(Blog post: July 17, 2018)
The secondhand goods market isn’t known for trustworthiness or fair dealings (used car salesmen ring a bell?), and most folks don’t have a strong knowledge of the margins garnered by traditional retailers (would you feel good about paying $5 for a latte if you knew it was costing Starbucks about 18¢, for example?).
Furthermore, people tend to take local commerce transactions more personally (for better or worse) than when doing business with big companies, so I’ve chosen to be hyper-cautious about how I engage within and beyond our community both upstream and downstream of Junket’s inventory and assortment.
Here is the guidance I established for myself as we got started (it hasn’t changed):
If someone’s offering something for free (or at a low cost compared to market value) on NextDoor/Facebook/FreeCycle/etc., I will not claim it and resell it (in fact, I tend to avoid claiming free stuff on these sites even for personal use because people may draw the wrong conclusions…and when I buy, I communicate my personal-use-only intentions).
If, however, a secondhand item is sitting in an alley with a ‘free’ sign on it, gets dropped off at the shop by someone who wants to avoid throwing it away, or is salvaged from estate or garage sale leftovers, then I’m comfortable charging for the product because if I hadn’t done the work of claiming it from a downward spiral of devaluation, these items would likely meet an early demise (and, since used things are literally embodied energy, it’s worth keeping them around/extending useful life).
On a similar note, I made an early decision not to buy things that people brought to the shop, and I’ve also made a practice not to buy products available for analog resale within the neighborhood unless prices are clearly established (i.e. via rummage/estate sale), and even then, I tend not to sell neighborhood-sourced goods at the shop (to avoid any potential for perceived conflict of interest/inference that I’m taking advantage of those in my own community).
From my experience, ethical action is imperative, and perception is reality.