It started with with an argument over £30. In October 2018 the Instagram account @depopdrama posted an exchange between a buyer and seller on the fashion retail platform Depop. The seller responded to the meagre offer with ‘are you joking’, the buyer countered with ’35 plus will follow ur insta’, and a sensation was born.
Two years later and the Jerry Springer Show of social media, Depop Drama, is now nearing half a million followers, who revel in their tales of dubious consumer ethics and vicious insults, fun wisecracking and deeply strange exchanges, which result from letting vendor and customer loose on one another without an employee code of conduct to keep things in check.
Depop has democratised selling clothes: a slicker, fashion-focused iteration of eBay which connects someone in Bristol who wants to get rid of a Champion t-shirt to someone on the Isle of Man who wants to see if they can get it for a tenner. It’s a retail experience where everything from browsing to asking the seller if the polyester looks a bit cheap can all be done without leaving the app or the comfort of your bed.
Like all those other internet middleman (sorry: direct-to-consumer industry disruptors), Depop doesn’t own the goods they profit off – they provide the technology which connects vendors to customers. Unlike shiny monoliths like AirBnB and Uber, there is an element of hustle to the cut-throat bartering on Depop. It is this cowboy mentality which Depop Drama thrives on, showing dialogues in which customers are sold fake or stained items and vendors squirm when they are caught out.
Here, there’s no Sally in customer service politely telling you for the fifth time that they’re just so sorry but they aren’t sure where your jumper is. Instead you get @crustyboii99 saying “the only thing that’s fake is your lips hun”.
Earlier this week an exchange was posted in which a customer was complaining that the seller hadn’t sent the Gucci bag that had been paid for, but instead a completely different item from H&M. The vendor tried to delay refunding the money, explaining, “I’m really sorry gal but I’ve spent most of my money already and I want the rest for drinks”.
Galling? This kind of excuse is standard for Depop Drama, where the postman is to blame for a suspicious brown stain, a chopped off lock of hair being discovered in a pocket of clothing ‘could’ve been my sister’, and the discovery that the inside of a bag is filthy is met with the disdainful suggestion to hoover it.
The account was born after its founder, a Depop user who wishes to remain anonymous, decided to make a place to share the ridiculous messages that they and their friends would receive on the app. “There are between 700 and 1000 submissions a week so it takes a while to go through them,” they explain “The ones I tend to pick are the silly and most immature ones. Some of my favourites are actually the super short ones, where the other person replies with a one-worded answer.”
The account, which Depop has even made contact with (the brand appreciates the lols, apparently), straddles both meme culture and the complicated modern fashion industry. It shines a light on the ruthless bartering people spend hours pinging back and forth and the stone cold put downs and bizarre requests that crop up. It is user-generated content based on a user-generated platform; an anything goes approach to customer service where the threat of a bad review or reporting someone to the Depop police is often deployed to get people to back down.
Some exchanges are so ridiculous that they have prompted scepticism about the authenticity of some of the posts, with sleuths quick to spot when someone appears to be upping the drama to try and make it onto the account. As one user wrote under a recent post, and gained many likes for saying, “It’s never as funny when the person sending the messages screenshots”.
“A lot of the time I can tell fake submissions by the way it’s worded or by looking at the timestamps,” says the account moderator, though they imagine some bogus posts have slipped through the net.
Though there are catty comments, Depop Drama is about more than just feral fashion mishaps, shining a light on some heartwarming exchanges like a buyer offering to check out someone’s YouTube channel or a seller slipping a condom into a shipment in the hope it brings the recipient good luck. “Over the lockdown period this year it has grown massively,” they say of how the account has accelerated in popularity in recent months. “I think people wanted some light-heartedness and fun whilst there was a lot of negativity in the air.”
One of the strangest posts involved a rare Australian frog, deceased, which was discovered in a trouser pocket. Both parties were miffed by the discovery: the buyer as he had to take a dead frog out of his new buy, and the seller because he was asked for a refund.
In a sense Depop Drama is a temperature gauge of what some parts of the fashion industry are slowing morphing into, where customers are cutting out the middle man of a bricks and mortar store, or even an online retailer, and searching a kind of fashion Craigslist for someone they can convince to send them what they want for a price they want to pay.
The result of all these people jostling against each other in a rowdy marketplace, either trying not to be played or trying not to be caught out, is this chaotic and snide sea of messages. But as an eye-rolling seller might say, you get what you pay for love.
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