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Trader Joe’s mini totes makes reselling mainstream, again

Graphic by Ethan Nelson

Trader Joe’s $2.99 tote bags have listings on eBay and other third-party platforms for exorbitant prices ranging from $20 to $500.

After being featured in DIY and customization TikToks, the bag gained popularity for its range of colors and vintage blandness. Similar to Stanley cups, shoppers crowded Trader Joe’s stores looking to buy a bag for themselves and a few extra to sell online.

Reselling is not new, and the debate surrounding this concept hasn’t changed much. The fashion industry is the biggest victim of this model.

Thrift stores and charity shops aren’t the perpetrators either; individuals will acquire exclusive, unique or in-demand pieces and post them on every platform imaginable. Depop, Poshmark, eBay, ThreadUp, Grailed, The RealReal and Urban Renewal are just a few. You get the idea. 

Depop has been the go-to platform for people to reach a young, trendy audience and make a career out of turning their thrift hauls and old clothes into cash. In recent years, though, the app has seen a drastic increase in dropshippers instead of authentic sellers.

Dropshipping is the practice of selling products completely online without having to own the business or production process. Selling someone’s product for them isn’t inherently evil, but when you advertise a thrifted, high-quality handbag and you’re really selling a mass-produced Aliexpress bag for five times the price, that makes you a scammer.

For years, those genuinely interested in fashion and curating their style have been off Depop, preferring offline swaps or using Reddit to trade and buy clothes. For a while, Grailed was their home.

The platform Grailed refers to a “grail” that is someone’s Holy Grail or dream item of sorts. So, you scroll on Grailed for hours, attempting to find a piece you’ve wanted for months, maybe even years. Except, there’s no way you could ever find it anymore. 

The tagging and branding system Grailed has goes through minimal authentication, so you can put whatever crap you want into any category. This is primarily an issue when you are looking for vintage or Japanese brands because they are much less common and much more popular categories then whatever the item is actually branded as.

The piece is then marked up by three or four times, as per usual.

The most soul-crushing case was a pair of jeans from fast fashion brand Shein being listed as both “HYSTERIC GLAMOUR” and “If Six Was Nine.” These brands aren’t cheap, but don’t boast luxury prices, either. They both certainly produce higher quality products than Shein, though.

The situation with Trader Joe’s mini totes is just what happens to everything exclusive in apparel, whether it takes off on TikTok or there’s one person out there looking for a specific item.

Someone will buy an unrealistic amount of a product and then try to pawn it off to some desperate fool to make a quick buck. This refers mostly to those who are so desperate to follow a trend they’ll pay that price. If you’ve been saving up for a specific item for however long and you find it, get it. You worked for it.

As for the totes, if you didn’t get a bag, don’t pay the scalpers’ price. A spokesperson for the chain said the bags will return later this summer.

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