May Seah, TODAY
SINGAPORE – Obsession is a scary thing. Obsessive impulse buyers, even more so.
My friend, for example, has developed an obsession with Carousell, the digital flea market app that’s all the rage. She has been using it to offload her pre-loved clothes, bags, shoes and accessories, which, if lined up, would circumnavigate the globe several times. My friend, whom we’ll call Becky, after the protagonist in Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series who can’t resist a sale either, started hawking her wares via Carousell two months ago and for two months, has been spamming our group chat with tales of her trading exploits.
“Carousell story of the day: Buyer was worried lace dress was too long. How is above the knee too long?!” read one text, followed by an eye-rolling emoticon.
Becky now spends most of her free time replying such queries in a friendly tone, because “I think you are a moron” sounds better phrased as, “Thank you for your interest”.
Mailing her customers their purchases has even given her an in-depth understanding of Singapore’s geographical population. Every now and then, she sends texts such as, “I have a new fan base in Yew Tee!” or “the Carousell-ees in Serangoon are always asking for discounts” or “the people in Khatib are the salt of the earth”.
While she’s appraising heartlanders, the app also allows buyers to rate sellers; Becky’s reviews are stellar, with her customers praising her for mailing their purchases even before they have made payment. What they don’t know, though, is that she’s motivated by the need to get rid of her stuff, not to profit from it.
Becky is a lawyer and over the years, her healthy salary and far less healthy stress levels have resulted in a wardrobe bursting with untouched impulse purchases: Chanel earrings still in their boxes, Miu Miu totes with dust bags intact and every cute skirt from every blogshop in Singapore.
“Why would I wear something with two cutouts?” she wailed, pointing at one of her Carousell listings over lunch. She then made me go to the post office to mail two parcels for her.
This almost-Buddhist renouncing of material possessions took hold of Becky overnight, when she suddenly realised the clutter was threatening to crowd her out of house and home like some cautionary children’s fairytale.
“Just discovered another pair of printed pants behind my office door. My possessions are ambushing me,” she said, glumly.
But thanks to Carousell, slowly but surely, her plan is working. “I’ve made S$700 so far!” she announced proudly at lunch last weekend. I was speechless. Mainly because this is a woman whose clients must pay her S$400 for every hour of her time. But it’s not about how much of her losses she recoups, of course. There’s a much bigger life lesson to be learnt here.
“I’m not buying any more stuff,” she declared. “Thinking about all the stuff I’ve sold online makes me want to cease shopping altogether. There are too many impulse buyers out there.”
On top of that, Carousell has also put her day job into perspective. It has made her appreciate the relative thumb-twiddling simplicity of being a lawyer. “After all that selling, I just work harder at my job because it’s much easier,” she said, without the slightest trace of irony. “I’m finally learning the value of money, now that I really have to work for it.”
Solemnly, she intoned: “Carousell is my means of richness through repentance.”
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How the Carousell app taught one lawyer the value of a dollar
May Seah, TODAY