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Drop shippers: the ethical problem of second hand online shopping

Two of the most popular marketplaces online are Depop and Vinted, platforms with immense popularity among second-hand and vintage fashion lovers.  The accessibility of these applications is clearly essential to their appeal. They are designed to emulate the act of flipping through second-hand shop lines of clothing, but without the inconvenience of visiting the streets. Both online platforms followed the goal of a connecting point for sellers and buyers, dealing with consumer to consumer transactions. Depop, which began as a platform for the basic act of buying and selling products, has generated a new generation of creatives that participate in upselling and apparel creation, resulting in many fashion trends. While this has brought Depop to the forefront due to its capacity to provide quick income to regular consumers, it has brought to light as well the disturbing pattern of excessive and exploitative pricing that Depop has enabled for these trendy clothing pieces. But while DIY creations are impressive and deserve the users’ appreciation, a new business model emerged on the platforms, more exactly drop shipping. [1]

Drop shipping is a practice in which a retailer does not hold stock of the items it offers. The seller instead buys the item from a third-party vendor and has it sent to the consumer. Most reputable organizations have been using this strategy for decades to reduce inventory storage in numerous locations and transport items to customers more promptly. The problem is that nowadays, drop shipping is frequently employed as part of a get-rich-quick scam on the internet, on marketplaces such as Depop. [2]

Depop’s Terms and Conditions look down upon this action, as drop shipping is against their Terms of Service.[3]  Furthermore, a special page is dedicated in Depop’s Guide in regard to drop shipping, highlighting that their prohibition is due to their desire for ‘quality, creativity and sustainability’. Therefore, luxurious items whose authenticity cannot be inspected, items produced and bought from the marketplace and items whose presentation images are supplier photos or stock images are prohibited.[4]

Even after this announcement dropped by Depop in regard to drop shipping, buyers are continuously scammed on the app, being as easy as before to find AliExpress items sold under the false presumption of being vintage, unique or the seller’s creation. [5]

These drop shipping sellers label themselves as within the legal sphere, ignoring the ethical violations of their business model. They do not state that their products are not sustainable, nor do they disclose that they are purchasing this apparel from shops renowned for retailing low-quality items created in facilities where employees are not treated fairly. Most buyers opt for Depop in hope of purchasing ethical apparel, but they are fooled into purchasing these rather unsustainable and badly constructed garments. Therefore, Depop is failing at achieving its aim for quality, creativity and sustainability. When surfing through Aliexpress and encountering a copycat item, there is no doubt that the item is not a “brand” name. However, when that item is subsequently listed on a site like Depop and the price is exaggerated, it becomes difficult to tell the origin of the product. [6]

As a consequence of the above-mentioned practices, many users who search for sustainable, second-hand pieces have decided to move to Vinted, a Lithuanian platform developed for selling second hand clothes. Vinted’s attraction stems in part from the fact that it isn’t as gentrified as Depop. In recent years, users that moved from Depop to Vinted stated that they have become more disillusioned with Depop, blaming impolite sellers, inflated costs, drop shippers, and charity store resellers as causes for the app’s rapid decline. [7] However, some of the questions that remain are: how long is it going to be until the drop shippers will take over Vinted?; will the online platform manage to do something better than Depop to tackle the issue?; and lastly, is it already happening? 

[1] https://evoke.ie/2021/08/24/style/what-is-dropshipping-on-depop-and-why-should-we-be-concerned

[2] https://www.shopify.com/blog/what-is-dropshipping 

[3]  https://depophelp.zendesk.com/hc/en-gb/articles/360001773148-Terms-of-Service 

[4] https://depophelp.zendesk.com/hc/en-gb/articles/360026573794-What-is-drop-shipping-and-is-it-allowed-on-Depop- 

[5] https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2021/04/10390031/dropshipping-depop-sellers-aliexpress 

[6] https://bricksmagazine.co.uk/2021/01/25/how-to-avoid-depop-drop-shipping-scams/ [7]  https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/vinted-vs-depop-which-is-better

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