I have been pondering this topic for a little while.
I began to think about it after I volunteered at our school jumble sale this year. For the first time I experienced the semi-professional haggling skills of customers who were going on to sell their bargains at car boot sales etc for a far higher price.
Then the lovely blogger, Ruby, from Quiet Radicals posed the question on twitter: is it ok for people to buy cheap items in charity shops – and then sell them on for higher prices to make a personal profit?
This really got me thinking. If the item at a school jumble sale, or charity shop, is on sale to make money for a good cause is it wrong for the purchaser to later sell it for more? Especially if this ‘profit’ is then kept for personal gain?
I guess you could say ‘good luck’ to anyone who has the ambition and drive to make money from selling other people’s cast-offs. Whether these cast-offs were donated to help a charity, accidentally left behind, or given for free should be irrelevant. When we donate we should no longer have any say in what happens to that item. It is now down to the charity shopper, freecycler, skip-diver etc to use their initiative to turn a profit.
And yet, I feel slightly uncomfortable about this. I recently wrote a magazine article on upcycling and the skill and materials that are involved in improving old, discarded items is something I approve of. These people have taken time, and spent their money and labour on making something better.
I guess it’s when something is bought for a cheap price/for free and then sold on at a higher price without anything being done to it, is where I struggle. I also think that items bought from charity shops should only be sold to make money for that charity.
A few months ago I bought a t-shirt online that was too small. Instead of having to return the t-shirt, Redbubble said I could keep it (as well as being sent a larger size). They said: “there’s no need to send it back. Feel free to give it to a friend, donate it to your favorite charity, whatever you want..”
For a brief moment I thought I could sell it on and make some money. However it didn’t feel right. I’ve essentially got that t-shirt for free and it would be so much nicer to pass it onto a friend, as friends have done to me. Maybe I’m just wired a little differently, or the pursuit of profit just isn’t my thing.
But what do you think? Am I being too puritan about this? Should people be able to sell these items for more than they bought them for in the first place?