Is it ethical for me to buy up all of a great retail deal?

This is a simple issue of everyday personal behavior and not a GD ethics question so I am placing it here.

There is an Office Supply store in my area that usually gets jammed up with discontinued mechandise in the late spring and the fall and puts this stuff out in a rack in front of the store at 50-75% off . During these times there are occasionally exceptional deals available where I can get high quality items for a fraction of their original prices. I make several hundred dollars + annually for the last few years just by just flipping a few of the more expensive items on Ebay like high res. color wireless security cameras, PDA accessories, and wireless routers that I get for pennies on the dollar.

Anyway, this has to do with the ethics of grabbing up all of a great deal. As an example there were about 25 pairs of the nice orange molded Fiskars scissors that usually sell for for $8- 10 each at retail. These models had a special non-stick coating on the blades, and they were discontinued at 3.50 then discounted 75% so I picked them up for about 87 cents each. I bought every single one.

Personally, I have no use for more than few pairs of scissors, but the deal was too good to pass up. I gave about 10 to my ex-wife the next day for when the kids are with her, and will probably just put the rest in a drawer to use and lose over the next 15 years or just give them away to friends.

It occurred to me that other people might actually have a need for those scissors and apreciate the deal more than me. I have every right legally to grab up the deal and run back to my nest with it (it’s for sale after all), but is it the right thing to do from an ethical perspective if I really don’t need all the items? Or is this not even an ethical question?

It’s cool.

If you were buying the last batch of the world’s smallpox vaccine or something, I’d be worried. But scissors are not essential items, and there are plenty of cheaper scissors availible. Plus, office supply stores are most likely to be used by business people who typically have enough leeway in their office budget to pay full retail price.

One time, at a video rental store, I did have a woman come up and buy our entire supply of Nerds Ropes. Something like a hundred pieces. From a video store. Apparently we were the only place she could get them. That raised my eyebrows.


Everyone has an equal opportunity to buy these items. You’re not bulling people out of the way and scooping them up (are you?). Good on you for flipping the items at a profit. I love capitalism!

I’m a little confused by your choice of the word “ethical” simply because I can’t see where buying something you want - for whatever reason - is any less ethical than buying something you need. If you pay the price the seller asks, you’ve done nothing wrong. If you sell that item to someone else at a price they are willing to pay, you’ve still done nothing wrong.

FWIW, I haunt thrift stores, garages sales and so forth and many times I have purchased what I know to be a valuable collectible or an antique or even just a “cool thingie” that I have then sold on eBay for at least twice my purchase price. I used to worry a little about… well, ethics, I guess, because some of the thrift stores I shop in are charitable organizations, and I’m making more money off each item than they are. When that occured to me, I assuaged my conscience by shopping more :slight_smile: Seriously, though, I support my bargain hunter habit (OK, maybe it’s a very tiny shopping addiction), I am supporting the charities I buy from, and I’m providing items to other buyers at prices they OFFER to pay for them. I’d say it’s a win-win-win situation.

Go for it! I bought all the marked-down ribs in a supermarket a few days ago. More than 150 bucks worth for around 18 bucks. Woohoo! BBQ at my place! Bring beer! The good stuff, no ribs for you if you bring Bud!

A few months ago I was at the grocery store and the woman in the aisle next to me had an entire shopping cart full of cans of Planters Cheese Curls. I made some comment and she said they were on sale for fifty cents each. Now I really like these, and I said maybe I should run over and pick some up. She then admitted that she had taken the entire display (literally - I then noticed that the sale sign was still in the cart). She graciously allowed me to take two of them.

I didn’t say anything to her, but I remember thinking at the time that it was pretty selfish of her to assume that no one else would want any. I will admit to occasionally taking all of a sale item that’s on a shelf if there aren’t that many, but to just wheel the whole display to the checkout line seems a bit much.

Interesting; I think the ‘on sale’ part of this discussion is an irrelevant detail; consider:

I want X quantity of widgets; there are exactly X widgets on the shelf; should I take all of them, or should I leave some in case someone else wants them?

The fact that the widgets are marked down, and that my desire to have all of them is based on their bargain value makes exactly what difference?
Should their reduced price prevent me from wanting more than I would otherwise purchase?
Should their reduced price prevent me from buying the quantity I originally intended, if this happens to be the entire stock?
Does their reduced price mean that I have to be more considerate to later shoppers than I would otherwise?

I’m not trying to be obtuse here, just trying to reduce the issue to its essential minima - truth be told, I experience a pang of guilt myself in the OP-described situation; sometimes it is strong enough to make me leave some widgets on the shelf, but I don’t think there’s necessarily a very good reason to.

Not sure how “buying all the discount merchandise” is any different from “buying all the non-discount merchandise.”

I mean, imagine this scenario:

“Nyah-hah-ha! I have purchased ALL of the staples sold in this retail establishment! NO ONE will staple for the next few days without MY express say-so, unless they patronize another retail store! Ghod, I am SO EVIL! Nyah-hah-hah-hah-hah!”

Ridiculous? Yeah, I thought so.

Completely ethical IMHO. The things are marked down that low for a reason. The store wants to get rid of them as quickly as possible to make room for something that will hopefully sell better at the retail price. Or they’re trying to get the inventory down.

Don’t think of it as cheating other people, think of it as helping out the poor soul who has to count the things come inventory time.:wink:

Work retail? Who me? Nawwwwwwww.

I see nothing unethical. They offered them at a certain price to get rid of them. First come, first served. They are happy, you are happy, other folks were slow…

Completely ethical. The store is in business to sell items at a set price. Anyone willing to pay the set price buys them.

What if it’s something like a used CD bin and a very rare double CD is in there for $75? Should I have said “No, I won’t buy it cause someone else might want it?” Or do I recognize that it’s worth around $300 and buy it without saying a word?

I agree that it is ethical. Although possibly quite annoying. I have an analogous story: Every April a mall in the city I work in has a used book sale, with the proceeds going to the Children’s Hospital. It used to be a great place to pick up cheap copies of classics, poetry, etc. (for example, I picked up a hardcopy of Tennyson for $1.25). But in the last few years the place is picked clean just after opening by roves of used book store owners. They purchase books for $0.50 bring them to their shops and sell them for $10.00+.

While I understand they are being ethical, and that the hospital is receiving their money, which is the point of this exercise, I cannot but help feeling like I am being screwed over. Why should these guys profit off of this? Why can’t I be able to add to my meager book collection super affordably? It is a bloody piss off.

I am not comparing the book thieves (as I view them :slight_smile: ) to your smart shopping, mostly since I don’t really care about getting great deals on office supplies. But used books…

I only wish I could find a reliable source for something I could sell consistantly for twice the purchase price.

A grocery store I used to work at used to do this all the time:

Say next weeks ad features Coke 2 liters @ 2 for $1. We would do what is called a buy in. We would get as much Coke as we can (2, 3 truckloads or more) from the distributor, get billed at 50 cents a bottle, and hoarde it. In a few weeks, when the sale was over, we still had all this Coke which we paid 50 cents for, and we’d turn around and sell it for $1.29 or whatever the normal non-sale price was. That’s 79 cents profit per bottle. Great for the store. We’d do the same thing for Pepsi, Clorox (especially in the summer, when people began to prepare their pools for use), or anything else that would sell well at regular price.

If it’s OK for the store to take full advantage of a great deal, why shouldn’t a customer be able to take advantage as well?

Of course, I post this as someone who never stood behind you as you grabbed the last one of many off the shelf, when all I need is one.

Absolutely ethical. If you can snap it up and save it for future use, or–better yet–make a few bucks on ebay, go for it. If you feel guillty, leave one or two.

Of course, Cheetos may be a different story. Snacks are very important, and I’d probably feel guilty if I snapped up an entire cartful.


I don’t see a problem with it unless the sign says something like “limit 5 per customer” or something like that. Usually this would only apply to items that are sold on an ongiong basis. Clearance items rarely, if ever ask that customers limit their purchases. Having worked at OfficeMax, anything that was on clearance was a nuisance to keep in the store, so we were always glad to get rid of it, and if a customer wanted to buy the whole lot, more power to him.

Having worked in an office supply store myself, I wish I could say that most of the customers were business people who were willing to pay full price without question. Most of the people in the store were individual consumers. As for the people who were buying suplpies for their offices, they were just as big of penny-pinching tightwads as the individual consumers and some would go to great lengths to make deals or otherwise try to get a discount. Many of them were on tight budgets (at least this was what they told me and the managers).

We had a similar incident with SnoCaps. Someone came in and bought the two and a half boxes of backstock we had because apparently where she was from (in from out of town) they were unavailable, and it was the birthday of someone who liked them very much.

I’d agree and say that purchasing in bulk is okay unless there is a store-imposed limit. Usually when something is put on sale it’s either not going to be re-stocked anyways, or it’s going quickly enough that management has got backstock on order.

And also, as a long-time semi-professional bargain hunter myself, I assure you that if you don’t get them all, someone else will. Eat or be eaten, my friend.

It’s ethical as long as you don’t cut up all those Fiskars and sell them with baseball cards. Cause that would be wrong.

It’s ethical, unless you’re buying up something I want and I catch you in the act. Then you’re a selfish pig. :wink:

Based on your facts, ethics is not an issue.