Sociological Perspectives on The TikTok Reselling Trend 

Last Updated on May 6, 2024 by Karl Thompson

Reselling is when people buy cheap goods from one retailer and then sell them on at a higher price for profit. Reselling is one of the latest trends on TikTok. 

One such TikToker is a guy named Sam. He started out with buying branded clothing from charity shops and then selling them online for a profit. More recently he has been buying cheap products in bulk from supermarkets and selling them using Amazon’s Fulfilment Centers. 

He recently posted a video on TikTok of himself buying 100 lunch boxes from Tesco. Tesco had them for sale for £0.89, but Sam knew they sold for £7 on Amazon. He claims he made £1000 profit from selling these (he went back the  next day and bought more!). 

However, according to this article in the Sun newspaper, some people have criticised him. The consensus seems to be that he is a bit sad. The feeling is that he’s going against hidden social norms by buying as many as he can. He’s criticised for not leaving enough so other people can benefit from the cheap prices. 

Sociological Analysis 

I’m going to analyse two things from a sociological perspective here: one is Sam’s motives for doing this. The second is the societal reaction to Sam in Tesco. 


Following Max Weber’s social action theory Sam is motivated by instrumental motives, and possibly value-rational motives. 

  • His instrumental motive is to make a profit. This particular reselling event is one more step towards his stated aim of becoming a millionaire. Sam is clearly not bothered by the flack he’s getting, he’s focused on the goal. This is instrumental motivation.
  • It is quite likely he is also motivated by value-rational motives.  He thinks what he’s doing has inherent value. You can see this from his site, he’d ‘rather be doing this than working under a roof’. 

The inherent value in being an entrepreneur 

Entrepreneurialism is where individuals set up their own businesses to make a profit, rather than simply working for someone else. Sam probably identifies with this entrepreneur mindset. 

Being an entrepreneur is seen as worthwhile in itself, it is better than working a regular job. Being an entrepreneur means being a self-starter, an individual. It is about doing it for yourself, it means more freedom than working for someone else. You are your own boss, someone isn’t the boss of you. You are the one taking the risks, anything you achieve is because of your efforts. Being an entrepreneur is more dynamic, more exciting, more interesting, more varied than working a regular job. Finally, it’s simply a smarter way of making money than working 9-5. In Sam’s case he’s making a decent amount of money without making that much effort.  


From an interactionist point of view you have to understand how someone sees themselves in order to understand them. I think this is very much the case here. Sam seems to be constructing an active identity based around being an entrepreneur. TikTok is simply his aid in this. He identifies against the masses who he calls ‘Karens’. These are ordinary shoppers too set in their ways to make a quick profit like he’s doing. The masses are too stupid to be entrepreneurs, or too scared. 

NB Sam may or may not identify himself as an entrepreneur, I think it’s quite likely he does. However I’d say this is a base level of entrepreneurship. Reselling doesn’t involve creating, innovating, adding value, for example. 

In more complex terms you might call Sam a neoliberal subject. 

Reselling and Masculinity 

I don’t know how Sam identifies in terms of gender for certain, but reselling ticks many of the identifiers of traditional masculinity. At the very least by engaging in reselling, he’s proving he is smart (think back to Miller!). He displays this smartness by weighing up the risks. The tubs cost less than £1, he knows they will sell for a lot more, minimal risk. While the risk involved with this trade is minimal, he is taking on risk by choosing to be a reseller. There is no security with working for yourself, much less than with having income related to a job. This kind of individual risk taking, ‘bravery’ if you like is another trait of traditional masculinity. 

He’s also identifying with making money by making little effort, without really trying. This is something boys tend to do in school: they want to be seen to be successful without making the effort. 

Entrepreneurship and social status 

Post/ Late Modern Society tends to give positive social status to entrepreneurs, we massively celebrate entrepreneurialism in our culture. Sam has probably been influenced by the valorisation of entrepreneurialism in late modern society. 

We see this in many television programmes from The Apprentice to Dragons Den, and many more. We also increasingly see it on social media. So much of Facebook and TikTok are also full of people making money through side-hustles. In some cases these become their main sources of income. 

Add to this the fact that entrepreneurship is increasingly seen as the way we are going to solve social problems. It is no longer just nation states which tackle climate change or take us to space. There is a trend in which the world’s wealthiest individuals also set up private ventures to achieve these highly desirable global goals. 

In other words Sam is engaged in behaviour which is not only acceptable, but laudable from society’s point of view. 

The global and virtual versus the local and in-real-life 

Sam gets his ideas and sense of status from a global network posting on TikTok and other types of social media. There are small scale entrepreneurs in every country, not just the U.K. But to make a profit, Sam finds it easier to exploit local opportunities. In this case a one off sandwich box sale in a local Tesco. And he annoys local people! 

Societal Reaction 

Sam is here providing us with an interesting ethnomethodological case study. In doing something unusual, he shows up some hidden social norms. 

Transgression of social norms?

Sam has definitely transgressed a social norm by buying up most of these lunch boxes. Most people would feel uncomfortable buying so many. Some would buy maybe a dozen, but to stack a trolley FULL of them and spend over £100, that is unusual. 

Most ordinary people would feel the weight of the collective conscience and restrict the amount they bought. 

This restraint is one of many hidden norms in the supermarket, and it maybe goes along with a sense of Britishness: restraint, politeness, fairness. Sam has breached all of these. This is maybe while people are upset. 

However it’s also maybe because Sam is so blatant about it, he clearly doesn’t care. He doesn’t care what the Karens think. To do this, AND be so bold about it, this not-caring, that is maybe why people are so upset. It’s his attitude. 

However, as Sam points out in his reaction video to The Sun’s article, he is only operating according to the same logic as Tescos. He isn’t anywhere near as bad as Tesco, or Amazon, for that matter. 

He is most definitely NOT the main scourge of British society from a Marxist point of view! 

Tesco’s motives for selling some products cheap

Tesco doesn’t do these occasional cheap deals because it loves its customers. 

Tesco has a huge amount of data on consumer habits. It will know precisely what high profit items to stack next to cheap lunch boxes (for example). By doing this, Tesco can make more profit overall even if it makes no profit, or a slight loss on the special-offer items. The lunch boxes were probably next to lots of very expensive children’s healthy mini-snacks in this case. 

Moreover If people know there will usually be something on special offer, they are more likely to return to Tesco. Tesco always have some products on special offer in order to keep customers coming back. 

This is known as a loss-leading strategy. This is a sneaky way of making themselves look good. However, it is really about manipulating customers into being more loyal and spending more. 

Large companies can afford to do this more than smaller companies. This strategy, which Sam took advantage of, is one of the ways large companies maintain market dominance. 

Ultimately their aim is to increase profit, just like Sam’s. The only difference is that Sam’s profit making strategy of buying in bulk and selling elsewhere at a profit is in-your-face. It’s obvious, crude, not sneaky and devious like the way Tesco sets up these special offers. 

All Sam is really doing is preventing Tesco making even more money* and skimming some of that profit for himself. *If everyone does this people are just going to get annoyed that the special offer is out of stock, that wouldn’t encourage loyalty to Tesco.

Media exaggeration 

The Sun’s main motive is to get people to read so they can get more advertising revenue. The journalist who wrote this article knows very well it’s going to be popular. This event taps into so many current social themes. And it clearly got a lot of reads. This video got Sam 1.5 Million views, Sam’s regular videos get 10s of thousands.

However if you read the comments closely there doesn’t appear to have been that much hating of Sam going on, there is a lot of praise too. In other words there wasn’t that much of a reaction. 

And honestly, he’s buying a few cheap lunch boxes! 

Also, Sam’s regular audience is hardly at global influencer level. So really Sam’s reselling is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. 

Sam the Reseller Final Thoughts

If you’ve ever watched Only Fools and Horses, Delboy used to buy and sell. Sam is like a modern aged Delboy, maybe without the dodgy goods, and with a virtual twist! 

This is a fantastic case study which illustrates many sociological concepts! 

Thanks Sam!

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