All I wanted was a damn Lorde T-shirt — the black one with pink and yellow letters from the musician’s iconic Melodrama World Tour. What I got was a likely scam and some hyper-specific Gen Z melodrama of my own.
Like a lot of people my age (hello, legal White Claw!), I’ve been shopping on Depop, a London-based thrifting app. Beloved by teens and fashionistas, Depop is like a super-hip virtual Salvation Army. It lets users operate a clothing swap from their actual closets, selling hand-me-down T-shirts, lightly used American Apparel jeans and actual ’90s-era Champion sneakers that have sat in Dad’s attic for 20 years. The app has the grid-like appearance and comment sections of Instagram, the DMs and Marketplace features of Facebook and the artistic commercial aesthetic of Etsy.
But more than anything, Depop has the teens. It helps that top Gen Z influencers Emma Chamberlain and Madison Beer have shops on Depop. The Cut reports 90 percent of the app’s 15 million users are under 26. It’s a major contributor to the ’90s-style revival. Depop, which recently bagged $62 million in investments, has triumphed over struggling brick-and-mortar retailers like Urban Outfitters and Topshop in securing Gen Z’s collective interests and credit cards.
And it had my shirt — or so I thought. I snagged the Lorde concert tee in the right size from a seller here in NYC. A few days later, the seller told me the item had shipped, but my Depop receipt shows no change in shipping status. I have no tracking number, and I’m going on week three of zero responses. So far, Depop has been just another platform to get ghosted on.
Looks like I’m not alone in my yearning for some improvement in seller reliability. Depop has quickly become the underground home for the most entertaining — and biting — conversations online. With over 111,000 followers, the anonymously run Instagram account Depop Drama chronicles the user-submitted funny, bizarre and low-key scary conversations that occur on the app. It’s a public record of Gen Z reshaping the rules of e-commerce.
I spoke with the founder of Depop Drama, a fashion designer in London who requested to remain anonymous. “Almost everyone is buying and selling items online nowadays,” they explain. Depop users are often on both ends of the conversation, at one moment buying a high-waisted pair of jean shorts, and the next, selling a pair of vintage Tevas. “Because it’s relatable, people love it.”
My favorites are the fraught attempts to bargain. Almost all of which are immediately shut down.
There are also the strange explanations for why an item hasn’t shipped or has arrived in poor condition.
Because accounts are public feeds, it’s not uncommon to slide into a Depop DM when shooting your shot on Instagram or Facebook didn’t go as planned.
Depop Drama posts feature hilarious bits of oversharing. Sellers give far too much information about why an item is late (hamster got chlamydia) or why it lacks a proof of purchase (they stole it from Selfridges). “The more informal you are, the more authentic and original you come across, which then results in sales,” the Depop Drama founder says. Depop Drama is a glimpse at how Gen Z is adapting hustle culture to adolescent life.
Of course, it’s entirely possible these conversations are fabricated or staged. It’s also hard to determine if these users are actually teens. But if the message is funny, it gets posted. Depop Drama claims to receive more than 250 submissions a week; 10 percent of those make the grid, the founder says. Seventy-five percent of the Instagram audience is reportedly between ages 18 to 25.
Alarmingly, the founder estimates 80 percent of submissions are from girls who’ve received sexually harassing messages. Some are posted, with clear consent from the young women who submit them. “I’ve built a pretty big platform, and it makes sense for me to try and stop this ‘culture’ where males feel like they can say whatever they want to females on these apps,” the founder says.
For its part, Depop has set community guidelines to combat harassment and a partnership with PayPal to minimize scammers. As the app continues to evolve, so too will Depop Drama. The account, which calls itself the “stupid uncle of Depop,” is routinely tagged in Depop influencers’ Instagram posts looking to gain new followers.
One thing that doesn’t seem to be evolving: The likelihood of me ever receiving my Lorde shirt. Although at least I don’t have to worry about finding a used condom in my package.