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Ethical or Not: Selling Gifted Items


In the last few weeks, the ethics of reselling gifted items has come up often. I've talked to bloggers who need to cull their wardrobe and feel conflicted or unethical about their desire to resell lightly worn review items . I've seen other bloggers list items in their blog-connected shop that I know for certain were gifted pieces.

As bloggers, we often receive these items in lieu of financial compensation for coverage on our site–whether it's a simple inclusion in a “What I Wore” post, or we dedicate the whole post to the product.  It's hard, though, to become a self-sustaining blogger when all you're receiving are gifts.  What happens when your closet is overflowing with gifts, but you can't pay your phone bill?   Does it become okay to sell of the products that you seldom wear– receiving that much needed financial compensation instead keeping a dress collecting dust?  And is there a difference between selling at a Buffalo Exchange, eBay, or in a blog-based e-shop?

So we have to ask, is it ethical to sell gifted or promotional items–particularly on your own blog?

The Arguments Against Selling:

Many people on Twitter said it was wrong– a strong gut reaction.  It seemed pretty unanimous that accepting things solely with the intention to sell them was a bad idea, and I totally agree!

The Lingerie Addict and Courtney//Those Graces both make the point that it creates “bad brand relations.” If a brand notices that you're selling items they sent you via your blog, what will they think of sending you products in the future?  Some brands may not care if they viewed the items as payment.  Other smaller brands may have sent you the item as a gift though, and find their feelings hurt.

Courtney// Those Graces also thinks it's a violation of reader's trust to sell items that you received for free.  If you're not disclosing that you're selling gifted items, long-term readers may recognize those products as gifted items and think less of your integrity.  She mentioned how she'd seen several video bloggers resell items and it's totally impacted her trust in them!

Many bloggers seemed to think that while selling them on a eBay shop or a blog shop wasn't ethical, that selling them at a consignment shop or donating them was a better option. Allyson shared a similar thought, saying, “it's not cool unless money is going to charity!

The Arguments in Favor of Selling:

Many bloggers shared that they didn't feel that reselling a gifted or review item was unethical, because it was given in lieu of monetary compensation. The product became payment for coverage.  Brands use products in lieu of financial compensation or as compensation. Adored Austin says, “I see no issue w/ bloggers selling courtesy items. Courtesy items are usually in exchange for promotional content. It's pay.

What if you need to pay your bills? A few bloggers noted how difficult it was to make money blogging, and for those who are doing it full-time may find a struggle between free dresses and paying bills.  Wardrobe Oxygen said, “I put as much time in blogging as I would a job. I think payment is valid, and I can't pay the bills with clothes & shower gel.

What happens when you've received so many gifted products, your closet outgrows itself? If you're a popular “What I Wore” blogger, and your closet starts to resemble a department store, maybe you're inclined to clean it out and discard your lesser worn pieces.  Among them may be a few gifted items– is it wrong to sell them in lieu of financial compensation you may not have originally received?

Have you worn and used the item significantly before selling? There seems to be some agreement that as long as you've had considerable wear of them, that selling them isn't so bad.   Franca//Oranges and Apples says, “I think after a few months of wear and use its ok and just like any used item. To review and immediately sell on is not ok though.

Do you treat the item like you would a personal gift? If your mother gave it to you, would you donate or sell the item at all? I personally have a hard time keeping a gift forever… even if it's from my mother or boyfriend!  Is it okay, after an item has had an active lifespan in your closet to treat it as you would any other possession?  If my closet clean out is divided in to “Sell, donate, throw away” piles should the items go into the piles regardless of how I obtained them?

What if you outgrown the item–physically or stylistically? Say I drop 80 pounds, and none of the beautiful dresses I have fit anymore.  If I know that I have plus-sized women reading my site who love those dresses, is it unfair for me not to give them the opportunity to own them?   What if your wardrobe and style dramatically change because of job changes, climate changes, or lifestyle changes?  Is giving your readers the opportunity to own your pieces a bad thing?

A Fine, Grey Line (That We May See More Of!)

In discussing this with so many amazing people, it really struck out to me (and many of them) what a grey area selling is and how many factors are so personally based. Unless FTC mandates come out, I'm not personally sure that there will be a right or wrong answer about how to tackle the subject.

Wardrobe Oxygen reminds us that it's still the Wild West in blogging and notes, “there's those who even find ads/sponsorhips/swags wrong for blogs, such variety out there in blog styles,” while Beautifully Invisible takes a diplomatic approach saying, “I think if you aren't abusing the trust of your readers/companies use own judgement to sell/donate.”

Many larger blogs get around the problem by limiting gifted items to blog sponsors only–insuring that they're receiving financial compensation for promotions on their site, while also receiving products.   This may be one of many possible solutions for bloggers as they look to building brand relations while paving a route to making their blog a paid, full-time job.

What are your thoughts on selling gifted, review, and promotional items?  Is selling offline the path to happiness?  Have you sold items before yourself?  Do you feel firmly against it– I'd love to hear more great reasons as to why you feel it may be unethical (or feel it's totally okay!)!

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