loss on it.

Lisa October 28, 2014 at 11:06 am

I do think it is ethical, although I don’t do it often and I largely go for guaranteed wins such as the Marchesa gowns I mentioned in the original discussion. I’d like to say it is because I’m concerned about others, but honestly it is normally that it seems like low-hanging fruit, and a high-profit endeavour. I’ve no interest in flipping huge numbers of items, I’m happy with the occasional win.
There’s also been anger expressed about folks that buy larger sizes and re-imagine the clothing, or buy sweaters to frog (is that the right term?) and re-use the yarn. I don’t understand that logic, either. Does that mean it is OK if I take great-looking small sizes and use them for quilting or other non-clothing uses? No. First come, first served. And the instance of this kind of purchase would seem to be pretty low, overall. I don’t think the number of larger-sized items in thrift stores is low because of this activity — I think it is low because there are more of us that are overweight, and the fashion industry doesn’t necessarily serve that segment of the population well.

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WilliamB October 28, 2014 at 5:44 pm

“Frog” is knitter’s slang. Knitters use it a lot, non-knitters generally have no idea what it means. To frog means to unravel or unknit, and the term comes from saying “rip it, rip it, rip it” very fast.

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Rosa November 2, 2014 at 9:24 pm

it might be because the thrifts are shipping their larger sizes to markets that want them more, too – there are ALWAYS large sized jeans and dresses at our local Savers (a for-profit, not a charity) and I assume it’s because my region is both rich and fat.

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Sharon H. October 28, 2014 at 11:08 am

I listen to college lectures from The Great Courses (f/k/a The Teaching Company), and in “Thinking About Capitalism” Professor Muller discusses how Justus Moser was a conservative critic of international trade in pre-commercial Germany in the 1700s. Moser saw people buying things from traveling peddlers and town merchants that they didn’t even know they wanted until then, disrupting the fabric of self-sufficient farming and craftsmen in the area where he lived.

Then there is the fight among Roman Catholic theologians about the theory of a ‘just price’ and how merchants do nothing to change the grain they buy in one place, they just sell it for more somewhere else. This merchandising of objects was considered a sin. Grain and everything else should have one price. Money is sterile, and cannot produce anything, so investing money in just trading things is a violation of the way the world works, the way God set it up.

You see the same argument in online and IRL discussions about buying and selling real estate. Sellers become very angry when buyers don’t offer them the ‘real value’ of their house. Because market values are fickle, and change constantly. But that *is* the real value, in every sense but the emotional one.

Which goes to show, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’

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WilliamB October 28, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Whereas I see the value in transporting the goods from where they are to where they are needed, and having to cover the costs of goods that won’t sell at all.

But yes, many societies are deeply suspicious of the class that doesn’t add tangible value. (In these merchants’ cases, they add locational value.)

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Samantha October 28, 2014 at 11:31 am

I don’t believe the practice of buying low from a thrift store and selling the same item at a higher price is unethical, but I do believe it always good to ask the question. This forum allows for connection and growth. Thanks for the providing the space Katy.

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halle October 28, 2014 at 11:34 am

This is exactly what I do to make a bit of money each month. I LOVE the Goodwill Outlet store (the bins,

I do resell things on bay and at local consignment shops to make extra money. I love the Thrill of the Hunt. Mostly I go to the Goodwill Outlet Store (the Bins, the Weigh & Pay, the Pound Store, the Stab & Grab) up to three times a week. I enjoy the social aspect too. There is an amazing amount of STUFF, certainly plenty for everyone. I re-donate what I don’t use. I would love to know more local resources instead of re-donating to Goodwill or Salvation Army. I am in Portland Oregon. Also, I generally buy clothes, housewares, furniture and most family gifts second hand too.

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Laura October 28, 2014 at 11:45 am

I’m torn on this subject. While I do see your point about the thrift store’s goal of raising money for their particular charity, I feel it goes beyond this. I donate my family’s used goods to the Goodwill all the time in hopes that someone needy will be able to attain a usable item at a reasonable cost, while at the same time keeping the item out of the dump. I have no problem whatsoever if someone who isn’t financially hurting goes into the Goodwill and buys the item I donated for their own use. I do however have a problem with someone going in and buying the item at a great price, then selling it for their own profit.

A couple of months ago, I donated a very nice leather and suede trench coat to the Goodwill. If I had known that someone might buy it and flip it on Ebay, I probably wouldn’t have donated it. So while I can see why the store itself wouldn’t care, I think it has a negative impact on the quality of donations the store will recieve because people do not like to feel like they have been taken advantage of.

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Pam October 28, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Why would it bother you? You still get a tax write-off (if you keep records and itemize), and you still help the person who flipped it, who may really need the income.

Flippers need jobs too. I just will never understand why doing work in return for money = greed.

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Kelly in MA October 30, 2014 at 9:01 am

That is exactly what I was going to say. I have a friend who’s husband became disabled last year when he was diagnosed with MS.

He has been able to make up the difference in what money is coming into the house doing this. She shops and he resells. Without it their ends would not meet.

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Jeanine October 28, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Agreed.

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Pam October 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I do however draw the line at those who look for freebies on Freecycle and other neighborhood exchanges that are meant to help those in need — or those food pantry-type charity closets for those in need — and then resell the stuff. Freecycle, maybe not so much, but there are people who flat-out lie about being poor and needy so people will give them the stuff they ask for. THAT is truly awful behavior.

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WilliamB October 28, 2014 at 5:47 pm

IIRC one of the rules of Freecycle is not reselling the goods.

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Vickie October 28, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Laura – if you want truly needy people to get your stuff, donate it to a Shelter in your area. Shelters provide donated clothes and stuff to their clients free of charge. Keep in mind that most really poor/needy people don’t have the extra income to spare shopping anywhere.
I donate to a Shelter run by the Friends (Quaker) society. The Thrift stores around me won’t miss my donations. I wanted needy families or individuals, especially children, to get the clothes and things I was donating, so I started donating to the Shelter. They get excited when I bring in clothes, toys, dishes, beds, strollers, etc. When I donated a stroller and baby bed my daughter no longer needed, the social worker at the Shelter was ecstatic. She told me she already knew a family they were going to give it too.
That made my day! 🙂

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Laura October 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Thank you, Vickie. I will look into that.

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Elaine in Ark October 29, 2014 at 5:38 am

Great idea, Vickie. I had a friend who told me that many years ago, she fled her abusive husband with just the clothes on her back (ran for her life, actually). Without the women’s shelter, she would have had to go back to him (he wouldn’t let her work, either). The shelter provided her with the things she needed to get started on her new life. I love to donate to the shelter’s thrift store.

It’s not hard to find an organization who gives clothing and other items directly to people in need. However, giving with a loving heart can spread benefits that a donor might never even know about. It’s more about attitude. I gave a talk to a church group on home organization and I suggested that they donate their excess clothes to a charity thrift shop. And I also said “if you would embarrassed to put a tag on every time saying ‘Donated By YourNameHere’, the item should probably go in the trash”. This led to a a couple of women who volunteer at the thrift shop telling about the bags and bags of utter garbage & trash they receive as “donations”. They fill up their dumpsters every week because some people believe that the poor should be over-the-hill grateful for their garbage. How much love is that?

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Tina October 29, 2014 at 10:53 am

Great idea for those who would like their donations to definitely go to someone in need. If anyone is in the UK, some Food Banks are accepting children’s clothing, household linen and other household goods to give to needy families.

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Elizabeth October 28, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I don’t understand this, honestly. The best bet here would then be to sell it yourself and donate the full chunk of money (it’s real worth) to a cause of your choice.

I don’t clear the stores near me out, but when I see super nice things cheap that I know I can flip – I do, because it helps me get by when we are living paycheck to paycheck. I would see your coat and think “Well, I can make “x” dollars on that and then buy myself a functional but cheap coat out of the proceeds AND food for this week.” Poor people don’t *need* leather/suede trenchcoats – they something to keep them warm.

I think flipping IS work. I do buy a lot of things for my family there too, but making the extra income helps me handle bills while taking my daughter to the store with me vs. working a traditional job and missing out on time with her.

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Rosa November 2, 2014 at 9:26 pm

would you feel differently if you donated it and Goodwill priced it higher, at used-market price, to make more money for their organization? Many of the larger thrifts have professional pricers guiding their pricing to maximize income. They really try to be at market – otherwise everything there would be the kind of bargain that resellers would target.

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Pam October 28, 2014 at 11:49 am

I think many people are unaware of the vast resources available for obtaining used /pre-owned items, and this is part of the problem. Thrift stores are only one source. There are also yard sales, estate sales, auctions, storage locker auctions (yep, just like the TV show). MOUNTAINS of decent-quality used items are available at any given time and it needs someplace to go!!

When you buy for resale, you are doing GOOD THINGS for the world. 1.) You are keeping stuff out of landfills. 2.) You are providing money to whomever is selling the original used goods. 3.) You are giving used goods value, motivating those who don’t need the stuff to move it along, helping them declutter. 4.) You are helping to preserve items of financial and historic value that someone else might love and care for. 5.) You are helping people find collectibles and useful items they need or want. 6.) You are helping your own family financially and, by extension, the rest of us by potentially reducing your need for public assistance. 7.) You are fueling other industries related to moving your resale products such as the US Postal Service, eBay, auction services, etc. which in turn employ workers and boost the economy.

Not to mention, just because it’s a thrift store, that doesn’t mean it is doing a service for anybody or a cause — private individuals own thrift stores too, for the benefit of their own bank accounts. It’s a legitimate industry. Are they greedy too? Since when is it greedy to perform work in exchange for money?

But you know, there will always be people who need something to complain about. I suppose resellers are doing *them* a service too. 🙂

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Ellie October 29, 2014 at 9:15 am

Amen!

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Megan November 14, 2014 at 7:54 am

Don’t forget also, when we buy second-hand:
8) We’re NOT supporting the original manufacturer, who may have used child labor, or mistreated their workers. I get a real thrill from that… sticking to the man!
9) And when it comes to clothing, usually by the time we buy it second-hand, the original purchaser has worn/washed off the chemicals in the item, so it’s less harmful for us to wear.
10) There’s also the bonus of buying a good quality item that I could never afford at actual price, that will hold up much better than some cheap item at a department store (I’m thinking second-hand quality clothing versus cheaply made Walmart clothing that falls apart after a couple washes).

Plus, we need to realize that once we donate an item, it’s out of our hands. Whoever buys it gets a deal, and that makes them happy. And that should make us happy. Find happiness in the giving, people!

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Katy November 14, 2014 at 9:01 am

Great points, thanks for sharing them!

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kittkats January 21, 2016 at 7:35 pm

Yes, Yes. We the people who own thrift stores or resell stores work too! I takes a lot of work, and a lot of knowledge, we support the economy. And most of us are just trying to support ourselves and were not greedy! Sure I am going to buy everything I am sure I can resell. Why not? The next dealer would just come along and do the same thing. I think most people get made because it “seems” easy and its really really not. I don’t condone people who get free stuff from free places then flip it, if its donated directly to them for the purpose of reselling which i have had happen that is something they choose to do and I was helping them declutter and making them happier!. Also another good point was that if you want your items you donate to truly benefit someone please donate it to a shelter. Most people who truly need things dont have the $ to buy anything! That is the truth. When people go intro thrift stores they are looking for things they WANT or things that will look nice in thier house. There is a big difference between want and need, and I want to support myself!

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Diane October 28, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Interesting topic. I don’t think it’s unethical to buy items at a thrift store to resell, but I have to admit it would bug me if I knew the person who beat me to the item I really wanted for my home, was just going to resell it. With all the shows like “American Pickers” out there, it feels like there are no longer any undiscovered treasures to be had at thrift stores. My loss for not getting there sooner, I guess, but it takes the fun out of thrift shopping for those who go occasionally and aren’t looking to resell stuff. Katy mentions that there’s enough stuff for everyone, but most of it is stuff no one wants (including people who can only afford to shop at thrift stores).

What I do think is unethical is when Target comes out with a line from a fancy designer, and people rush the store to buy as many things as they can in order to sell them online, leaving nothing for anyone else. Also, as someone mentioned, clearing the shelves at a grocery store because you have 40 coupons for whatever.

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Randi October 28, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I totally agree. I use coupons too, but I am not an extreme couponer and I basically just stick to Target. I hate when I have a few coupons that are great and there is nothing on the shelves. I also HATE when all these couponers steal all the tearpads.

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Elaine in Ark October 29, 2014 at 5:42 am

The Frugal Girl (Katy’s friend) was asked about this, and she gave a very good answer. The greed of it all made her turn off the TV show, and while she does use coupons, she only buys what she needs. I’m a big believer in “take what you need, and leave the rest…”.

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Randi October 28, 2014 at 12:14 pm

When I lived in SW Ontario( Canada), I frequently came across items that were perfect for ebay resale. The best item we paid 25 cents for and sold it for over 400.00( Roycroft art deco bookends). I didn’t feel guilty at all, because it was WORK. Researching, photographing, listing and driving everything to Michigan to ship it out. It was a job and I made a profit. No different than buying items wholesale and selling for a profit( like most department and big box stores).

Now that I am back in Cali, I dont come across amazing items at yard sales( most of the stuff I would sell on ebay was shipped to Cali). I belong to a few different facebook resale groups and I wont sell items under 5.00. Its not worth the effort. I would rather give stuff away on freecyle.

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Carmel October 28, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Like the original poster to the thread in question, I was a little annoyed at the number of posts lately about people getting great deals and seemingly bragging about them. For me, part of being non-consumer is caring less about labels unless that label is an actual indicator of quality. These posts were bragging about a deal on a label that the person was then going to flip, which feels more like buying into and then profiting from the label hype being constantly sold to us. So I didn’t like those posts.

Those are also a small percentage of the posts overall. Even if there were more than usual, people like to post similar things and follow a crowd even in a group like this. There will be holiday non-consumer posts soon enough, the Christmas ones have already started. I know the trend will change soon enough so I’m not worried about a few posts I didn’t like as well as others. I don’t even have any problem with people flipping things bought at thrifts and such, the posts just didn’t strike me as “non-consumer”. I guess this whole thing ties into the recent thread where people shared what “non-consumer” meant to them. A lot of the answers were similar but they weren’t all the same, just like us.

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Mimi October 28, 2014 at 2:45 pm

But isn’t buy and selling used items ‘non consumer’ not to mention Environmentally friendly, keeping things out of the landfill.

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Carmel October 28, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Keeping things out of landfills is environmentally friendly. The question still goes back to what “non-consumer” means for you. For me, it’s like this: Buying things you don’t need and don’t intend to use yourself for the purpose of reselling is a business decision, and pretty much the definition of “consumer”, whether you buy them from a retail store or from a thrift store. Buying things secondhand because you need them is “non-consumer”. Buying something for temporary use and then giving, donating, or even reselling it when you’re done is “non-consumer”. Buying something for the purpose of reselling is business. It is work to do that and I respect it as such. It is environmentally friendly and good for the world to do so. Buying anything for reselling is dependent on someone else buying it new (even if clearance), you buying it in between, and someone buying it from you, making at least three times the item was sold- which, since no one has bought it to wear it out, is the very definition of “consumer”. That item has become a commodity. If we are to be making what we can and buying what we can’t to use it up and wear it out then buying things to be commodities is rather the opposite of what we are trying to do and may depend on “consumers” to pull off.

I have no issue with people doing so. My issue is with business decisions being called “non-consumer wins” when they are more “consumer wins” in my book. Is it that big of a deal? No. Is it greedy? No, not really. Am I going to nitpick every post in the Facebook group? No, way! Am I going to overthink this and lose sleep over it? Probably not. I hope no one else does either! I just want us to think about why we do what we do and have an idea why. What does “non-consumer” mean for you? And where do you draw the line between consumer and non-consumer? In the end, the whole kerfluffle is about our different answers to that question.

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alamom October 28, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I’m sorry but I don’t understand why anyone would “judge” others because they buy something at a bargain price and re-sell at a profit. I am a retired legal secretary of 34 yrs with minimal retirement income(less than $300 per month from gov’t employment- none as a legal secretary) and no other income other than soc. security. My husband gets SS also. This is not enough income to pay our $796 month BXBS insurance and have enough disposable income to live on. The last 15 years I worked as a secretary (in my free time)I studied antiques and collectibles and how to identify them. Since my retirement in Jan. 2014, we have operated 4 booths at an antique mall to supplement our income. We are out every Fri. and Sat. morning by 6:00 going to yard sales, during the week we are scouring thrift stores and estate sales for “treasure” to restore and re-sell at our booth. In my spare time I am refinishing, cleaning etc to get items ready for re-sell. I am not sitting on my butt and judging others about how they make their income. When did it become a bad thing to do honest work? Should we instead sit and complain about how poor we are and apply for government assistance to help us get by?

I will get off my soap box now. We should support each other emotionally and not “judge”.

BTW, I really enjoy “thenonconsumeradvocate”, you continue to amaze me with your ingenious ideas, frugality and most of all your common sense.

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Donna October 29, 2014 at 3:02 am

The OP on facebook wasn’t actually judging others, she was judging some posts on the NCA facebook page – a subtle difference. If she had worded it better, maybe people would not have been so upset. To mention a ‘greedy mentality’ was unfortunate. I think she was actually questioning why posts of the nature “look what I bought at a great price and am going to resell for $$$” were on a NC page. She wasn’t saying engaging in that activity is wrong – it’s just consumery not non-consumery.

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Katy October 29, 2014 at 6:48 am

The thread certainly meandered all over the place. I do wish she’s stuck around to work it out.

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A. Marie October 28, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Several thoughts:

(1) Kids, this sort of flap is one of the reasons I won’t touch Facebook with a ten-foot pole. (I know this sort of unpleasantness can arise and has on blogs, but it seems from what I hear to happen a lot oftener on Facebook.) I also have other personal and theoretical reasons for not joining the Church of Zuckerberg.

(2) Katy, for this reason, please don’t give up the blog any time soon. Your Facebook-leery public needs it.

(3) Now, to the burning issue at hand: Along with others, I can see both sides. On the one hand, I think OP would have benefited from a more careful choice of words, and I don’t have a general problem with folks reselling thrift shop finds. (Like Katy and many others, I’ve done it myself.) On the other, I have noticed a definite drop in the quality of merchandise at my usual stops in the last couple of years, and I wonder whether reselling isn’t one of the reasons. (I do live in an economically depressed Rust Belt city, however, so several other variables may be at work here.)

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Anonymous October 28, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Re-selling can be done well, and it can be done poorly.

When my Mom passed away, we had to get rid of her stuff in a hurry (because we were taking a loss by supporting an empty house, and taking time off work to manage reselling would have cost us a lot of money. We also could not afford to keep many precious things, just simply because of logistics.) When people came to the house as we were cleaning out, we had a table of free stuff, and a table of very cheap stuff. Nothing was priced anywhere near value. When someone came and said, “I do resales – do you have anything in category x that fits my niche?” we were more than delighted to accommodate them. Similarly, when they took free stuff for their own enjoyment, or to provide for the neighborhood homeless shelter, we really felt good about that. But, there were others who said, “I cannot get an appraisal on this $100. item that was dear to your Mom that you are selling for $10 and be *sure* that I can turn a 900% profit. Would you sell it to me for $5 instead?” – well – that was greedy.

When I donate to a thrift store, I chose my charity carefully because I like its business model – I like that it sells things at an affordable price to help both the needy and the thrifty. It DOES seem incredibly greedy when I walk into a more upscale consignment store, and see that the parking lot is littered with tags from my favorite thrift store, where people have simply bought a big stack at a good price from one place and driven across town and sold the same stack to turn a quick profit. They’re not “providing a service” to anyone when they do that. They’re certainly not “working.” I have worked retail, and there’s a big difference between doing some work to market something and just doing a quick, lazy “flip” People who do that are just sponging off of the good intentions of others.

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Laura October 28, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Exactly! There is also a difference, as you pointed out, between buying an item and making it resellable by cleaning it, repairing it, upscaling it, etc, and simply flipping it in the same cobdition they purchased it in. One is work. The other is just opportunistic.

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marie October 28, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I think maybe it was the boasting about deals that created such a stir!
It is commerce to buy and resale. Someone gave me an old refridgerator when they remodeled. It sat here as a beer fridge! Not! I just sold it on craigslist for $100.00 So should I have given it to someone else???
I don’t really have a answer for that.
Maybe she did feel that all the thrift store items should be left for the poor. Who knows.

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marie October 28, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I forgot that my main reason for posting was :
Since there is way too much stuff in the world, we probably shouldn’t argue about it!!

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Donna October 29, 2014 at 3:04 am

It was actually someone else who mentioned that thrift stores should be left for the poor, not the original OP. But I think you hit the nail on the head on what caused the stir.

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Vickie October 28, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I don’t think it’s greedy, I think it’s smart!
Resell has been around forever. Why wouldn’t savvy NCA people use resell as a tool for income?
Selling online is cheaper than opening a store front. I know a lady who has been doing it for about 20 years now. She’s supported herself and her daughter and bought her own house with the income she makes from reselling Thrift store baby clothes and other items.

Charity Thrift stores need the income and I’m certain they know many people do this type of work.
And like you said – take a walk through any Thrift store and most are bursting at the seams with stuff. Why waste money when you can recycle or resell perfectly good stuff?!

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Trish October 28, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Yeah, it isn’t greedy to try to help your kids get thru college without accruing a mountain of debt. To me, greed is a company like Walmart who underpays their workers and amasses huge profit at their expense. No one can convince me that Walmarts business model is anything but greedy.

Several years ago I stupidly bought a stupid big name person for a stupid amount of money (stupid!!) because my good friend at the time was wealthy and had smirked at my purse, which was really not even a purse but a sort of shoulder bag I had gotten for free with my Time magazine renewal (it was way ugly). But then i realized how little I cared about purses, and gave it to a thrift store. It wasn’t a really expensive purse, but I am sure someone could have resold it for more than the thrift store had it priced for. I really didn’t want to take the trouble to do it! Happy to let someone else profit off something I didnt want to do.

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Jean October 28, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I know several people who make a good portion of their living this way–and they buy not just from thrift stores, but garage and estate sales. Like a previous contributor, they have educated themselves in their areas of interest, and put a lot of time into finding, cleaning/restoring, pricing, stocking if they have booths. I have never considered this to be anything but an honest way to make some extra money, and probably a lot more fun than my office job!
Some thrifts and Goodwill’s have gotten a little more savvy about things that may have value and are posting them on online auctions and Craigslist, but if an item is in the store, it seems to me that whoever is willing to pay the posted price is free to do what they wish with it!

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halle October 28, 2014 at 3:09 pm

I do spend a lot of time doing research. I really like that part of the process too. It is a job, just non-traditional for this day and age, maybe? My hours are my own too.

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NMPatricia October 28, 2014 at 3:07 pm

As I read the original post when there were only a few replies, I sort of wondered where you (Katy) were as I know you have talked about doing it and why. Seemed fine to me. Thrift stores never struck me as a place solely for those who don’t have a lot of money to shop. They struck me as a way to get money for whatever charitable reason they want. I checked back later and thought Whoa! a lot of responses. (really didn’t know how to punctuate that last sentence. lol) I am never quite sure why people get so stirred up about these things. The only thing that really has ever stirred my blood was when Katy threatened to stop blogging because of rude and in-poor-taste comments. Thanks for doing this all. I know you put in a lot of time and with all you do, you are one amazing woman – Wonder Woman!!!!

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Mara October 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I think greed comes into the picture when we start imposing our personal values and standards on others. I generally work overtime; I’ve had coworkers tell me I shouldn’t because we have another coworker who has six kids and one income and he ‘needs’ the money more than I do. So is it greedy for me to do it? In my opinion, no. Add in the fact that we each have a limit on the number of hours we can work and he always works his full hours. So if I didn’t work the overtime it would change nothing in his life. But some of my coworkers still feel I am just being greedy. On another topic, I actually left the NCA facebook group some time ago because I felt there were a lot of posts (and comments too of course) condemning others for spending in a way that was frivolous or ‘wanting’ too much. And I got tired of ignoring them all.

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Anne October 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm

What upset me about the conflict was the tone of moral superiority over women who want Coach purses. Hey, that particular woman could be a war hero, discoverer of a cure for cancer, or be dedicating her life to helping the sick and the poor.

I happen to know that after Mother Theresa passed they found she had an entire secret closet full of Coach purses.

Okay, okay, I made that last part up. 😀

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Barb @ 1SentenceDiary October 28, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Still laughing over this, Anne. Great one!

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JP October 28, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Buying from a thrift store and “flipping” the item doesn’t bother me. I’m just a little envious that I don’t have time to do it myself. 🙂 I buy most of what I need from thrift stores, too.

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Krystal October 28, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Not at all.

I think of the money you make as providing a service to those who buy at the higher price. Many people don’t have the time or patience to thrift shop frequently, or prefer not to, etc. They pay higher dollar for your time, and if necessary, supplies in fixing up an item. They are still buying second hand and staying out of the typical retail game–if you didn’t use your skill of shopping and fixing, they may purchase from a big box store, or brand new on Amazon, etc., which is a detriment to their pocketbooks and the environment.

What you provide is similar to a service such as house cleaning or pet walking or childcare. I don’t think any of us are in a position to complain about what people pay for services, as long as it isn’t harmful to others–and there is plenty of “stuff” to clothe and furnish the lives of those around us.

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Christine October 28, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Try thinking about it this way: The person who originally purchased the item at full price is ok with donating it to thrift and having it being “given away” for a low price. Anyone who purchases that item at thrift price, or anyone who purchases it from a thrifter who resells it for profit, never had to pay that original full price. Those people who are buying used think they’re getting a great deal. Nothing wrong with that!

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Heather October 28, 2014 at 5:45 pm

No, it is not greedy. I donate items knowing that someone is going to find a great deal. Other times I am the one finding a great deal. If I had the time I would put the effort into selling items and are impressed by people who do it.

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Sabrina October 28, 2014 at 6:06 pm

I think it is best to try not to judge and give others the benefit of the doubt. I think if you buy something, clean it up or improve it in some way, then that is great! I think there are also people who buy with the intention of reselling and just end of accumulating, which I would not want to do! My main goal is to keep something that still has use out of a landfill, so I’d much rather donate it or give it away than sell it usually. My husband sometimes disagrees, but it does take time to sell something, too! Sometimes when I’ve posted a free item, I know the person probably could have easily paid for it, but I don’t care if they want to save some money, then that is fine with me, too. I have donated a lot of stuff over the years and will continue to do so!

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cathy October 28, 2014 at 8:34 pm

I think it’s absolutely OK to buy things at thrift stores with the intent to resell them. I don’t do it often, but would like to do more. I’m not sure why it would be considered greedy.

It seems there are a couple of issues with the post and comments on fb. As Katy pointed out, thrift stores want as much business as they can get. Generally they are trying to raise funds for specific causes. So they aren’t necessarily concerned with only people in need shopping there. But… there are thrift shops–often affiliated with shelters and other community organizations–that specifically cater to low-income people. In my city, those in need can get a voucher that allows them to go to these stores and pick up what they need free of charge.

I do think that there’s an increase of people shopping the thrift stores with the intent to flip the merchandise. That’s mostly aggravating when you see that a reseller has snagged things you would have bought, and it does sometimes make it feel like there’s less good stuff on the shelves. But you’ve never known if you would find something or not. Last week I found the exact shirt my son has on his wish list (not usually a brand to be found at the thrift store), but today I struck out trying to find odds and ends for another kid’s Halloween costume.

The other thing has to do with what, exactly, it means to be a non-consumer. Though I’ve never signed on with The Compact, Katy has. So I keep that idea in mind when I think of non-consumerism. From what I’ve read, The Compact started with a group of friends in the Bay Area who felt that reduce/reuse/recycle–especially recycle–didn’t go far enough in protecting the planet. The original goal was to BUY NOTHING NEW for a year (except necessities like food and medicine). This was their attempt to close the loop. It wasn’t (isn’t?) a mandate not to buy anything, and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with buying to resell. If anything, reselling seems to be MORE non-consumerist as it continues to find homes for items, which keeps them out of our landfills.

Maybe the focus of those who join The Compact has changed over the years to include a greater emphasis on frugality, but from what I’ve read, someone could be as much a part of The Compact shopping at Goodwill or Craigslist or an estate sale or high-end antiques store. And they all have to get their merchandise somewhere.

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Rosa November 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Closing the loop is really important. Recycling is really just scrapping – providing materials to manufacturers. If there’s no market, nothing gets recycled. Donating/reselling used items is the same – if there’s no market for the item, it’s going in the landfill.

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Lesley October 28, 2014 at 9:58 pm

I give stuff away because I don’t need it. Somebody else might need it, or if they don’t need it, they can sell it and maybe get something they do need. I don’t think it’s really in the spirit of giving to say “It has to go to somebody who really needs it!” That’d be nice, of course, but once it’s out of my hands, it’s out of my hands. Besides, who decides what “need” means?

Full disclosure–I used to “flip” stuff, 35 or so years ago, and it was pretty lucrative. I had a lot of time to go to thrift shops and sales, and not very much money. I don’t think what I did was greedy; some people got some nice stuff they wouldn’t even have seen otherwise!

Part II of full disclosure: I have a Coach purse. I didn’t buy it, but I did buy my Coach wallet–because once I looked at it I knew it would last a long time, and it has (it’s older than one of Katy’s sons!) I don’t anticipate needing another wallet, possibly ever, or another purse. I could buy twenty cheapo purses or more in the time it takes me to wear this one out–I don’t think I ever will. Same with the wallet. I don’t see what the problem is; I believe that buying quality means buying once and it saves in the long run: IF, that is, it’s something you really need and not just “need” to look at!

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Carla October 28, 2014 at 10:27 pm

At the risk of sounding flip, does it matter? All this time spent deciding the value of other people’s decisions, decrying others for being too this and not enough that is distracting to our lives and purpose, and not conducive to joy in the moment.

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Rowena October 29, 2014 at 4:08 am

On the flip side of this discussion, thanks to the folks who scour thrift stores , auctions and garage sales to resell the good stuff at antique stores, my husband and I were able to furnish two bedrooms with beautiful antiques in record time and at a reasonable price. Thank you, resellers!

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Megyn October 29, 2014 at 4:20 am

Here’s my issue with it–it doesn’t help other non-consumers save money. I hate when there’s something I’ve been looking for at thrift stores, and someone snatches it up right before I can just to resell it at a much higher price. For me, I buy thrifted items to save money. If I bought a used item at a much higher price on Ebay or Craigslist, it would be saving me less money or be over budget in that category. I’d much rather leave an item at a thrift store that I don’t want or need, so that someone else in my shoes needing that item and needing to save money can find it and use it.

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Anne October 29, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I can’t figure out how you would know that somebody had “snatched it up” to resell right before you got there.

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Megyn October 30, 2014 at 6:27 am

I actually had this happen with Craigslist items. I would email someone about an item, and then see it being resold the next week for far, far more. I’ve also seen items in thrift stores and had people go over with their phone to assess value, and they’ve grabbed it before I could.

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jacqui h October 29, 2014 at 5:46 am

I shop thrift stores for my family (mainly clothes) as well as the challenge of finding things for resale. It is something fun to do on a Saturday afternoon and there is nothing wrong with reselling it. I also donate a lot of things as well. In fact, every time I drop off a donation, there is a steady line of cars in and out doing the same thing and the back room of any of these stores are packed with items waiting to be tagged and placed out on the sales floor. There is no shortage of anything.

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Amy S October 29, 2014 at 7:18 am

As I have gotten older, I have realized that everyone has their own priorities – about their resources and about how they spend their time. Why should I care if I donate something and someone else makes a profit from it? It still stays out of the landfill, it will still end up being used by someone who wants or needs it (who will make their own decision about what it is worth to them), and someone who put the time and effort into the resale gets paid for their time and effort. That, my friends, is a non-consumer win, win, win.

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Seattle Nancy October 29, 2014 at 7:43 am

I missed the Facebook page discussion yesterday, so mostly responding to Katy’s blogpost. I have donated my stuff I don’t want to Goodwill and other charities, don’t care what happens to them once they are out of my hands. I have donated my boys’ nicer outgrown clothing and gear to a charity in the suburbs of Seattle called Eastside Baby Corner that is a clearinghouse for at least 100 social service organizations. They take donations of new and used items and they make up packages of clothing, etc. and these things are given directly to families. I’ve spent many hours as a volunteer sorting and organizing and making up clothing sets. I’ve given away items I don’t want on Freecycle. I’ve sold things at kids consignment sales, on our local buy-sell-trade Facebook group, and eBay.

That said, I’ve also bought things to flip. So my actions have really run the gamut. Sometimes I need to make some money, sometimes I want things outta here.

Once you buy something at a thrift store, garage sale, etc. it is yours. You can do with it what you want. Everyone else going to the thrift store or yard sale has the same chance of scoring an item. I donate, I buy, I give to people I know. The one thing I know is I’m not throwing things in the trash, and those items have an extended useful life once my family is done with them. If someone at Goodwill finds a game or toy I’ve donated and sees dollar signs, more power to them.

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Seattle Nancy October 29, 2014 at 7:50 am

For anyone interested, here’s the link for Eastside Baby Corner. It’s one of the best charities I know.

http://www.babycorner.org/

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JD October 29, 2014 at 12:35 pm

I don’t care for the idea of someone buying ALL the good stuff out of a thrift store to re-sell, but since it’s constantly being re-stocked, I haven’t had the experience of a “pro” shopper doing that at my local thrift shop. And, I don’t think we have any of those dedicated pros around here anyway. I shop for myself, though, not to flip, at a thrift store. I don’t condemn flipping from thrift stores or anywhere else.
I bought a nice sized piece of genuine Roseville (lots of fakes out there) at a yard sale to flip — but I broke it. When I bought it, I pointed out it was Roseville, and the seller said, “I know. I don’t like it.” I’m still mad at myself for breaking it.
It may not seem like a non-consumer thing to flip, but to me, it’s part of it in that it is earning extra cash while remaining frugal and non-consumerist by not buying new or blowing the extra cash. To me, it ties together; to others, it may not. That’s because we are all different, which is great.

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Diane C October 29, 2014 at 5:51 pm

I help run our library’s quarterly book sales. About half of our sales happen at the “Friends” ($10/annual membership) preview on Friday night. The sale is always packed with resellers. We do not allow scanners or cell phones, but otherwise place no restrictions on anyone. Why? Because our goal is to raise money for the library. We don’t care where the money comes from or where the books go. We start again at 10 on Saturday. At 4, we offer a bag o’ books for $5. Why? Because we have to vacate the space on Sunday morning. By doing this quarterly, plus one holiday sale (Subtitled Books You Can Pass Off As New Sale), we are able to donate over $35,000 to the library for books, materials and programs every year. Keep your focus on the goal and don’t get bogged down in the details is our motto.

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Karen October 30, 2014 at 11:38 am

I do have a problem with this, I know that it is not illegal and that a lot of people do it but it just does not sit well with me. My solution to the problem is to not buy anything from E-Bay, Craigslist or any group who does this. I am not stopping people who want to do such but I am adhering to my own standards. I think we each have to follow our own moral compass on such matters.

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AMR December 25, 2015 at 5:32 pm

So, do I.

Recently a Gucci brand purse was sold for $17.50 on a certain well known auction sight. A few days after it’s sold on that site, it reappears on the same site but under a different seller who is now asking $212.00 for it. The seller also stated that the purse is 1000% genuine. I’m now wondering if the purse is genuine and how the seller knows it’s genuine.

Now big brand purses aren’t a necessity and a truly poor person wouldn’t pay 17.50 for a purse (so I don’t feel the reseller is taking from the poor) but for some reason it didn’t sit well with me. I barely signed up and started an account with the auction site and I’m already thinking that I won’t be buying from the site.

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LovingIt July 17, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Then you might as well stop buying from all businesses, because this is how they operate. Buy and re-sell for higher.

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cindi October 30, 2014 at 3:02 pm

may I just add to this discussion that flipping an item, no matter how nice, is really not a given anymore…so many people are downsizing and decluttering that really awesome things go unpurchased on ebay or craigslist everyday.
while I do occasionally purchase at the goodwill with an eye toward resale, I have learned that it better be something that I’m also happy keeping….cause chances increasing are that that’s what will happen…
my point is, nobody’s getting rich doing this….

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Katy October 30, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Very true that stuff no longer flies off the resellers’ shelves. I still find stuff to sell, but I’m very deliberate about what I bring home.

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Betty Winslow January 12, 2015 at 11:16 am

As long as it keeps it out of the landfill AND out of my house, you’re welcome to do with it whatever you want – use it, sell it, give it away, set fire to it. Have fun. And if someone gets to something I wanted before I do that’s life.

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LovingIt July 17, 2016 at 3:41 pm

I also, have had people tell me I’m “greedy” for buying things and re-selling. I’ve even had people tell me I am “greedy” for having garage sales and selling my clothing in consignment sales. I’ve been lectured and shamed by other women about how I should “donate my stuff to the needy” instead of selling it. However, I have no shame at all about selling off things I no longer need, or buying and re-selling items for profit.

Buying and re-selling is how many businesses all over the world operate – buy and resell for higher. The people who criticize this practice are ignorant, naïve and uninformed. Perhaps some people are jealous that they don’t have the time or resourcefulness to do the same thing – buy and re-sell. And they also can’t stand to see someone else make profits and earn money.

Again – I have no shame.

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