The Secondhand Stigma

I have a confession to make. I used to look down on secondhand stuff. A huge part of this had to do with my upbringing. My parents considered anything secondhand as second rate or not-so-great quality.

In my house, unless the items were from a close friend or relative, using secondhand items was forbidden if you didn’t know who the original owner was. It was considered to be meant only for less fortunate people.  Growing up I thought secondhand was only meant for people who couldn’t afford to buy new. To give something that was used as a gift (not necessarily a regift), was considered an insult to the recipient.

While my mom has finally changed her ways and now buys a lot of her clothes from the thrift store, my dad still hasn’t changed his mind so much about previously owned items. I think he still likes the idea of something new. He has quite a few various articles of clothing that he has never worn or has barely worn to preserve them so that they still look new.

the stigma of buying used

The Way the Internet Has Changed Buying Used

Before sites like eBay, Craig’s List and Kijiji existed to enable us to search, buy and sell new and used, there was only Goodwill, the Salvation Army and garage sales as our sources for finding secondhand things.

Buying secondhand has now become more mainstream and more widely accepted. Almost everyone has used at least one of the sites mentioned in the previous paragraph.

I have purchased a few things from Kijiji such as furniture and a gym bag and have received compliments on all of them. When you ask someone where they bought something new and they tell you the store where they got it from, that is that. You can go to that store and get it for the regular price/sale price or if you have the patience and discipline, you can find the same one on eBay or Kijiji for way less. When someone has asked me about my Kijiji furniture, I enjoy telling the story of how I acquired the pieces. I also tell them about the nice people I met who were selling the pieces.

Each item has a story or better yet, each item has some history to it.  While that may not warrant enough reason for some of you to buy items used, perhaps the satisfaction of knowing how much money I saved, versus buying new would.

Secondhand Is More Commonplace Than You May Think

When you really stop and think about it, we’re constantly using previously owned items. My parents may have bought their house brand new, but I didn’t (but obviously, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting your living space to be brand new. You just have to be willing to shell out the cash).My partner and I are the third set of owners for our house. And while it may have not been a brand new house, the house was very clean and well taken care of when we took ownership.  

Some of us drive used or as some dealerships like to call them, pre-owned cars. I bought my current car new, but I think next time around, with the help of my car savvy partner, I will look into getting a used one (It also helps that he’s my personal mechanic).

I’ve purchased a few items of clothing before from secondhand stores, including a jean jacket for $12. Even if you are still wary of purchasing used clothing because of certain stains, smells, and rips, remember there are such things as stain removers, washing machines and a needle and thread.  When you go try on something in the change room, unless you saw them take it right out of the box and put it on the rack and were the first one to grab it, most likely several people have already tried that item on.  So in a sense, it’s not completely “brand new”. It has been used by several different people for a brief period of time already.

When you go out to eat at a restaurant, do you request brand new, never been used cutlery, glasses and plates? No. At least I hope you don’t. You put your good faith in the establishment and assumed it has been washed properly beforehand. How environmentally and financially wasteful would that be if they had to set out a brand new, never been used place setting for every single customer?

Let’s not forget that antiques are secondhand( sometimes very expensive) items as well.

Advertising puts a lot of emphasis on everything being new, never been used before. New electronics, new phones, new cars and new fashions are constantly coming out. Companies have to make money and somebody’s got to be the one to buy the new product and own it, before it can be sold for a lower price.

Just make sure you’re not always one of those individuals.

Do you buy second hand items? Or do you prefer to buy new?

33 thoughts on “The Secondhand Stigma

    • Love this video and this song. Musicians should have more songs about saving money and thrift store shopping versus blowing money on fancy cars, cristal, etc.

  1. I used to be the same way, Karen, but am slowly changing my ways. For me, it’s a status thing, but I’m finally learning that having a secure financial picture is a much better “status” measure than having new things, not that it should matter. 🙂

  2. I like to think vintage when buying used. And there are some things you just can’t buy used like vintage cars, older homes that have character, or even pieces of clothing that are no longer manufactured. The stories behind the items are often more intriguing than a “made in China” label. 🙂

    • It’s funny how the words “used” and “secondhand” have such negative connotations to them, whereas other words such as “pre-owned” or “vintage” (although vintage can refer to new items, but from a previous time), are considered more positive and even trendy.

  3. I am totally fine with used. Not only does it save lots of money, it saves a lot of waste. When I upgrade something or my kids grow out of clothes, I pass them on instead of throw them away. By the same token, when I am looking for something or my kids need new clothes, I will see what someone else is passing along (often via the thrift, garage sale, ebay or a friend).

    • I hate to admit that when I was a kid, I preferred only new clothes. When a neighbour’s kid or my cousin passed their used clothing on to me, I refused to wear it, even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.

  4. I also used to look down on second hand clothes and still wouldn’t dream of going to a charity shop for clothes. I have however sourced items from ebay that may have sold out online or in store.

    • That’s perfectly fine. I know a lot of people aren’t comfortable with buying second hand clothes. There’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things/ luxury items for less. I’m trying to go both ways, depending on what the item is.

  5. I don’t buy second-hand clothes, but have you noticed that there’s much less of a stigma around second-hand cars? Buying a used car is no big deal and people think that’s normal, but if you buy something someone else has worn, it’s weird. Maybe it’s because clothes are more personal and wear out more quickly?

    • I haven’t purchased secondhand clothes lately or too often for a few reasons, there aren’t any secondhand clothing stores in my neighbourhood and the times I make an effort to go, I find it takes a long time to go through the clothes. Sometimes I don’t find anything and I walk out feeling frustrated. My partner however seems to have luck every time he goes to the thrift shop. He’s found a leather jacket, dress shirts and a stereo. I should bring him along next time I go to be my good luck charm.

      I think you’re right about secondhand clothes being considered more personal. And that sometimes they do have a certain smell to them, but most times several washes in the machines can get rid of it.

  6. I bought my car used and will try to look for refurbished items when it comes to big ticket electronics. Which isn’t completely used by I am getting it secondhand. The most common item I can think of for used purchases would be clothes but I very rarely buy any. I’ve gotten many a “free” shirt from doing fun runs that I normally don’t go out to buy shirts. Pants I usually take good care of so the rare times I have to buy them, I don’t mind buying new. Of course, being a guy, I can usually find new clothes for pretty cheap to start with.

    • My partner is the same when it comes to big ticket electronics. I don’t know much about electronics, so I leaving the purchasing of those to him. 🙂 The free shirts I’ve received from doing charity events are often too big for me, and being female, I never wear them in public. Haha. They just get used as shirts for sleeping. 🙂

  7. It depends on what I need. I’ve never bought a new house. I have bought a new car, though, as well as used ones. I almost always buy used books and CDs. We have taught our 12-year-old son that there’s nothing wrong with used. He is an only child, but most all his clothes have come from friends’ older kids. He thinks some of the hand-me-down t-shirt slogans are cool. He plays tenor sax in the junior high band. We bought the sax used. Many things, with lots of years left in them can be purchased used. Glad you pointed some of them out.

    • Kudos to you for teaching your child about teaching him how valuable secondhand items can be. My partner also played sax in high school. I think he played alto though.

    • Thank goodness for the internet! I used to a buy a ton of new books growing up. Maybe it was the new book smell that got to me. I’ve only purchased one used book from the thrift store. Most of the time I just borrow them from the library.

  8. I was introduced to second hand items early on in life. As the youngest of 3, I got my sisters hand-me-downs. Granted I didn’t get all of it since I’m a boy, but I still got a few shirts and some shorts. I see tremendous value in secondhand items and wouldn’t think twice about buying them if they were in good condition.

  9. I’m all about buying used. Not only is it usually cheaper, it’s also a great way to recycle and keep things out of the landfill. A lot of my furniture was purchased secondhand from craiglist. I’m shameless, I’ll take stuff off the street if it’s in good condition and looks like something I can use.

    • I’m a bit shameless myself, lol. Although I haven’t done it with furniture for my house, one time in university my roommate and I took a reclining armchair someone left on their front lawn for pick up and brought it into our student house. It was enjoyed by us and I’m sure enjoyed by the many students who lived there after us.

  10. I guess that it just comes as second nature to me because I grew up around shopping for second hand items. My mom would always take me when she went hunting for bargains at garage sales. I remember being amazed at the amount of cool stuff that you can find at the sales. I should probably start going to them again.

  11. We definitely buy used when we can, especially for kid stuff. We also sell unused items of our own to others who want them. It makes common sense to me as it reduces spending and reduces waste.

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