I remember when I first entered the land of Buy Sell Trade. My daughter wasn’t even home from the hospital when my girlfriends were blowing up my Facebook: “MK, have you ever done B/S/T?”
Ummm, no. I tend to stay away from fetishes in the Craigslist Personals, thankyouverymuch.
But my friends laughed, and images of whips and red basements quickly disappeared. I discovered that B/S/T wasn’t a sexy fetish, but rather a very real, very intense world of selling used children’s clothing online.
Yes, I said used children’s clothing.
And no, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, ladies. I have two toddlers. I am aware that their end-of-the-day britches look like dog bath towels.
Even as I type this, I realize the whole idea sounds bonkers. So I asked my friends the same thing you are probably wondering now:
Who on earth would pay good money for used toddler clothes?
Turns out the answer was a lot of freaking people.
I am now a proud member of this obsessive world, and I’m here to tell you that B/S/T is a big thing. It’s very likely you have friends and family you would never have suspected who are deeply invested in this internet underworld.
Curious? Stay with me.
Because if you want to dip your toe into the mysterious waters of B/S/T, you are gonna need a quick education.
And a loaded PayPal account. But we will get to that in a minute.
If you want to stock your child’s closet with adorable clothes, shop entirely on Facebook, and survive in a mom-eat-mom environment that somewhat resembles piranhas devouring each other in the Amazon river, you need to be equipped for the swim.
No stress. I’m here for you, mama.
As a freshly minted Closet Mom, I’m here to share the five most important things I’ve learned by braving the strange and magical world of B/S/T.
1. There’s a secret language.
If the CIA was seeking people who could codify the entire English language, I would know the place to look. BST mamas seriously speak Minion. For instance, this is an exact post I saw this week:
“24m PSN NWT WDW Maddie. PP Ready, immediate payment, please!”
Let me break this down for you: This woman has a size 24-month dress that is by the brand Well Dressed Wolf. She bought it online, and she hasn’t received it yet…and yes, she’s already selling it. That’s why she has it listed “PSN,” or in plain terms: pre-shipping-notice. The NWT? That’s New With Tags, which frankly was a rookie addition because HELLO GIRL of course it’s NWT if you haven’t even received it yet (insert eye-roll emoji).
2. There is such a thing as a stupid question.
I’ll never forget the day I saw that sweet little blue and yellow dress. Perfect for Easter and just the right size for my LO (that means Little One, btw). So I commented, “Sold! Pending question!”
And I immediately got a message from a friend: “MK, you can’t do that here! You’ll get BANNED!”
Banned?! Huh? I can get voted off of Cute Dress Island for asking a freaking question?
In many B/S/T groups, if you post sold on that smocked poodle T-shirt, you are officially the proud owner. It doesn’t matter that you had a question about that dark spot. Was it a shadow? A chocolate stain? Something more nefarious?
Doesn’t matter now, sister. It’s yours. Better pay up!
Which brings me to the ultimate faux pax: nonpayment.
3. The Island of Sketchy Buyers
If you decide that you didn’t want that brown-stained poodle shirt after all, well, things aren’t smelling too good for you. You see, there is this lovely little group called “Sellers Beware” for people who make claims, but don’t follow through. Sellers Beware is a police state. Names are named and bones are chewed, and you will never get a chance to fight for your good name. Buy the damn poodle shirt, mama. Don’t be relegated to that Adult Time-Out Purgatory. It’s like the Elephant Graveyard in The Lion King. Not a happy place. Not that I would know or anything.
4. Price shaming is a thing. A forbidden thing.
There was a time when I thought $50 for a child’s tunic was absurd. That was until I saw one sell for five thousand dollars. No, I’m not kidding. Why would I be? It’s great to be alive when the economy is so strong that everyone has thousands of dollars lying around to drop on “unicorn” dresses that have been worn by five toddlers. Amiright?
Okay, I acknowledge that this phenomenon is beyond ridiculous. But apparently there are people whose bank accounts are also beyond ridiculous, and those aren’t the people you should be mocking in the B/S/T world. It’s called “price shaming,” and it’s equivalent to Harry Potter’s Killing Curse. Do it and — Avada Kedavra! — you are out forever. Poof.
5. B/S/T: Two Parts Bonkers and One Part Incredible Community
I suppose like all things parenting-related, you have to sift through the dirt to find the gold. I am not oblivious to the cultural weirdness in the B/S/T community. I’ve seen women spend money they don’t have on clothes their kids don’t need. I’ve seen women kicked to the Internet curb, crying — their PayPal forever full and their closets forever empty. All because they accidentally broke a rule of etiquette they didn’t even know existed.
And that really sucks.
But there’s a lot about the B/S/T community that doesn’t suck. Those same mamas who snap up $5,000 dollar dresses? I’ve seen them turn right around and auction them off to pay for the funeral expenses of a fellow B/S/T member. I’ve seen secret fundraisers for women who left abusive relationships. I’ve seen women ship their favorite, most beloved pieces to a quiltmaker so the group could gift a meaningful quilt to a mother who lost her baby girl.
B/S/T, for all of its nuances, language barriers, and incredible price gouging is still a pretty magical world.
I’m glad I waded into these piranha-infested waters. The women I’ve met accepted me into their strange little community with open arms. We share funny stories. We share eye-rolls when that one mama is trying to sell an outfit as “NWT” when we totally saw her daughter wearing it last week.
And occasionally, with the ones we really love…we share closets. That’s when you know you’ve found your #BSTBestie (shout out to you, Erin!).
And I must say, that #BSTBFF might be the one thing that truly makes B/S/T worthwhile.
If you decide to give it a shot, mamas, I’ll see you on the boards! And if you see my name, know that I’m here for you and I’m happy to translate.
After all, I’m fluent in Minion.