Refuse the Reselling
Issue 9, Volume 113
By Suyeon Ryu
The alarm rings at 8:00 a.m. You log into your computer and open Ticketmaster. Mentally preparing yourself, you feel your heart beating as you click refresh over and over again. Finally, the site opens, but you’re not fast enough. The tickets are already taken.
Many people are probably familiar with this experience if they have ever tried to buy something in high demand. Even those without direct experience have probably seen it on the news with the Taylor Swift and Ticketmaster fiasco. While many blame the massive number of Swift fans as the primary reason for the disaster, the problem is really rooted in the prominence of reselling. There was a swarm of bots buying an overwhelming amount of tickets, with the intention to mark them up for profit.
When desperate fans resorted to TicketSwap or Vivid Seats for tickets instead of the relatively affordable tickets that Swift originally contracted for, which cost $49 to $449, they paid up to $30 thousand. This effect makes tickets unaffordable, and lower and middle-class fans are forced to accept that enjoying a concert with their favorite artist is an inaccessible luxury.
It becomes more problematic when this practice extends beyond leisurely activities like concerts. Thrifting has exploded in popularity recently, and places like Goodwill and yard sales have lost their original purpose of providing cheap, secondhand items for those who can’t afford them. Instead of helping people buy secondhand to save money and the environment, thrift stores have become an opportunity for profit and thus, a source of competition between resellers to mass purchase highly sought items before they run out. Therefore, people who genuinely want or even need the items can lose to aggressive resellers. As big stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army cater to resellers who can afford to pay more, they raise prices, a recent phenomenon. This change ultimately causes gentrification, and the initially intended audience is pushed out of the market due to a more privileged group of people.
Recently, I have seen many social media posts advertising for people to go to yard sales and take advantage of oblivious homeowners to buy highly demanded items for cheap and sell them for triple the price they bought them for. Searching up “reselling” on the Internet will promote online guides on how to start a Depop business or articles on how successful reselling can be as a “side hustle.” This narrow, selfish view of reselling as a business is incredibly unethical. Reselling is not a business. It is simply robbing resources from the needy and purposefully taking advantage of a wealth gap. Everyone deserves to enter a thrift store, whether for necessity, the environment, or even fun. However, entering a thrift store for the purpose of profit is a slap in the face for people who are struggling to afford even secondhand items and cannot afford the reselling prices.
In an ideal world, people would have the moral compass to refrain from reselling. This situation is unfortunately not our reality. We need to regulate reselling practices to oppose this harmful practice. For digital businesses like Ticketmaster, increased measures could mean stricter bot verification systems. For physical thrifting stores, this need could mean limiting the number of items someone can buy at once. For example, during quarantine, many stores limited the number of toilet paper rolls a person could buy to prevent panicked hoarding behaviors. This example proves that implementing a standard procedure prevents people from buying absurd amounts of highly demanded material, which allows resources to be distributed more evenly. Very rarely will someone need a cart full of shoes or clothing. By limiting these mass purchases, customers are encouraged to limit their spending to necessities. We must shift our thrifting culture away from capitalizing on underprivileged communities and their support systems.