Reselling: What’s Good and What’s Bad?

Nur Rasyikah shares her personal thoughts on whether online reselling businesses are unethical.

Places Editor of HYPE Issue #52

Published on
January 25, 2021

Have you ever sold an item you got for a higher price for profit? If yes, then you have participated in online reselling!

Online reselling is the act of reselling a product bought from a manufacturer to someone else via an online platform. Reselling is a viable option for anyone looking to start a side-hustle or a small business because a high starting capital is not required to get started.

Carousell, Qoo10, Facebook and Instagram are some of the more popular reselling platforms in Singapore.

Online resellers usually act as a middleman between the customers and the manufacturers or the items they wish to buy. The main objective of every business is to make a profit. In this case, it comes in the form of a small fee that is then charged in compensation of their service. Despite that, many are still engaging these resellers.

But where do we draw the line between earning money ethically and just making a profit at the expense of others? To me, it only starts becoming unethical when one charges an exorbitant price for a product without providing their customers any service. Just acting as a middleman is not an acceptable reason for sellers to mark up the prices by threefold.

What Defines Good Reselling

Resellers are often customers of the product at first, before deciding that the product is good enough before wanting to share it with others.

Most of the time, these resellers spend hours after hours scrolling through online shopping sites, searching for products with the best reviews and price before proceeding to purchase the item for themselves first for a quality check. This takes away the risk buyers would have to bear with when buying an item directly from the site.

So, what about resellers who queue for hours for a limited product launch, only to sell it at a higher price? Depending on the context, it can be considered as good reselling. To me, it is acceptable as long as they don’t charge an exorbitant price for their effort.

After all, the buyer benefits from it as they do not have to spend hours queueing along with many others.

I would be more than happy to purchase an item through these resellers. Not only am I assured with good quality products, I get to save plenty of time from browsing through hundreds of items before finding what I want. Most of the time, these resellers already have the items in stock, saving me even more time as I don’t have to wait for weeks before receiving the items.

What Defines Bad Reselling

Bad reselling is subjective. To me, reselling items at unreasonably high prices to make profit at the expense of their customers is bad reselling.

These are some examples of what makes the practice unethical: selling a limited-edition shoe or a highly sought-after concert ticket at three times the original price, selling an inspired product at a much higher price from purchase but slightly lower than the original product without explicitly stating that it is a knock-off

This ever so often happens on platforms such as Carousell where I have personally encountered it. Resellers would sell an inspired product which looks almost authentic, without stating it. Luckily for me, I had a hunch to ask why it’s being sold so cheaply to which I got brushed off at first. I persistently asked a few more times before being told that it was actually a knock-off! While I dodged a bullet, this experience can be described as a blessing in disguise as I learnt to be more wary when shopping online especially when an item is being sold at a discounted price.

Focusing on reselling thrifted items for higher prices, there is a significant amount of resellers who start small businesses to resell thrifted items, but for double the price they paid for. As thrifting has been increasingly popular in the recent years, I understand that there is a demand for this. However, thrifting’s effects extend beyond a trend. If it deprives people who rely on thrifted items from purchasing what they need, then it’s highly unethical.

In addition, according to the Journal of Cleaner Production published in 2018, second-hand shopping is one of the best ways one can contribute to minimise textile wastage on the environment. Reselling these items at a heightened price takes away the beauty of it being affordable, which defeats the sole purpose of thrifting. 

With that, I conclude that bad reselling happens when certain information is being omitted with the intention to deceive and to make money off someone’s desperation.

My Verdict

Instead of just earning money off customers, good resellers render their customers with a service of being a middleman.

These intermediary services can come in forms of serving customers who face technological difficulties such as international website access, payment methods, shipping, navigating websites and handling logistics in a foreign language.

When reselling provides a good service at educating their customers, selecting the best pieces for them and saving their time and effort of having to find it online themselves, then I feel that they deserve to be paid for their effort and more should be supporting resellers like them

At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with making money through reselling. Just remember to do it the right way by being a good reseller!

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