There’s a movement happening under our noses, one more insidious than any social media scheme for more of our attention. Resellers are changing the way we shop online, and the consequences are terrifying.
The gig economy has given us freedoms that we never had before. We can do what we love anywhere on the planet, and if we need to supplement our income, multiple companies would love to utilize our free time. It’s why our Uber driver is also a web-developer. Or the person delivering our groceries is also on the fast track to upper management for a Fortune 500 company. But the biggest boon accompanied the rise of e-commerce. Now anyone can open an online store and sell their wares to millions. But what happens when people game the system? What happens when capitalism visits your small part of the internet? I would find that answer out in the world of sneakers.
The reseller is the most divisive person working in the gig economy. In sneaker culture, resellers combine technology and the laws of supply and demand into something unfair, exploitative, and manipulative. Imagine you and your friends want to buy the latest pair of sneakers on Saturday. You arrive at the crack of dawn, to see you and your friends weren’t the only ones with the same idea. As everyone forms a line, you discover some people are there to buy a pair to resell, but that doesn’t matter because they have to wait just like you. As the store opens, two kids who didn’t wait in line walk past everyone into the store. Moments later, the kids walk out with every pair the store had. Everyone is pissed, but the anger doesn’t stop there. You look over to see the kids have set up shop in the parking lot and are selling the shoes for a hundred dollars over retail. This scenario happens every time resellers use a bot.
This problem isn’t limited to sneakers. Anything with high demand is on a reseller’s radar. It’s why people hoarded hand sanitizer and toilet paper during the pandemic. Why you couldn’t get tickets to Hamilton and the prices of webcams, Nintendo Switch, and microphones are selling above market value on Amazon. People are buying supply with the hope of a payday using methods that erode the trust in the buying process.
Gone unchecked, the buying and reselling of goods will shift how we buy things online. Instead of a simple exchange, consumers will need to buy software to compete for the most basic items. Paying retail will be the luxury of those with means and technology. Everyone else will pay the secondary market price. This doomsday scenario is playing out in sneaker culture.
Sneakers have gone from fashion statement to stock market commodity. The resellers have pushed people out of the market. Platforms like StockX have become the home of sneaker sales. The secondary market has overtaken retail. But at what cost? What would happen to online shopping if trust in the buying process slowly eroded to the point of no return? If things keep going the way they are, we’ll find out soon enough.