Ethics Of Selling Your Stockpile

Saving Dollarsand Sense

*NOTE: I originally posted this a couple years ago, but someone mentioned wanting to read it again in the Facebook Community so I am sharing it again.

Last weekend my husband and I were out driving around and decided to stop at a couple yard sales for fun.

The second sale we stopped at I was actually excited to check out because there were so many other cars there I thought it must be a pretty great sale.  As we walked up I saw what all the commotion was over.  This person had set up a grocery store in her garage and the people there were doing their grocery shopping.

Now I should say a couple things right up front before I get started on this post.

I am not trying to offend anyone who might have done this in the past or who might have bought things from a sale like this one.  I do know that there are rules and regulations that real grocery stores have to follow that are in place to keep our food safe.  When you shop from a “store” like this one it is impossible to know how the food was stored.

I have no problem with someone selling a “few” things they’ll no longer use in their garage sales. What I really have a problem with is someone fraudulently using coupons to get stuff free with the intent of reselling it in a garage sale for the sole purpose of profitting.

In fact you could face real jail time for doing so in Michigan.

Did you know that many coupons state in the fine print that it is coupon fraud to use a coupon to buy something with the intent of reselling it?

The reason for this post is simply to inform you why I couldn’t just pretend like I didn’t see it that afternoon.  You see I was so shocked that I had to pull out my phone and snap a couple pictures for proof that I was really seeing what I had only heard rumors of up to this point.  I came home and posted the picture on the Facebook page and innocently asked:

“Have you ever stopped at a garage sale like this one? I’ve heard rumors of them but never actually seen one in real life. I don’t mean to offend anyone but this really bothers me. Because she likely cleared shelves buying most of this stuff free after coupons taking away from others who would have actually used the items in the picture with the intent of reselling to make a profit. 

When people do this they leave nothing behind for anyone else.”

I was surprised by the overwhelming response this got from many who seemed to understand my frustration with the situation. But there were a few who just couldn’t seem to understand why this would be wrong.  What they saw was someone who was smart enough to bend the rules enough to make some extra money.

But at what price?

I am not saying that there can’t be situations when this is acceptable and some of you posted the hypothetical situations that could cause a person to sell their stockpile in this way.  I’m not sure I would have been so shocked had it not looked like a well oiled machine.  What I saw while I was there was a very well organized grocery store complete with racks, shelves, and grocery bags.

I wrote a post during the a season of Extreme Couponing about how to maintain Extreme Couponing Integrity that I think is relevant for anyone who wants to know my stance on things.

I definitely think it is worth reading the entire original post (which you can find here), but I specifically wanted to shine a light on the third point today.

Only buy what you will use!  I  know it can be so tempting to continue to buy when you aren’t paying for the item.  But it is wasteful to buy what you can or will not use in a reasonable amount of time.  If you just must get another tube of free toothpaste, why not consider donating some of what you have to shelters, churches, or abused women’s centers?

If you follow this point in Extreme Couponing Integrity then you really won’t find yourself in a position to sell off 50 boxes of cereal.

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About Kristie Sawicki

Kristie Sawicki is the author of Saving Dollars and Sense, where she blogs about Money Saving Ideas and Frugal Living Tips, as well the Best Coupons, Deals and Freebies around. You can connect with Kristie Sawicki on Google+ and on the Saving Dollars and Sense Facebook page.


  1. Well said Kristie! Coupon use is a way to SAVE money, not to MAKE money. Get what you need and move on. Great article!

  2. Great post! I want to remind everyone that free is not always free. I live in Indiana so unless its a food item, we pay 7% tax. For example, this week Herbal Essences is $0.50 after RR and coupon this week. The thing is, its not $0.50 that I’ll pay. The shampoo is actually on sale for $3 and as a result, I’ll pay $0.21 tax. That $0.50 shampoo just became $0.71. Not to mention I may have to buy a filler next week to use the RR. If you won’t use it in the next 3 months, buying items you don’t actually NEED can really take a chunk out of an already strained budget.

  3. I used to be a Coupon Quen before the term “Extreme Couponing” was invented. But what cured me of stockpiling like that was our new house pets, called Pantry Moths by some and India Moths by others.


    You would not believe the packages of cereal, pasta and mixes I had to throw out. And yeah, they weren’t quite “free.”

  4. I have done this in the past with health and beauty aids. But in a different way. I charged under $2 for every item, and I told every shopper that I was passing the savings on to them and then taking the money raised to shop for the shelter/food bank that I support. Everyone was more than happy to get a good deal and to help the less fortunate in our area. I usually made about $200 on those items and I was able to turn around and buy things for our local food pantry that they rarely got. Items like canned meats, dairy etc. I try to spend $5 a week towards buying for charity with my coupons as that is about what I can afford from our already tight budget. So that extra $200 went far to help others in need

  5. Thank you for saying this.I have gotten so upset at the shelf clearers when all I normally want is 1 lousy item and I see someone with 15 or 20 in their cart and they will not part with even one.As a one income family with 2 special needs children,I have relied on coupons to help make ends meet for the last 18 years.Even if they do donate the extras I am still out of luck because we make just enough to keep us from qualifying for any help from anywhere.If they will not use those items then leave a few for families like mine who the food banks don’t help.I am really tired of using cheap rice or pasta to stretch a meal and make my 30$ a week feed our family.Sorry for the vent but thanks for asking.

  6. Thanks for this post. I remember once reading a reply from a woman that lived in a vacation spot and she was talking about how she uses the coupons for deals yearround and then sells everything over the summer. I felt this was wrong. Nice to know I am not alone.

  7. Very interesting. I’d like to add though when questioning someone else’s “ethics” to have integrity yourself and not judge and inquire as to the whys. Did you speak w/the seller on why? ie. exhorbitant unpaid medical bills and in dire straits and no income coming in?…or just selfishly making a profit from clearing shelves?

    Can’t judge someone’s real motivies if you don’t bother to ask them. If you snapped pics., but didn’t communicate w/the seller… hmmm… Food for thought.

  8. I think that might be illegal where I live because of regulations. I know a private individual can only sell a certain number of vehichles per year before you must apply for an auto dealer licence, building supplies in quantities larger than what would be left over from projects require a supplier’s licence. I can’t imagine food would be subject to less stringent regulations.
    Regardless, it is tacky, greedy, and unfair to the rest of the community. I doubt I would buy any of that stuff in the first place, but certainly not from someone operating an unregulated grocery store from their garage.

  9. I believe reselling is wrong. If you have the time and effort to get things you don’t need, then help out other families in need, or donate it to local food shelters. :/

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