The Price is Not Right

By Jacob Roy (Photo by Sam Goldman)
Spring 2017

Aaron Lesch, a freshman and fashion enthusiast, takes out his phone five minutes before chemistry class is officially over. Mr. Vural has already dismissed the class. As the class fills with chatter about plans for the weekend, Lesch looks at the several offers he has received to buy the Supreme hats that he has just purchased online. By the end of the day, he sells the hats after receiving five offers.

Lesch is a proud reseller of clothes and sneakers and has practiced his craft time and time again. He is a part of the ever-growing fashion reselling business that was estimated to be worth over $1 billion in 2014 according to Stock X, a reselling website. People who spend every paycheck (or all of their allowance) on shoes (often affectionately known as sneakerheads) will do almost anything to get that “one” pair of shoes. This is where the reseller comes in; they see how much a pair of sneakers are really worth to someone and usually make a nice profit off this.

Even though Lesch is a reseller and his main goal is to make money, he also wants to build his customer base.

“I want to make money, but I don’t want to be completely ripping someone off,” he said.

However, not all resellers live by these same principles, which has caused controversy within the sneaker and fashion community. There are companies such as Flight Club that resell many coveted shoes, and while the sneakers they sell are legitimate, this company usually resells the shoes for insanely high prices when compared to their retail values.

At the same time, there are also individual resellers who have resold fakes, claiming them to be real. For example, James Pepion, who made more than $2.6 million from reselling sneakers, was investigated by the IRS and Department of Homeland Security after being accused of selling fakes that he claimed were real.

Throughout the fairly short history of reselling, the role of the reseller has changed and the resellers have been questioned about their role within the sneaker community.

If the idea that a person can buy a pair of shoes for retail price and then sometimes resell them for double or triple the initial price is not controversial enough, many resellers (including Lesch) have started to use programs or “bots” that put items in a cart nearly instantaneously when the item releases, and the average consumer who goes online and purchases the same item has almost no chance against the person using the bot.

“You have to do what you have to do,” Lesch said. “We’re not picking out what price we want to sell them for; it’s only what the consumer will buy them for.”

The consumer is often forced to purchase rare or hyped shoes or clothing from a reseller due to the use of bots. There are really two options if a consumer doesn’t want to go to a reseller. The first option is to wait for hours in front of a store that has the shoes or clothing, and the second option is to sit around with your eyes glued to the computer screen in hopes of manually ordering the items online, which is almost impossible, as resellers can often get multiples of .

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s more of a reflection on the actual market itself because they’re able to take a total advantage of — [for] the most part — pretty ignorant buyers,” said John Bierut, a loyal customer of Aaron Lesch, sneakerhead, and an MPH graduate.

On the other hand, Lesch said resellers help the market.

“Without resellers there would be no hype,” he said “I think resellers help divide and change the community.”

In many cases, these resellers are also passionate sneakerheads and use their own money from their resell deals to get the shoes that they want. The most successful resellers are the most organized and most informed as well. Some resellers have argued that part of the money that they make from reselling pays for the amount of time they’ve spent on researching, planning and marketing.

Lesch will spend hours scrolling through social media such as Instagram and Twitter and will talk to his reseller friends in order to make the most educated decision prior to buying a pair of shoes or clothing item to resell. The business is also very risky, and it’s extremely hard to predict if a pair of sneakers will be easy to resell.

“There are shoes that just randomly sell out,” Lesch said. “Like the Master 12s from last year… I wasn’t even thinking about purchasing [them], and then I heard [they] sold out, and I was like ‘What?’”

Overall, the tricky business of reselling is not going anywhere. As long as Supreme keeps dropping anything with its logo on it (literally anything), and Adidas keeps dropping their iconic Yeezy sneakers model, resellers have nothing to worry about.

“It’s something that we’re all going to have to deal with,” Bierut said. “It’s just that you have to find yourself someone that actually isn’t going to rip you off.”

Lesch will continue to sit on his computer every week to program his bot. His customers will continue to go to him for the shoes, hats, and T-shirts that they didn’t spend as much time or effort on getting, but will pay more money to buy.