On a near weekly basis, I am questioned about my children’s wardrobe. More specifically, I am quizzed indirectly about my 2-year-old daughter’s elaborate trousseau. Through my 2-year-old daughter.
“Is that another new dress your mom bought you, Margot?”
Usually, I sputter out an apologetic reply. I let them know it’s a hand-me-down, or that she’s going through “a phase”.
When really, it’s almost all BST or Buy Sell Trade.
For most of my children’s attire (retailing anywhere from $20 to $300 brand new), I pay $2 to $15. I acquire their garb from local consignment shops and BST (Buy Sell Trade) groups on Facebook.
BST groups are a fantastic way to find cute kids and baby clothing. Other BST moms sell their kids’ gently worn garments for cheap. You can buy coveted (if not couture) pieces for up to 90% off. And BST groups are also a great place to unload your kids outgrown apparel and make a few dollars flipping your thrift-store finds.
Here’s what you need to know about buying, selling, and saving money on BST groups.
- What is a Buy Sell Trade Group?
- About Children’s Clothing BST Groups
- How Do I Join a BST Group?
- What Can I Buy in a BST Group?
- Why Should I Join a BST Group?
- What is a Purge?
- What Does NWOT Mean? Decoding Common Acronyms.
- How Do You Purchase Something in a BST Group?
- How Do You Pay For Your BST Purchase?
- What If I Don’t Purchase Something I Claimed?
- How Do You Sell Something in a BST Group?
- How Much Should I Charge for Shipping in BST?
- How Do You Ship Something You’ve Sold in a BST Group?
- Can You Really Save Money on Kids’ Clothing with BST Groups?
- Are BST Moms Really Psychotic?
What is a Buy Sell Trade Group?
Buy Sell Trade groups are Facebook groups themed around buying, selling, and trading certain items or brands like camping gear, kids toys, or COACH brand handbags and accessories.
They’re a bit like garage sales – you’ll find lots of random things that people perhaps would not take the trouble to post on Craig’s List or eBay.
BST groups that I belong to are focused on different upscale children’s clothing brands: Hugo Loves Tiki, Hanna Andersson, Mini Boden, or Alice + Ames to name a few. Most of the BST groups I belong to are “national boards” with members across the U.S. and Canada. A few of these BST’s are global and a handful are local groups for my metro area.
Children’s Clothing BST Groups
BST or Buy Sell Trade groups for children’s clothing are centered around certain brands, materials, aesthetics, or price points. Some examples are:
- Mini Boden BST groups
- High-end European brand groups
- High-end boutique brand groups (“boutique” generally means Northern Californian aesthetic)
- Designer clothes all $10 or less groups
There are hundreds of BST groups for children’s clothing on Facebook. Many are for brands you’ve never even heard of before. In fact, BST groups are a powerful vehicle for discovery. Many of these popular BST brands are from clothes companies that have emerged within the last decade as online only retailers.
How Do I Join a BST Group?
Generally, these BST groups are open to anyone with a Facebook account. BST groups are usually private. To join, you will need to request admission.
- Search for the BST group you want to join. (i.e. “Zara BST”)
- Request to join by clicking or tapping the group join icon.
- Answer any screener questions the group admins (administrators) may have for you. Usually the questions are simple, like “Do you agree to follow the rules?” or “What brands does the ZARA brand group sell?”
- Wait for your membership to be approved. It can take anywhere from a couple minutes to a couple days.
Here are a few common BST restrictions to know about.
- New Facebook members, who’ve had a Facebook account for just a few months or less, may be banned. (This is to prevent banned members from creating a new Facebook account to try and re-join.)
- Some groups may be for U.S. residents only.
- Some groups may be for 18+ only.
What Can I Buy in a BST Group?
You can buy anything in a BST group that you could also find on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Craig’s List.
Some items that I’ve purchased and sold through Facebook BST groups include children’s clothing, bassinets, furniture, cloth diapers, a trampoline, play kitchen, COACH purses, lululemon leggings, cedar wood chips, perennial shrubs, and a heap of cardboard boxes.
BST groups for children’s clothing are especially popular and have some exceptionally unique items. You’ll see brands you’ve never heard of before in styles you never knew existed for kids: poppy colored bell-sleeve dresses for infants, Liza Minelli print tunics, peach gauze coveralls, and funky modern prints that you’d expect to find on display at MoMA or Parsons.
What’s the Difference Between a BST Group and Facebook Marketplace or Craig’s List?
There are differences between BST groups and other online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Craig’s List or eBay. Here are a few of those differences.
- BST group sales happen through Facebook posts and comments. The seller lists the item(s) they have for sale in a Facebook post. You claim the item for the purchase in the comments. (i.e. “Me! I’ll take it!”)
- BST groups are themed around a specific brand or consumer category, like Levi’s jeans or antique cookie jars. If you join a Levi’s BST group, that is the only brand that you will find sold there.
- BST groups have powerful administrators who make sure everyone follows the rules. If you list a non-brand approved item, for example, your post will likely be flagged and pulled in a matter of hours (if not minutes). You may get muted (prevented from posting in the group for 30 days) or immediately kicked out. Warnings are at the administrator’s discretion. Reading the rules is key.
- BST groups are not for the wishy-washy of heart. This fourth point could really be its own section, or its own post for that matter. If you claim an item (telling the seller “I want to buy it”) but do not follow through, you will be kicked out of the group.
- BST groups are more social. This breeds accountability. Members tend to re-sell to the same people again and again. You become familiar with group member names, and the kind of items they’re interested in. Moms who purchased from me nearly 3 years ago are still buying from me — their kids are still 2 years (and 2 sizes) smaller than my daughter.
- BST sale transactions are incredibly honest. In hundreds of exchanges, I’ve never seen a seller deliberately lie or misrepresent an item’s condition. Sometimes stains or flaws aren’t disclosed up front. Usually, because they’re small and the seller didn’t notice. The buyer can contact the seller and request a full refund (returning the item) or partial refund. The seller will always work with the buyer. Otherwise, they could get reported to the admins and booted from the group.
Why Should I Join a BST Group?
BST groups are worth joining because of the group rules, not in spite of them. Buyers are more protected from flawed merchandise. Sellers aren’t dealing with flaky buyers who claim items and then ghost you – even after agreeing upon a designated pick-up time and place.
Due to the nature of how sales posts work, BST groups have more merchandise and at better prices. Unlike Craig’s List, you’ll find listings for 50-cent pairs of shorts or 1-dollar toys. This is because on BST groups, people commonly do purge posts or purges.
What is a Purge?
A purge, in a BST group, is when a seller sells multiple items within one listing. I’ve done purges where I’ve listed over 300 items.
Here’s how a purge post works: you create one Facebook post saying what items you’ll be selling in your purge. And then you list your items for sale in the comments. Each new comment = one image of an item for sale along with the item’s description.
So if you have 50 items to sell in your purge, you would do a Facebook group post with at least 50 comments. There would be one comment for each item you were selling, and extra comments too for any potential buyer questions.
Typically, you announce your purge several hours in advance. You create a post advising group members at what time you’ll do the purge and what items you’ll be selling or purging. Then at the set time, you sell or purge your items one by one in the comments.
Information that is commonly included in purge post announcements can include:
- Whether or not the seller is the first owner.
- Brands that will be listed.
- Condition or range of conditions.
- Range of prices.
- If clothing, whether or not items are from a smoking or pet household.
- If the seller is willing to ship (for local BST groups where members generally do a front-door pickup).
- Shipping costs, if the seller is willing to ship. (For some national groups though, you’re required to include shipping in the pricing though.)
- Payment methods the seller will accept, like Cash, PayPal, or Venmo. (For some groups, however, all payments must go through one set method. In this instance, PayPal is generally preferred.)
What Does NWOT Mean?
NWOT means New Without Tag. That’s one of many abbreviations or acronyms you’ll see in post comments in BST groups. It helps to speak BST. If you’re not familiar with all of the terminology, you can reference the BST lingo guide or just ask the seller outright.
How Do You Purchase Something in a BST Group?
To purchase something in a BST group, claim it in the comments. In many groups, you can comment “Me!” or “I’ll take!” or “Interested” and the item is considered sold to you.
If you want to buy something, I believe it’s good to be clear and definite. Writing something like, “I want to buy it” definitely will stake your claim.
If you have a question about an item, ask it. You’re allowed to ask questions about an item without purchasing it. Keep in mind though, someone may come along behind you and purchase the item while you’re waiting.
Do not pass. You cannot go back to the post later and say “No thanks, I’ll pass”. Even if you realize hours later the shoes won’t fit, or your son won’t wear it, or there’s someone next in line, you cannot pass. This will get you banned. Take all your measurements in advance. Get your son’s opinion earlier. And if there’s someone next in line, great. You’ll have someone to sell it to.
B0th BST members and group admins are unflinching on the no-pass rule.
How Do You Pay for Your BST Purchase?
After you “buy” something in a Facebook BST, you’ll need to pay for the actual goods. If you purchase from a local BST group, the seller will let you know if they will take cash or digital payment at pickup or if they expect you to pay in advance via Venmo or PayPal. Over DM or Direct Message, you can exchange email information needed to send funds online.
If you purchase from a national BST group (where shipping is required), the seller will provide those details upfront in their post. Very commonly, the seller will ask you to pay via PayPal and to give them your email address tied to your PayPal account. They will send you a PayPal invoice.
If you’ve never sent a PayPal invoice before, or received one, they’re extremely easy and convenient. And PayPal invoicing is free. In PayPal when you request money from someone, just select the option to “Create an invoice”. You can fill in the form with a description of the item or items and the prices, and then send it via email.
And if you receive a PayPal invoice, it will basically just be a request to pay someone funds.
If you don’t have an account yet, it’s easy and free to sign up for PayPal.
What if I Don’t Purchase Something I Claimed?
If you don’t purchase an item you claim in a BST group, you will get kicked out. Permanently. Don’t do it.
How Do You Sell Something in a BST Group?
Create a listing in a BST group the same way you would on Craig’s List or in Facebook Marketplace.
- Create a post saying what you’re selling, for how much, condition, and where they’ll pick up or shipping details.
- Share a picture.
- Publish the post in the BST group.
When the item “sells”, another BST group member will claim it in the post’s comments. Make sure that you read the post’s comments and reply promptly to any questions about the item before the potential buyer loses interest.
If you’re going to sell on a BST group, you might as well offer shipping too. Your sales will double.
How Much Should I Charge for Shipping on BST?
Some BST groups make you include shipping in your pricing. Others, will let you charge separately but still require you to publish the rates you will charge (i.e. $5 flat fee, or $3 first item and $1 each additional item.)
Typically, I charge $4 to ship (first item or only item) and then $1.25 for each additional item. I know that I am overestimating costs, but I don’t want to end up having to eat any of the shipping fees. If my estimate is off by more than a couple of dollars, I will give the buyer a partial refund. (I just send them a few dollars via PayPal. Buyers appreciate it.)
This approach works if you ship with USPS and use polymailer bags. I have polymailers in 3 different sizes. XL polymailers for large orders come in handy because it’s cheaper and more convenient than having to stuff and seal a cardboard box.
Other Tips on Minimizing BST Shipping Costs
- When possible, charge the exact shipping cost that you are paying. (Some local BST groups will let you give the buyer their shipping total after you have packaged and weighed their order.)
- Most children’s clothing items weigh 8 oz or less, and cost $3 to $4 to ship via USPS if you use a polymailer.
- A heavier item of clothing can cost $5-$6.60 to ship via USPS if you use a polymailer. A heavier item tends to weigh 9 oz to 15 oz (1/2 a pound to just under a pound). Always way heavier items, like jackets, boots, hoodies, or snow pants, in advance. If you have a $10 item (you want to make $10) and shipping is $3.79, then I would round up and charge $14.
- Do not pay for shipping at grocery stores or supermarkets. These stores do offer USPS domestic shipping and it can be convenient, however, they are charging you higher rates. They are inserting their margin. Or as a clerk explained to me, services like PirateShip are giving you a discounted rate.
- US postal clerks tend to steer you towards more expensive shipping options. Tell them you want the cheapest method possible. Ask if a smaller box or different packaging could lower the costs.
How Do You Ship Something You’ve Sold in a BST Group?
Shipping from home, and skipping the post office, is super easy to do for BST groups. You’ll need a few things to ship items you sell on BST.
- A kitchen scale that can weigh up to 10-15 pounds.
- A printer.
- A ruler or tape measure.
Kitchen scales are cheap – you can find them for around $10 or less on Amazon.
Polymailers are light-weight, protective envelopes made from durable, moisture resistant material. Basically, they’re ultra thin, ultra light, flexible and bendable plastic envelopes that come with an adhesive seal. You can find polymailers super cheap on Amazon.
To ship a BST item:
- Put the item in a polymailer. (You can use extra packaging like ziploc bags or tissue paper or heart stickers. I never do though. I personally find it cloying.)
- Measure the length, width, and height of the package.
- Weigh the item on your kitchen scale.
- Visit a ship-from-the home site to enter the package info and the recipient’s address. I personally love, love, love PirateShip.com. It gives you the cheapest rates to ship, using USPS, UPS, or Fedex. Then you can print the shipping label at home. I prefer USPS because it’s almost always the cheapest, and then I can ship from home.
- Put the package in your mailbox for your mail carrier to pick up – or other drop-off site. If you don’t have a mailbox at home (i.e. you have a mail flap front door), you can bring your package with you to a grocery store that has a USPS counter. Or, you can bring it to USPS and skip the line. There’s always a drop-off spot on the counter for packages that are pre-labeled.
Can You Really Save Money on Kids’ Clothing with BST Groups?
The answer to this question is a resounding no and a resounding yes.
Plenty of moms join BST groups with the intention of saving money, only to become entangled in a world where $50 used dresses are the norm and $20 used joggers are a steal. Even $80 dresses seem like a bargain compared to its brand-new price of $350.
BST groups have introduced many moms to dozens of expensive brands they’d never heard of before like Gus + Steele and Quincy Mae and Alice + Ames.
The images and stories that accompany these BST listings are as intoxicating as any Influencer’s feed. Chubby-cheeked children frolicking serenely in tall golden fields. The kind with shoulder-high wheat and gently swaying clouds. You’ve all seen Instagram. They’re wearing leather boots or suede T-straps, and creamy gauze shirtwaists and mustard yellow pinafores.
Influencer-type images like these can persuade the most rational of moms that buying a third-hand dress for $50 is a good deal.
If you join BST groups vaguely “looking” for”cute things”, you’re likely to spend more money than you ever dreamt possible. I’ve seen used toddler dresses sell for nearly$2,000. I no longer flinch at seeing used sweatpants go for $30.
But if you have something particular in mind that you want to buy, and are firm in your resolve (I’m buying this and nothing else), there are fantastic BST deals to be had.
How to Actually Save Money on Kids Clothes with BST Groups
As I just mentioned, you need to shop for something particular in BST groups. A vague desire for something “cute” is deadly. Like showing up at an all you can eat mega-buffet of all your favorite restaurants combined. You’re going to overindulge, and badly.
So when I shop for my son (nearly 1 year), for example, when I shop BST it’s to fill particular gaps in his wardrobe.
Rather than buying anything that’s cute and well-priced, I hunt for specific pieces he needs. Like sleepers the next size up in a light-weight material, or an outfit he can wear for family pictures and other occasions.
Also, I stick with one color palate. Everything I buy him needs to”go with” the rest of his wardrobe so pieces can be interchanged. And clothing items need to be multi-purpose and long-lasting. He needs to be able to get at least 10 wears out of every item I buy him. (Once he turns 2 or 3, I’ll expect a minimum of 15-20 wears.) Polka-dot bow ties, Valentine print onesies, or Santa jammies are out.
Are BST Moms Really Psychotic?
Um, hell yes. If you read this mom’s hilarious rant about BST moms, she’s not wrong. BST moms are all hella crazy, myself included. We all go psychotic- about 1.5% of the time. The other 98.5% of the time, we’re lovely people. Really.
And we BST moms don’t turn psychotic so much as stubbornly principled.
Hell hath no fury like a morally wronged BST mom.
Failure to disclose a dime-sized stain is a minor tragedy that will require bitching to at least 2 girlfriends, an overly full glass of Chardonnay, and a post (in a separate BST group) venting about that mom. Such a nasty woman.
Were the stain a little larger, the be-wronged mom would ascend into the seventh inner circle of BST martyrdom – welcomed by a chorus of her sister moms.
But here are some common forms of BST “crazy”.
My Dog Only Drinks Bottled Water – And Other BST Crazy You May Run Into and Morph Into
- “But I’m a cheerleader…” Moms agreeing to purchase something for a said price, then saying they need a discount because: their neighbor’s cousin’s stepson has COVID, or they have already hit their BST spending budget for the week, or their cat had its tail amputated. BST groups have so many snowflakes.
- “Has that item ever been in the dryer?” BST clothing groups have major dryer hate. I’ve stopped using my dryer at home… Many items sold on BST have been re-homed two, three, or four or more times. I’ve had plenty of moms “pass” on buying from me because of the garment’s “unknown” dryer history in their previous lives with laundry deviants.
- “It’s illegal you won’t take cash.” I had a mom tell me this in near-tears. I am very specific in all of my BST listings about payment accepted via PayPal only.
- “My dog only drinks bottled water.” A mom selling a used baby dress for $150 waxed penitent, and apologized “It’s not from a pet-free home. We do have a dog. But she’s hypo-allergenic…and only drinks bottled water.”
- Tiny stains (the size of a pinhead) are tragic. For you, for your kids, and for your half-wit partner who actually let the kids actually play in their clothes.
- You’re constantly adding up (and subtracting) the re-sale value of your kids’ clothes based on stains, faded tags, and tiny pinhole stains.
- Premeditated tag removal is a sin. Let it scratch. Rashes fade. A tube of ointment costs $4. Remove a garment’s tag, you might as well shred it for rags.
- You share more autobiographical details in a BST listing than your dating profile. Dryer history. Detergents used. Pets. Vacations in Antibes (with questionable hard water at the resort). Close-up pics and fadeaway shots. Biological provenance of the cotton.
- You know that any flaw you fail to disclose, no matter how minuscule, could literally destroy someone’s Thanksgiving. Instagram-worthy memories can’t happen with loose stitching around the third buttonhole down that dress’ back.
- And yet, you’ve sold and purchased baby rompers with oily breastmilk stains. Because it’s a good brand that material is sooooo soft. (Why do people so openly disclose breastmilk stains, and why is no one grossed out? Breastmilk is a completely natural, normal secretion linked to biology and procreation. Just like cum.)
- You’re not the crazy one. It’s those other moms.
You can minimize the BST crazy though.
- Over-communicate. Over-communicate your expectations (item pick up, item pricing, item payment method.)
- Over-communicate on the condition of the item. Dryer history. Detergent. Pets at home. How often your child wore it. Whether or not you’re the first owner.
- Insert warnings to manage expectations. When I post listings, I warn moms that I disclose what I see. I don’t look for stains under black-lights or microscopes. Frankly, I may have missed something. If you’re super picky, this may not be the purge for you.
- Be clear and direct on any resolution you want. Don’t tell a buyer “You missed a stain.” You might get no reply, or an “Oops, sorry.” Advise what the issue is, politely, and ask for the remedy you want. “I noticed you may have accidentally missed these stains. If you could issue me a $10 partial refund, I would really appreciate it.”
- Karen needs to worry about Karen. And you need to worry about you. If you see rule violators (Betty didn’t include these requisite details in her post and she did it on purpose), let a group administrator know.
- Do not feed the trolls.
- Do not price-shame. Don’t laugh or scoff (emoticons or otherwise) at other people’s pricing. Don’t tell them where you can find their item cheaper, and brand new, online. If there’s a better deal elsewhere, buy it there.
Final Thoughts on Facebook BST Groups
I’ve been a bit waggish when talking about the crazier side of BST groups. Overall, BST’s are an effective way to buy and sell clothing and other purge-worthy items. Since BST groups tend to be themed around higher end brands, you won’t find garage sale cheap prices. But you can find big-ticket brands for up to 90% off. And you’ll acquire quite a few tales from the BST trenches along the way.