Tuesday, 18 November 2008

on op shopping and ebaying

There's been a bit of activity around the traps lately about the practice of purchasing goods from op shops for resale on ebay. I have a few observations to make on this issue:

1. Economically, I don't see how the resale of items purchased at the op shop drives prices up at the op shop, or certainly how it could be the sole cause of rising prices. Paid staff members, increasing rents, greater need for the services funded by the charities - these are all factors as well. The pricing issue has previously been written about very thoughtfully (along with a great many other issues) by The Vintage Detective.

I once looked at a very sweet vintage needlepoint bag at a second-hand dealer. It was pricey and I was a bit affronted when I saw that the Salvo's receipt was still actually in the bag. But then I figured well, the dealer has made the shopping effort, been in the right place at the right time, has rent and utility overheads and needs to feed him or herself as well. Everything second-hand comes from somewhere - an estate sale, an auction house, the op shop. Is one source more pure than another? The internet, and ebay in particular, has made it possible for anyone with an internet connection and paypal account to be a second-hand dealer. Is it any wonder that on this new scale of second-hand selling that the source of goods has moved to the op shop?

2. On the ethics of reselling items - I defer again to TVD for a summary of some of the issues here. I think that to object to this practice assumes that everyone is there looking for the same thing. I also don't think that op shops are short of stock - I once heard that Brotherhood of St Laurence has something like a phenomenal 20 tonnes of donated goods coming through its sorting warehouse - everyday. As soon as something is off the shelf, wherever it goes to, there is room for something else fresh out of the back room. And no vintage dealer can be everywhere at once.

And just to finish, my own personal view? I've thought about doing it many times, have seen things at the op shop and thought that it would certainly sell elsewhere for more, have even gone so far as to purchase something with the intention of on-selling ... but haven't quite been able to bring myself to do so.

This blog is a great forum to discuss and debate these issues. Your views and comments are welcome but please be aware that any comments that may be construed as hurtful or unpleasant (by me) will be removed.


Sarah said...

Hmm, well obviously my opinion will be a biased one as I guess I'm a reseller.

To be honest I can completely understand both sides of the argument - obviously resellers can be seen as taking away items from genuine bargain shoppers for a profit, but at the same time I think they are also providing a service to others who don't know or don't have the time to look for themselves.

I've personally spent thousands on ebay buying other seller's vintage clothing before I decided to try my own luck. I view my store as a business, albeit a small one, and so like any business I do seek to make a profit and recoup costs. Like any other job, I "work" 4 - 5 days a week searching, photographing, editing, writing, packaging and posting... so the profit I make is not excessively high when you take into account the time I put in. It's like any other job, but to me I feel more satisfied doing this than working in a mundane office environment (I've been there, trust me!). At the moment it suits me fine as I'm still a uni student (a deferred one) but it's not something I see myself doing forever.

Obviously there will be people who are opposed to this which is fine.

leslie said...

i totally agree with sarah above. i had an etsy shop selling some of my op shop finds purely because i saw too many great things that i knew my internet friends would love but would never get the chance to find themselves. plus it gave me an excuse to do something i absolutely love, find amazing and unique vintage bargains. i stopped selling because it really is a LOT of work. also i love the fact that if i really am desperate for a certain vintage piece, i can check ebay and hopefully find it. the person selling it may have found it at an op shop on the other side of the country, one that i would never have visited.

(sorry if this is a bit disjointed, i'm hearing a baby waking up in the next room and am trying to get my thoughts out QUICKLY!)

Joanne said...

Your post put me in mind of an article in Textile Fibre Forum so I looked it up. The article is "Make Rag Rugs- Save the World" by Lucy Poland in Issue 1., No 85, 2007.
Lucy Poland works in a charity store. Some quotes from the article:
"Donations pour in at an alarming rate."

"Only a fraction of the clothing we are given actually gets resold in our shop. There is simply too much of it. We select the best items to sell and the rest is consigned to the ragbag. Even if something makes it onto the shop floor there is no guarantee it will sell... It can be heartbreaking, having to throw away lovely items just because they haven't been seen by the right person at the right time."

"Our own shop generates 20-30 sacks of 'rags' every week, each weighing in excess of 10 kilos."

In view of these comments, I don't think op-shops run short. There would not be any need to up prices on this account.
My personal thought is that if one item is saved from landfill because someone on-sells it to someone, it is a good thing.

I wonder though about legality and when second-hand dealer laws would be applied to on-sellers. If your aim is to make profit, even a little, then you are by definition running a business and if the business involves selling second-hand items, it seems relevant licensing arrangements should apply. Which would price out many small onsellers becuase these licenses are not cheap. But it would also help weed out potential thieves who steal from charity drop-offs or clotheslines for their stock.

Sarah said...

Eek, I'm being targeted. How lovely and flattering!


Especially the part about me being an "overseas student" (of course! What else would I be) and how people at a salvos store where I've never gone are alerting her to my "scheming" ways. How nice.

I don't expect everyone to agree with what I do but I also don't expect personal attacks or gross misinformed information. But then again, any publicity is good publicity, right?

Sarah said...

Sorry for the excess commenting, but this topic is quite personal (ahem, see above link).

I just wanted to add one more thing, when I sell items I do it on ebay and I do it via the auction format and therefore I am not setting prices. The final price is really determined by the people themselves who CHOOSE to bid on them - if there is only one or two bids the price is still pretty on par to op shop prices. Hence I don't think resellers are "stealing from charities", we are only providing a service much like any other business out there.

*end rant*

Anonymous said...

Oh my Sarah, sorry you have been dumped on like that.

Seriously, I wouldn't even pick up most of the things you get at the op shops, but you seem to make them come back to life.

If you buy them from the op shops, arent you actually doing them a service, you know, you are actually giving them money for the stuff you are buying. Its not like you say oh, this is priced at $5, here let me give you $1.

Keep doing what you are doing!

Joanne said...

Sarah, that other post you pointed to sounds like sour grapes to me. She must think you're some kind of superwoman- flying from op to op clearing them all out before you get there! It would be funny if it wasn't such a blatant personal attack from a stranger.
If you pay the price the op-shop asks then the op shop should be happy. What you do with it after that is entirely up to you.
If the op-shop is unhappy, perhaps they should set up their own up-market version specialising in vintage and designer. As all of their stuff is donated, they would have the edge.
BTW, when I suggested some may steal from charities, I meant from their drop-off bins, before they have a chance to sort it. I hope you didn't think that I meant buying from them was stealing...

Sarah said...

Joanne -
No no! I was referring to something that girl comment on in her blog, not you :)

I do agree with your point about perhaps registering it as a business if indeed people are profiting from reselling. I am currently looking into this at the moment.

Thanks girls! Sorry I wasn't drumming up support but eh, who knew there'd be so much drama in the blogoshere. Heh.

Amanda said...

I'm also a reseller (albeit one on a small $200 a month profit scale to supplement my retail income), so well, I'm biased.

I like to think of myself as performing a service - I've noticed that many of those who buy items off me tend to live in places that aren't as well served by opshops/vintage shops as the area that I live in. Many of my repeat customers come from small country towns, so essentially, through me (at a small markup), they're getting a chance to get what they can't otherwise get their hands on. :)

Tanja said...

I've never resold anything, and have no desire to. The types of things which would make a tidy profit on eBay are not the sort of things I look for in an op shop. I have no problem with onselling. If op shops are concerned then I think they should consider selling on eBay themselves. I was chatting to a manager of one store (about this blog) and she was telling me that the valuable things which come into their store get sold on eBay by their staff for the shop. She then told me about a rare doll which had sold for several hundred dollars after being dropped off in their bins. I think this op shop's initiative and forward thinking are commendable, and if other shops don't have the expertise or don't want to do it, then why not let someone else?

angel wings and hearts said...

i can't see anything wrong with it. you can only sell if people are willing to pay. and if they are willing to pay, well that is up to them. people are always saying to me that i should set up on ebay, but frankly it would be pretty time consuming. i think good stuff isn't getting to a lot of the op shops because people are not giving it away anymore. i think it is getting put up on ebay BEFORE people consider giving it to charity. i have also seen people at my local op who buy up and then take it to a sunday market. so no differance really. i also believe in the saying "if you were meant to have it, it will find you".

trishhunterfinds said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tui said...

Interesting discussion. I see parallels with the second-hand book trade. For several years I sold books at my kids' school fete. Initially, I was annoyed by dealers who swooped in early to buy books. But then I had a rethink. If they were prepared to come early, pay full price and leave again, well, where was the harm? There were hundreds of books left for others to buy, and the profits all went to the school. Similarly, if you pay full price at an op shop and the charity gets to help someone with that money and you make a profit, who loses out? I haven't resold anything on eBay myself, but I might if I could ever get organised.

Anonymous said...

I don't object to reselling but I don't like the way it's become such a theme on this blog. Somehow a great find doesn't seem so great if you just bought it to sell it.

EmilyKate said...

Oh my! I will admit to having had resentful thoughts about folks who re-sell... but I check myself on realising that in the end, if the CHARITY is the ultimate beneficiary of higher prices, then my resentment is pretty churlish...

While I'm a born economiser and bargain-hunter and am not on a terrifically high income I could certainly never describe myself as poor; in the main my preference for secondhand purchases is from a conservation/waste-not-want-not perspective (ie... how much new stuff does the world really need to produce/how many non-renewable resources do we have to plough through when the world is already STUFFED with STUFF!). Plus aesthetically I just like retro things *shrug*

While I do realise higher prices have an impact on people whose opshopping has more to do with having severely limited funds, I know that these charities are generally quite happy to provide necessities free of charge based on genuine need.

I also can imagine that while it may look like resellers are 'cashing in', on a per-hour basis the 'profit' is likely fairly modest.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Amelia bout the prices on certain things in ops. I have asked staff in different ops why prices on vintage and englishware is so high. All times they have said that dealers buy things then sell them for a mint.
I have sold a hermes scarf i got at a op for $400 US dollars on ebay. I paid around $4 for it. I sold a prada skirt for $300 and i paid $7 for it.
I like the profit i made but i feel guilty that is why i am remaining anon. But i didn't set the price at ops but i am benefitting from them.

Anonymous said...

Ebay is great coz you don't pay tax yipee.

Mel said...

I have no problem with on-selling generally, although I do agree with the anonymous commenter who said it takes the personal joy out of op-shopping somewhat.

However another thing that bothers me a lot about reselling (and I've worried about offending people by commenting about it here) is when garments bought in an op-shop are cut up to make them conform to a more contemporary aesthetic. I see garments being altered in ways that don't respect their original designs, and to me this seems to miss the point of vintage: an admiration for the styles of the past.

Of course, I've bought things from op-shops with the intention of cutting them up, re-sewing them or otherwise changing them - but only for me to wear. If you're planning to sell these things to other people, then who are you to decide what's wearable and what isn't? Surely that's something a buyer decides for themselves, using their own tastes?

I do understand if people both resell and cut stuff up in order to create a certain look. It's like being a fashion designer who works only with second-hand materials. But not if the clothes are being sold as 'vintage'. You simply can't have your cake (trading on the cachet of vintageness) and eat it too (hacking those vintage garments up so they no longer have their vintage shapes).

Anonymous said...

This is funny very funny.
You want some insider info? The Salvo's stores are a separate business to the Salvation Army. Salvo's stores is registered on the stock exchange. All profits from Salvo's goes to the shareholders. It is big business and The Salvation Army do not handle clothing. Clothing is sorted with designer brands being sent to a warehouse for a once a year designer sale at the St Kilda store. The prices are high there and the profit goes to the shareholders with a small amount going to the Salvation Army.
Clothing which is in bad condition is sent to overseas countries as aid whilst the really bad stuff is sold as rags overseas.
Resell if you find anything from the salvo's as the money is better in the pocket of small business rather than big business.

Anonymous said...

What I hate is the op shop 'volunteers' who take home stuff to sell. Yup it is such a huge problem that the larger op shops are trying out different ways to prevent it. I much prefer the small church based op shops run by kind elderly ladies (stereotype I know) who would never take anything home for themselves let alone to sell.

Stacey said...

I have often wondered about the volunteers and whether some (please, I don't mean all) pick over the best of the stock before they sell it.
I have resold some things and personally don't have a problem with it at all.
I figure that the store is still getting the price they asked for it and what happens to the item once it has been paid for and left the store is irrelevant to them.
I disagree with the comment made by Anonymous suggesting that reselling has become such a theme on this blog.
For one, I don't think it has, and secondly even if it has, why is that contrary to what this blog should be about? I personally am just as, if not more, interested in what the buyer intends to do with their find, rather than just where they found it and how much they paid for it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah and the savers staff who try to hide what they want around the store so it doesn't get sold. They are only allowed to purchase something if it doesn't sell. Look in the larger figure racks girls. I bet you they bag a heap of stuff anyway.

I love the little old ladies who volunteer for the smaller church op shops to. Man they volunteer their time and they are such treasures.

Amelia said...

I'm very curious about what has been written above about Salvos stores. Tthe Salvation Army website's FAQ states:

What’s the difference between Family Stores and Salvos Stores?

Essentially The Salvation Army is a church. Family Stores are run by local churches to provide funding for programs in the local community.

Salvos Stores is the retail arm of The Salvation Army and provides assistance to The Salvation Army Community Service divisions in the form of free clothing and household goods to those less fortunate in the community. Proceeds of sales help fund the ongoing work of The Salvation Army.


How are the proceeds of sales used?

Proceeds of sales help fund the further good work of The Salvation Army in your local area.


Salvos stores are also not listed on the ASX although may be under the name of a different holding company. does any one know anything more about this? i want the information in the comments to be correct.

Anonymous said...

If you are into on-selling then just go the deceased estate auctions in Caulfied. I know it sounds creepy but a lot of wealthy people leave their estates to places like Lort Smith who simply auction everything. A lot of families now auction the deceased relatives estates as it makes it easy to divide between them. All of the people who run vintage stores usually try to buy what they can. It's hard when auctions lots are not split and I guess that why a lot of them have furnishings for sale now. I think you may need to have a large cash outlay though. If you are really keen on on-selling then you will get a huge amount of vintage at these auctions.

trishhunterfinds said...

I too understand both sides of the argument as both a reseller and a collector.

As a collector, i understand that its harder than it used to be to find the items I love and collect as there are so many more people out there shopping. But I deal with it, and just search harder.

But as a reseller...
I'd like to use my job as a metaphor.
I work in a costume hire store, and so many people come in and are shocked at the price we charge, (When we are probably one of the cheapest in Melbourne)
They don't understand how we can charge so much for something we've already bought and for something they don't even get to keep.

I always politely explain, that first of all a percentage of it is tax, that we can spend up to an hour fitting you (wages), getting you looking fabulous.
We have to pay for the costumes themselves, rent, bills, and to actually make enough to feed ourselves.
Also the amount of mending, washing, ironing behind the scenes work that we do to keep the costumes looking so good is ignored.
Not including the fact that we're a service, for the people who can't get out to go to 25 opshops and put together their own costume, or the lazy ones who leave it to the last minute.

I relate this to vintage sellers.

Like Sarah said, we spend days looking for items to sell. They don't just pop up on our doorstep.
We also mend, alter, wash, iron, model, photograph, polish etc all the items we put up for sale.
And then comes the tedious and time consuming part of actually putting them on ebay.
Its not what most people think. "Just chuck it on eBay" It takes a lot of research to get your key words right, it takes a lot of time to measure your items correctly, and to write up a great description.

And of course then there's the service we're providing. A lot of people don't have time to go scrounging through opshops for days looking for that dream dress. They don't have the nature to get a bit dirty and unload boxes of unhung clothes in search of a treasure.
We offer a service.

The main point I'd like to make is.... a lot of the items we find, we transform something completely drab that would often be unsold (therefore becoming landfill and the opshops not getting ANYTHING from it so really they should be thanking us) because people don't see things the way we do... We can find a drab/hideous size 20 nanna tshirt, style it up, show examples of how you can wear it, put a belt around it for a dress, pair it with some heals/leggings and it is all of a sudden desirable. Something that the same person who won the auction may have picked up off the rack and turn their nose up at. Because they don't see things the way we do.

To Patrice, I'd like to ask how she thinks collectibles/antique shop owners find their stock?
They have done the opshop/market scrounge for years and years, well before ebay began. The fact that someones putting things on an accessible site like eBay because we can't afford to own a store doesn't change the basic principle, that forever people buy cheap to resell.
Its how the world works!

If there was $2 on the ground would you just leave it for someone else to pickup? Or would you pick it up for yourself?
If Sarah wasn't going and buying the clothes to resell, then someone else would, someone else always has been, and someone always will!

The reason opshops are putting their prices up is not because of resellers or antique dealers, but because they realise they can get more money for their items because the demand is higher. Opshopping is being promoted everywhere from modelling TV shows, to age articles, to magasines, to blogs. Everyones jumping on the band wagon.
So if they can get the money for their charity, because there are so many more people who are out there buying... why wouldn't they? They don't care who's buying it.

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Anonymous said...

Trishhunterfinds said "we spend days looking for items to sell. They don't just pop up on our doorstep."
Actually they do ;-) I used to work in a 2nd hand bookshop, lots of their stock came from people turning up with a box of books they no longer wanted, and the prices paid for the average novel were similar to what we would pay from an op shop or trash and treasure market. The only difference being the charity misses out.

trishhunterfinds said...


Unfortunately eBay resellers (the people who we are referring to in this post, and who I classify myself and others as under the 'we' title that I wrote above) don't have signs on our letterboxes saying 'I'm an ebay reseller' allowing people to drop unwanted goods to us to resell.
Of course people donate their things to book shops, antique stores and vintage boutiques. I work in a costume store and people often come in with old costumes they don't want and give them to us. But as eBay resellers, we don't get that privilege. We do go searching for our things, and unless relatives or friends give us things to sell, its all up to us.

Gina E. said...

What a fascinating topic! I am open minded about the concept of people buying at opshops and reselling on ebay or at Sunday markets, etc. I know people who drive around the suburbs for weeks when there is a hard rubbish collection on. They pick up anything that can be made over in some way, and then sell it themselves either on eBay or at a garage sale.
It's all good news for the environment - recycling everything.
I collect embroidered linens and books on the subject, most of which I've bought on eBay from people interstate. If they hadn't gone shopping at opshops, garage sales, auctions, etc. to put their things on eBay, I certainly wouldn't have found them!! So I'm very grateful to the people who hunt these things down and go to the trouble of re-selling them! I have sold a few bits on eBay that I've found in opshops, only because I know there is a market for them.

Claire (ethel loves fred) said...

I'm not a re-seller, just an avid collecter of stuff!

My opinion is, that once you've bought something, from an op-shop, garage sale, or anywhere for that matter, then it's yours to do what you want with, cut it up, on sell it, use it - flush it down the loo if you like!

Good luck to all who do on sell, ANY retailer anywhere 'marks it up and moves it on'!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent debate post with constructive feedback comments on the ethics of on-selling op shop purchases.

Whatever your ethics on this topic they are rightfully yours to uphold and possibly defend. And this post would hint that there are from time to time bloggers who want to get on their high and mighty 'blogging bandwagon' preaching to all about the wrongs of the 'op shopping fraternity' according to them. With little acknowledgement that this group have a right to their ethical stand i.e. to on-sell or not to on-sell, to alter or not to alter, to bargain or not to bargain, to give as Xmas gifts or not to give as Christmas gifts -you get my drift.

I have read all the comments and a point I would like to make which is a little different to the others is that I Op therefore I Am blog is good fun and provides loads of enjoyment. I am not interested in the comments of a small few nasty pasties who are probably peeved/jealous that they did not get that fab find that you did and/or just get some sort of kick from being 'blog bullies'.

Good on Amelia for taking control of her blog and 'blog bully' and letting us all know that she will vet hurtful and/or inappropriate comments. This is a welcomed outcome for me as a reader because her beaut blog can remain enjoyable, fun and friendly.

As far as the debate about the poor and disadvantaged not having access to op shopping merchandise because of on-selling or whatever. This comment may not be well informed by research. My action research from the field has found that oftentimes the poor and /or disadvantage are not interested in op shopping. For example I surveyed a maternal and child health nurse in a lower socioeconomic area recently. This nurse loves to op shop and has furnished a whole home with op shop finds. In the mums' groups she convenes she always promotes op shopping as a way to save money. Her health centre is stocked with the latest Fisher and Price toys all from op shops and she lets all the mums know this fact.

Alas, she reported to me during my research that the majority of mums in her groups appear not to be very interested when she mentions the advantages of op shopping. She states that they listen to her lessons but experience has shown her they prefer nice new things.

Well, I have had my say and am blogging off now to try my luck on EBay to recoup some hard earned cash thrifted away at the local op shop on a few punt finds that didn't quite work out for me. I do like the thought of giving someone else the opportunity to appreciate what I do not want by paying some of their hard earned cash for it. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Well what about tax evasion? Why should my husband and I pay 50% of our income to the tax office whilst ebayers don't pay a cent? This is cheating. Additionally, when I donate goods I don't expect that a reseller will come along and make money off my donations - again I feel cheated.

Prices for collectibles have risen in response to resellers. Almost every charity store staff member I have spoken to has verified this.
Vintage shops are at least a registered business who have to declare their profits to the tax office. Why should some Australians pay tax and others nothing? I have rallied the tax office for a while now and they say they are catching ebay tax evaders but I don't see any improvement.

Aussie Jo said...

Wow, that sure created some debate.
I actually think people who buy at op shops and then restyle and re-sell are doing a fantastic job for the environment. Recycling is what this is all about and making something have a second life is the best aim.
Lots of people dabble in buying and selling, whether at op shops or auction houses - pensioners, single mums, not all are sharks. A local op shop I visit regularly buys vintage china and glass at auction to re-sell in the op shop - and do quite well out of it.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Allanah said...

Paypal is mandatory in Australia regarding ebay transactions and the ATO are chasing. They have already applied to paypal to release information regarding sellers who have made big bucks like $75, 000 in the last financial year. Rumour has it that this is just the tip of the iceberg as anyone who regularly sells will be audited with information being supplied by paypal. This is a good thing as tax cheaters are criminals.

Anonymous said...

To anon, you are presuming that ebayers don't pay tax? I have an ebay shop and I am a registered business with an ABN as are a huge number of ebay sellers. I also have a day job and pay tax. Fair enough it is annoying if anyone is evading tax but please dont presume that everyone selling on ebay is doing so.

Neroli said...


I hate to shock you but the majority of ebay sellers are not registered and that is why the ATO is in a huff. You think the government wants to miss out on loot?

You are a rarity if you have an ABN.
I worked for the ATO until recently and they are trying every method within legislation to catch sellers. I don't think that they should bother with most as most sellers make small amounts and they are assisting the economy. The ATO estimates that 5% of ebay sellers are registered. Their data comes from monitoring ebay, paypal and customs as well as other covert means.

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