One Person’s Trash…: Future Dragon Runs Instagram Thrift Store

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By: Geneva Nodland, nodlandge@mnstate.edu

If you have an Instagram account, then you most likely have seen the recent up-rise of “thrift pages” circulating around. It might have been a few new followers with the word “thrift” in their username, or maybe you know someone who has started a page. Either way this new wave of online shopping is taking over the newsfeed.

Instagram thrift pages have popped up all over the country in the last year and have become prevalent in the Fargo-Moorhead area over the last six months. If you have no idea what these pages are, search “thrift” on Instagram and you’re bound to have some, if not many, accounts pop up.

The owners of these accounts take clothes, shoes and accessories from their closets and from thrift stores and sell them through Instagram. Most of the time they use a bidding process, giving the item an original price and having people comment at least one dollar higher to attempt to claim the item. Each page has its own specific set of rules to follow that covers shipping costs, preferred payment options and any other problem or question customers may encounter.

One of the local pages that is constantly growing is @happyfindz. Starting about six months ago, @happyfindz now has over 5.7K followers spanning from Florida, California, New York and, of course, here in the Midwest. The person behind the business is Emma Bartelson. Bartelson, 19, is currently taking classes through NDSCS, getting ready to graduate with a degree in Liberal Arts this spring. Next fall she will be coming to MSUM to pursue a degree in elementary education.

Bartelson was inspired by her aunt’s Instagram page, @confettibetty.

“I always got asked where I got my clothes, and of course they were thrifted, so I thought maybe I’ll just share those items with other people,” she said.

Little did she know, her page would flourish like the commonality of thrift pages in the area have. Beginning with old clothes from her own closet, then moving on to thrifting, Bartelson hardly knew the impact this page would have on her in a mere six months.

“I had no idea that my page would turn into this bigger thing, but I’m super happy about it,” Bartelson said.

Since there weren’t nearly as many pages then as there are now, Bartelson was forced to “wing it,” as she said.

“I looked at @destinysscloset,” Bartelson said. “We’ve been friends for a while because she started her page about the same time as I did, but other than that I’ve just been winging it. I just did my own thing and asked people if I needed help.”

Marisa Aranda, 21, a sophomore at MSUM majoring in early elementary education, found Bartelson’s thrift page back in September and has bought multiple items through the page since then. “I honestly didn’t know much about thrifting pages when I started following @happyfindz, but I knew she was from the area, so I trusted her more than any other page,” Aranda said. “I loved my first purchase.”

Now that she has months of experience behind her, Bartelson has the process down. She doesn’t pull from her own closet as often as she travels through racks and racks at thrift stores. She typically spends about an hour and a half at a store and pays anywhere between $40 to $120 per trip—but it always depends.

“It depends on if it’s a good shopping day, but I take my time for sure, and I hate going shopping with other people,” Bartelson said.

Pricing her items varies, but she always starts with above what she paid in order to gain a profit. She recalled a pair of Hunter booties that were bid all the way up to $80.

“I try to start it low and just let the bidding go however high it wants, I can’t control that,” Bartelson said.

The bidding process is something that needs constant attention, so Bartelson considers this one of her part-time jobs, on top of being a full-time student and being a part-time nanny.

“I have to ask questions or make sure people know that they’re outbid, so especially when I post something it’s constant,” she said. “But I try to take a break. It’s a lot of work for sure, but it’s so much fun … it’s so worth it.”

She is on the page every day, whether it is answering messages or just saying “hello” to her followers. Bartelson said she is on it more than her personal account.

“I just like to check in and let (customers/followers) know that I’m not ignoring them or anything, especially during the time that I take off,” Bartelson said. “I’m super, super busy with school so I post when I can, and I think a lot of people understand that.”

Along with the high level of commitment that comes with running a thrift page, there are other drawbacks like shipping cost and impolite costumers. Recently, Bartelson has been frustrated with the lack of originality and giving credit where it is due.

“There’s a lot (of problems) unfortunately,” she said. “So, I’ve just been setting boundaries saying my page is only going to be a positive area and I’m not going to deal with any negativity. I haven’t had a lot of horrible experiences, which is super great.”

@happyfindz is known for its encouraging and upbeat attitude. Bartelson portrays this through posts and stories that build up followers and promote things like positive body image and authenticity. Followers like Aranda notice and appreciate that about her page.

“I like the message that she is trying to give,” Aranda said. “She is so much more than just a thrift page and I love that.”

Bartelson feels strongly about using her platform to show optimism.

“I think social media can be such a dark place and such a negative place, especially for women … but I want my thrift page to be so much more than just selling clothes.” Bartelson said. “It’s so important to just have a bond with your customers, and life is too short to be negative, so I just wanted to be positive because why not be.”

In the last year, this thrift community has and continues to expand.

“It’s become a popular thing, it’s all of the sudden huge,” Bartelson said. “I think we all kind of stick together and ask people when we have questions, but we all have each other’s backs.”

Aranda enjoys how easy it is to buy as well as the ability to expand her style.

“Ever since I started following the accounts I found new styles that I liked and wanted to try,” she said. “I think that Instagram thrift pages have become so popular because they are so convenient. You can literally be lying in bed scrolling through your feed, and you see a new post. Everyone loves how easy that is.”

Bartelson is able to look at it from a business owner’s point of view.

“I think that (thrift) pages make it look easy,” Bartelson said. “So I think that … people are seeing that other people are successful, which is super great, but there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes.”

Bartelson has always loved thrifting and finds delight in finding a new “favorite thing,” so this job is only fitting.

“I love thrifting—the environmental factor is really important to me—but to be honest that wasn’t my goal when making the page,” she said. “I just really wanted to share the joy through clothes. Buying a new clothing item or new favorite thing is so awesome to me, so I love sharing that with other people.”

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