Disappointed shoppers who couldn't get their hands on Target's Lilly Pulitzer collection this weekend are dressing down people who are reselling the goods on eBay and Instagram at huge markups.
The consumers, using images like the one above, are urging people to boycott resellers so they're forced to return the sold-out merchandise to Target in the next 13 days, tagging the posts with #LillyforEBay and #ForcedAccountability. (The collection was originally marketed with a #LillyForTarget hashtag.) They're frustrated by the more than 30,000 items on eBay under "Target Lilly Pulitzer," which are drawing bids of more than double retail prices.
Some resellers are lowering markups or returning goods after receiving angry comments online, while others are manually deleting comments left on their accounts from frustrated shoppers. But some resellers say those who are complaining simply didn't work hard enough to get the items they wanted at bargain prices.
If those who missed out "had the same opportunity and put in the same kind of work they would want to be rewarded for it," said Will Bernal, a 30-year-old in Miami who has been using Instagram to advertise some of the items he bought. "For the most part, the people that do it prepare better than the consumers that think they can walk in and get it at 2 p.m. What people need to start realizing is when there's a limited collection, if they want it, they're going to have to stay up throughout the night to get online, and most likely the website's going to crash every time."
Bernal told BuzzFeed News that he and his fiancée spent about $500 buying items from the collection, staying up to place web orders in the wee hours of Sunday morning and going to a local store an hour before opening. They've easily sold many of the items and anticipate the profits will cover or surpass the cost of the items they're keeping, he said.
"I got a lot of comments I would delete because a lot of the women reaching out to me were getting mad," Bernal said. "Even if I bought everything just to resell — we didn't — but even if we did do that and that's what we wanted to do to make a profit, there's nothing wrong with that."
The Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection sold out in minutes in many stores, and cleared out online within a few hours. Target's website crashed for about 20 minutes from the influx of traffic once the sale went live on Sunday morning and most products were gone by 8 a.m., Oliver Chen, an analyst at Cowen and Company wrote in a note on Monday, referring to the event as "Pink Sunday."
Target is aware of the bad feelings among some customers.
"We're always disappointed to see people buying product from Target and then trying to resell it for a profit," a spokesperson said in an e-mail to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. "This takes away from the spirit of these programs."
The spokesperson added: "To put things into perspective, though, the amount of Lilly Pulitzer for Target product currently for resale on secondary markets that we're aware of equates to about 1.5% of the total collection. This tells us that the vast majority of product was purchased by guests who are enjoying it for themselves.
Users complained on Facebook and Twitter about technical difficulties on the desktop version of the site as well as on its mobile app, and said that by the time Target tweeted its site was up and running, much of the collection had sold out.
"We do worry that most consumers did not obtain product, given sell-outs both in-store and online occurred within 5-15 minutes," Chen said in the note. Indeed, images of the despair were widespread on Sunday.
Many of the markups on eBay, while steep, are still cheaper than full-price Lilly Pulitzer merchandise. A pink $38 shift dress from the collection was listed for $75 to $85 by numerous resellers; shift dresses sold on the Lilly Pulitzer website go for $178 to $198. But it's easy to see why consumers were frustrated by the premiums — $34 dresses are being sold for $79, while $30 totes are going for $74.
In addition to calling for boycotts, some users took to Instagram and Twitter to call resellers "tacky" and "greedy" in their own posts and by way of comments.
Abbey Swihart, a 22-year-old senior at Ohio State University, said she scooped some of the collection up last night and this morning from her local Target as consumers have started returning some of the items. She's charging a $10 to $12 premium for goods by way of her Instagram account, which she has used to resell clothing before the Lilly Pulitzer sale.
"There's so much backlash," she said, noting she hasn't dealt with any blowback but has observed it on Instagram and Poshmark, an app for buying and selling second-hand clothes. "A couple of my Instagram followers decided to return everything so far because they were getting bullied so much on the Instagram page…I haven't really felt any of that, because mine aren't the prices other people's are. I just want the right people to have it."
"It's interesting to see the rebellion to the sales and everything and people telling you not to buy that stuff," she told BuzzFeed News. "It's not fair but that's the way it is. If you woke up at six in the morning and waited in line, you wouldn't have had to pay those prices."
Of course, reselling items from Target's capsule collections on eBay is a tradition as old as the collections themselves.
In 2011, merchandise from the company's Missoni collection was resold on eBay with 25% to 400% markups — one Missoni bicycle with a retail value of $399.99 sold for $1,279.95, the New York Times reported at the time. Target collaborations with Phillip Lim and Prabal Gurung resulted in similar behavior, though with smaller premiums.
Bernal, unlike many shoppers, was delighted with the sale.
"I honestly wish more brands would do this," he said. "I saw a lady right now on Twitter saying Target knew exactly what they were doing and knew there weren't going to be many pieces, and I was thinking, 'Duh, it's a limited collection, and of course Target knows what they were doing.'"
"It's genius marketing," he added.
A $30 tote is marked up by more than 150%, including the price of expedited shipping.
Updates with comment from Target.