Back in my first post on the topic, one of our readers left this comment:
“I love your family blog, but I can’t say I’m 100% on board with this “resell thrift goods” trend. I have a close friend who scours thrift shops for antiques and has made herself a lucrative online resale business (she resells on Etsy). She has to watch her profits though…for tax purposes. I suppose if you’re really broke, it’s better than other ways of making money. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but it seems like a rotten thing to do to the Goodwill’s and Salvation Army’s of the world. It’s no different than the antique dealers who prey on block sales looking for housewives eager to give away grandma’s best crystal for pennies on the dollar. $40 profit for used curlers is unthinkable! Those who engage in this kind of “at-home” business should consider giving some of those profits back to those organizations.”
It’s nice, btw, to have people who love the blog still feeling free to take issue with us on things. The discussion opportunities are fabulous! 🙂
I answered immediately in the comments, but it’s a big enough question (and I’ve thought of more I wanted to say) that I decided to dedicate a post to it.
I think we are on somewhat dangerous ground when we start trying to decide how much of a profit is “too much” ~ especially for other people. Why IS $40 unthinkable (although, between eBay fees and postage, it was definitely not a $4o profit)? I don’t think there’s a logical line to be found for deciding a certain profit amount is okay, while another is not. Someone in another state wanted those curlers very badly and couldn’t find them where they lived. Am I supposed to send the curlers for free? Not sell them at all? Leave them without the curlers? How much of a profit *is* too much? Where do we draw the line? Where is our authority for drawing the line? Is it wrong to buy books at library booksales to resell on Amazon? Is it wrong to buy children’s toys at a yard sale and take them to a children’s consignment store? Is it wrong to buy ingredients at a grocery store, where profit margins are very tight, and bake cookies to sell for a profit? If I knew of a Christian brother or sister who was in need of something that I had and I decided to sell it at a profit rather than share it with them, then there are some heart issues I probably need to address, but curlers hardly fall into the Need To Have category. The market price of these particular curlers is in the $30-$50 range; that’s how much consumers are willing to pay for these items. No one is forcing them to do it.
Dangerous ground also happens (I think) with the argument of “if you’re really broke, it’s better than other ways of making money.” This is perilously close to rationalization. If it’s ethical to make money one way when you’re really broke, it had better be ethical to make money that way in *any* other situation in life. Being poor does not entitle one to a new set of ethics.
As for being a rotten thing to do to thrift shops, I (obviously, via these posts 😉 ) disagree. Goodwill’s stated purpose is “to enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.” By spending my money there, I am helping with that. They do not have the resources to track down every valuable item and place it in an international marketplace (although they do also sell some things online). One decades old magazine I sold to someone in Ireland (for $10) ~ our Goodwill couldn’t reach that person. That book may have ended up in the trash if no one in my town wanted it… Goodwill could have lost a sale on it, and several other things I’ve purchased.
I also do additional work that the Goodwill staff do not have time for. Along with the research, I spend quite a bit of time cleaning and organizing my finds. I sold some toy food for $18; it came from a mixed bag of play food. There were about ten other pieces in that bag that required a lot of sorting and studying… some of them were worthless and I just threw them away, some I kept for my kids to play with, some I kept as a gift for others, and so on. The Goodwill staff do not have time to do that work for everything that comes through their doors. Another stuffed animal I got required lots of cleaning before he was worth what I sold him for. Is my research and work time useless? I am not just getting compensated for the item; I’m getting compensated for my time and effort.
As for giving back, I definitely appreciate the added ability to share financially with others because of my earnings. I have had money to help in several situations recently that I wouldn’t have had before. I don’t donate financially to GW and SA, just because I know of better places to do it, but I frequently donate items to them. And I plan to continue buying 90% of my household goods from them. Selling on eBay or not selling on eBay, they will always have my business. 🙂
Taxes: YES. It is important to keep records for taxes. Right now I’m using an excel spreadsheet taht keeps track of my costs (buying cost, shipping cost, eBay fees, PayPal fees, etc), although I’ve heard very tempting things about EasyAuctionsTracker
whew. That was a ramble and a half. More next week! 🙂
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