When Depop Goes Wrong

Words by Maggie Gannon

Founded in London in 2011, social shopping app Depop boasts approximately 20 million users and is a firm favourite amongst many young people who seek to scout out the latest vintage finds, fast fashion trends, start up a small business, or even clear out their own wardrobes for a bit of well needed spare cash. The app is well-known for promoting preloved and vintage clothing, as well as making a stand against the continued use of fast fashion brands such as Boohoo and Prettylittlething. Its ethical purpose is at the forefront of a lot of its marketing campaigns with Depop recently partnering with British charity Oxfam, launching the hashtag #SecondhandSeptember, encouraging its consumers to only purchase repurposed or preloved items for the month. As well as this, at the beginning of Black History Month, it spotlighted three black UK sellers, giving users a profile on their shops and promoting their handles showing where to support them.  

Although Depop has received a lot of advocacy amongst many influencers who use the app to sell clothes to support charities, as well as the media promoting its ethical stance, Instagram accounts such as ‘Depop Drama’ as well as the popular Tik Tok hashtag #DepopScam, have recently exposed a darker image of the app. Albeit some of the content posted on accounts like ‘Depop Drama’ are humorous and light-hearted, many users of the app have come out to share awful experiences of harmful messages exchanged between sellers and buyers, the use of others photos without consent and even sexually exploiting images posted on the app.

I personally started my own Depop account in 2018 with the aim of clearing out my very full wardrobe in the hope for some extra cash. Since then I have managed to sell over 100 items and although for me this is not a business, as it is purely pre-loved items on a very small scale, I have still managed to make a decent amount of profit over around a 2-year period. The app appealed to me as there is no listing or selling fees, just a 10% Depop fee when you sell an item. I was also drawn in by the apps preferred use of PayPal, as I thought this would offer better protection, (even though other payment methods are available but not advised), as well as the ability to use specific hashtags to target certain buyers. The youth demographic associated with Depop is also helpful in knowing there is an audience who are actively looking on the app, instead of using such a broad resale platform such as eBay where things could be harder to find. I personally loved the idea of creating a profile like you would on any other social media app, and Depop turning this into your own shop, which is easy to navigate.

There is certainly a feel-good factor in knowing old items that you haven’t seen or worn in years aren’t just being thrown away and having an ethical conscience you can feel like you’re doing your own little bit for sustainable fashion. However, there are definitely ups and downs with using an app like Depop, and although I have had few, there potentially are a couple of things to be cautious of when starting a page. 

Following on from my earlier remark, I would be weary of some users selling clothes in bad conditions and potentially ‘catfishing’ the items to make them appear to be in a better condition. It is wise to scope out the reviews of a seller before purchasing from a page, this goes both ways from a buyer perspective, to make sure you are selling to someone who is reputable and willing to use your preferred payment method. From my own experience keeping proof of postage is a must, however if a buyer does open a PayPal dispute regarding an item that has not arrived, it tends to fall in favour of themselves, meaning you are liable to give them a refund which has happened to me before.

Although Depop’s brand and much of the items uploaded onto the app fall into a certain category of mostly vintage or repurposed style, some garments can be seen to go for extremely high prices, some of which is due to resellers. Resellers tend to buy off of the app and then resell these mostly branded sportwear or designer items in order to gain a profit. Although this can cause initial frustration with the original seller, it can also have wider implications as this idea of gentrifying charity shops, e.g. selling a vest for £3 onwards of £20 and labelling it “vintage” is scamming. Buying clothes to resell can be problematic as it ultimately drives up prices, meaning more people are tempted by fast fashion options.

Given my own experiences with the app have been mostly positive apart from the odd lost parcel or rude offer, I will still continue to use and advocate using Depop in a sensible way. I would however, advise anyone joining the app to make sure they recognise their buyer or seller protection rights, be mindful of how much information they give out about themselves personally, and to always check who you buy and sell to as sadly there will always be users looking to take advantage.