Magazine article The Futurist

The New "Secondhand" Market: The Next New Thing You Buy May Be Old

Magazine article The Futurist

The New "Secondhand" Market: The Next New Thing You Buy May Be Old

Article excerpt

The "throwaway society" is transforming into a "sell-away society." Consumers eager to part with their purchases after only a few uses increasingly are heading for eBay rather than the landfill, notes Web entrepreneur Daniel Nissanoff in his new book, Future Shop.

Temporary ownership has long been common among high-end automobile fanciers, who buy (or lease) the latest car model and then trade it in on a later model. And many thrifty young brides have found the gowns of their dreams in consignment shops rather than designer boutiques.

Now, thanks to the Web and what Nissanoff calls the "new auction culture," secondhand buying and selling is becoming second nature. And the online auction giant eBay has become a global flea market.

One factor contributing to this accelerating buy-and-sell cycle is the diminishing durability of durable goods. Appliances once were built to last; now, they are built to last until the warranty runs out--or so it often seems. A less-cynical interpretation is that "new" really is improved. Nissanoff writes: "Who wants the old model to last forever when the new one is smaller, lighter, more capable, and better looking, has more features and provides a better experience overall?"

With a faster turnover from new to used, the secondhand car, dress, or baby buggy is newer than ever. This puts more high-quality products within the reach of budget buyers. When deciding to purchase something new or used, consumers should look at the cost of owning, says Nissanoff. For example, buying a new iPod for $350 versus a slightly used one for $225 means that you would be paying about $125 just to be the first owner.

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Ironically, this temporal attachment to stuff may make consumers less materialistic, Nissanoff believes: "Temporary ownership is an exciting new way of thinking about our connections to objects, a way of thinking that will empower us to enrich our lives by making purchases that we find more satisfying overall."

PayPal was one of the first new businesses to capitalize on the democratization of capitalism that eBay launched. The PayPal system allows individuals to make secure electronic transactions with one another as easily as they would at a department store. …

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