On thrifting, for fun and profit


Someone asked me recently how my thrift-for-profit venture was going, and I realized I hadn't posted a full autopsy report of that now-dead enterprise. I meant to, I apparently just flaked on it.

Anyway, thrifting for profit. First, I absolutely believe it is doable and that some people are very successful at it. I also absolutely believe that I will never be one of those people. It's just not in me.

See, the part of thrifting for profit that is time-and-effort consuming isn't the thrifting part. It's the researching what will make money, writing listings, answering questions, and spending endless hours at the post office. And I want to do none of those things. So, what I end up with is piles of stuff that either isn't worth enough to bother trying to sell or I am too lazy to try to sell, making the entire enterprise revenue-reducing, rather than revenue-generating.

Which isn't to say that there aren't still things I would buy and slap up on Ebay if I saw them--Ergos, new Dankso clogs, things I know will sell. But thrifting for profit in bulk, as a side business, just isn't going to work.

I've learned a couple of valuable lessons, I think. The biggest one is that just because something has "intrinsic" value (is well made, has lots of wear left in it, etc.) doesn't mean it has market value. I should have already known that, of course, but this experiment certainly served as a reminder. The second one is that my labor has worth, and even though the thrifting part is something I'd be happy to do for free, the rest of it isn't, so the whole thing would have to pay enough for that part to be worth my while. Which it doesn't.

However, having seen what I've seen by visiting the bins weekly or more for months, I don't think my personal consumption habits will ever be the same. The sheer volume of stuff that is thrown away is truly nightmarish, and it has definitely upped the ante for me in terms of how I shop. I'm not committed enough to go 100% used--at my size, I just can't put in the effort and time and heartache all used clothes would mean--but there are things I would have bought at a conventional store before that I won't now. For example, I spent a couple of month’s worth of thrift store trips looking for pint glasses recently. We wanted some, and they wouldn't have been much more expensive (and would have been immediate) if we'd just bought them new, but I know how much glassware gets thrown away, so I just kept an eye out for them until I found them used. Whether or not that kind of a gesture ultimately makes any difference I can't say, but it does make me feel marginally better about being a part of this over-consuming society.

My attention is currently on thrifting Christmas gifts. I don't think I'll be able to manage 100% thrifted presents, but I'm going to do the best I can, and I have a few things left over from my attempts at thrifting to sell that will work well as gifts. I'm working on feeling OK about giving the people on my list who are not thrifters themselves non-new presents...without getting up on a high horse about it. We'll see how that all goes.

All in all, I'm glad I conducted the thrift-for-profit experiment, as I think it has really opened my eyes and helped me to be that much more honest with myself about my consumption. I admire people who do it seriously--it's a butt load of work, and mostly not the fun kind. And I'm glad to be back to just being a recreational thrifter.

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April 2012

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