After all, pieces from Stella McCartney’s H&M line commanded triple the retail price on ebay after her collection sold out in stores in just two hours.
But this time H&M has learned its lesson. The Madonna collection is a lot less “limited” than McCartney’s and most pieces can still be bought on the Birmingham high street.
However, there are a plethora of Madonna pieces on ebay now, most only selling for no more than ten per cent higher than the retail price – hardly worth the trouble of buying and posting the stuff.
So my items will be returned to the store shortly – apart from a sequined dress which could make me about £30. (UK size 12, the auction ends in 3 days, 6 hours and 6 minutes…)
This is the first time I’ve ever tried to make money on ebay. And the experience got me thinking about the ethics of my actions and the culture of online auctions.
Is it wrong to try to make a fast buck online? It’s not like I’m forcing people to buy the items for more than the retail price. Surely it’s just a case of supply and demand.
My boyfriend deplored the idea of buying up in-demand items you don’t want and selling them on for a profit to the highest bidder. “It’s just like hawking concert tickets for way more than their face value,” he said of my plans to flog Madonna’s dresses, “It’s not fair to the people who really want the product.”
Indeed, most of my friends swear they would never sell their concert tickets for more than their face value because it fuels the problem of professional touts.
But others think differently. My sister suffered a bout of shopper’s remorse after she bought a pair of Simon and Garfunkel tickets for $200, so she auctioned them off on ebay. The winner paid triple the face value – a whopping $600 for the tickets – and came from the US to see the Toronto concert. A diehard Simon and Garfunkel fan she was happy to fork out the money.
Isn’t that the way it goes in a capitalist society? How can we criticise the everyday Joe of making a profit on eBay by exploiting middle-class citizens who “need” that Madonna dress, but look the other way when the high street does it by exploiting cheap labour or outpricing competitors?
ebay isn’t the culprit here – the fundamental principle at its heart is the free market – and if people have issues with that they’ve got a much bigger fish to fry.