“Never Liked It Anyway”: online garage sale meets self-help aisle

My favourite (and only) daughter Larissa is getting married soon, oh joy! This happy occasion, of course, means many memorable moments this year, including my best so far: our mother-daughter time spent picking out The Dress. The price of wedding gowns (in case you haven’t set foot in a bridal salon lately) has prompted Larissa to do some browsing online as well as in the shops. She’s spotted some lovely dresses for sale online (at a fraction of the original retail price) along with, of course, the explanation of WHY the selling bride is parting with The Dress.

For example, consider this online ad for a brand new, never-worn dress, offered for just $400:

“This gorgeous wedding gown was originally purchased at a Houston, Texas fou-fou boutique, and is definitely one of the most beautiful wedding gowns I’ve ever seen. It makes people cry, in a very sentimental way. Luckily, I never wore it, so there’s no bad ju-ju involved! The guy loved his video games more than me. Can you imagine?!”

This ad was posted on a website called Never Liked It Anyway, which attracts about 15,000 visitors a day. It’s a site for buying and selling unwanted post-breakup items, but it’s actually far more than that. The Globe and Mail has described NLIA as “online garage sale-meets-self-help aisle”.

It’s the brainchild of Annabel Acton, a 28-year old Aussie who, five days before Christmas, broke up with her sweetie and suddenly found herself with two plane tickets to London that she didn’t want anymore. Selling these online – and being able to vent a bit about the tragic circumstances prompting the sale – seemed to help “make this breakup suck a little less”.  Thus was born her new  website.

Visitors to NLIA have three options when they visit: Buy It, Sell It, and Tell It. There are various retail categories.

I went straight to Clothing. There are a whack of wedding dresses here, each accompanied by a compelling story. But there’s also jewelry, accessories and leather goods. For example:

  • “This ring was a Christmas present from the ex. Oh wait, except I went shopping for it, picked it out, paid for it, got it resized. Beautiful ring, but I want to reinvest the money into one with no attachment to him.”  $150 (real world price: $560)
  • “Adrienne Vittadini Black Leather ‘Jeff’ Boots. His name was Jeff. He turned into a heel. Cannot wear the boot knowing that its name is Jeff. Although every step I take if I did keep them would make me feel like I was stepping on his head.  Hmmmm…. maybe I could keep them. No. Someone else should stomp him. Please take them off my hands.”  $65 (real world price: $165)

Or perhaps you’re interested in a good deal on electronics?  How about:

  • “Apple MacBook Pro: Was left here by someone. Don’t really want to talk about it.” $550 (real world price: $800)
  • “Kindle: I had an iPad. I had said a few times that I didn’t want a Kindle, but still I got one for Christmas. She used it more than I did – but I took it when we split, now hoping to sell it.”  $90 (real world price: $189)

Annabel Acton herself says this about her NLIA project:

When I had the [website] idea, I started researching breakups and quickly discovered there wasn’t much out there that was witty, inspirational and a little irreverent.  All there was were dramatic clichés and useless metaphors.

“It made me all the more determined to create a community with a bit of humour, lightness and attitude. I also became fixed on doing something that offered an action — sell something!”

Is this particular type of post-breakup buying and selling helpful? Nona Willis Aronowitz, associate editor at Good Magazine, thinks that it is:

“Everyone wins: The heartbroken purge their past and get some consolation cash to line their pockets. The frugal get good deals and interesting (if excruciating) stories behind their finds.”

While NLIA encourages the heartbroken to sell their unwanted stuff, a study in the U.K. last fall reported that many women prefer to go shopping instead after a break-up.

This study of over 2,000 newly-single British women found that the average woman spent £500 in the months immediately following the split in order to “specifically reinvent her image after being dumped”. Researchers suggested that women tend to react to painful breakups with a form of retail therapy, shelling out on haircuts and highlights, gym memberships, mani-pedis, hoping, for example,  that “a new wardrobe for that much-needed self-esteem boost” may help them feel better faster.

But Dr. Nicole Mead of the Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research has questioned whether the popular notion “Retail is the new rebound!” really works at all. Her research*, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, has looked at how social exclusion – and not necessarily just the romantic kind — impacts our spending.  She observed that participants who felt rejected in romance tended to overspend or buy items associated with belonging.

In 2006, Dr. Elizabeth Dunn was part of a research team from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, who, along with a colleague from the Harvard Business School, conducted experiments to measure the association between levels of happiness and consumer spending. She believes that socially excluded consumers like the newly-single should learn to spend “in positive ways that foster social relationships”, adding:

“Instead of going shopping after a breakup, maybe call up a friend and sign up for a cooking course. Use your money for something that will help connect you in a very experiential way rather than in a materialistic way.”

Or, in other words, don’t go shopping, go selling! Getting rid of stuff – particularly anything harbouring painful associations with the ex – not only clears space, reduces clutter, and brings in some extra cash, but it may help to psychologically turn the page and move on.

Unlike posting that unwanted stuff on Craigslist, using an online site like Never Liked It Anyway means exposure to value-added sections such as The Moving On Manual, in which you’ll find real-life pithy advice about getting over your heartbreak from other newly-singles, such as:

  • “The best revenge is living well. It will drive him/her crazy that you are not miserable without them.”
  • “Get the Fat App and distort a photo of them. Instant relief and instant comedy!”
  • “Watch Jersey Shore and remember: it could always be worse.”
  • “Ban all Celine Dion songs (you should do this anyway).”
  • “Lychee martinis cure all. And the more you have, the greater your daily fruit intake. Win-Win.”
  • “Ask your friends what they really thought of your girlfriend. The truth will make you feel better.”


*   Social Exclusion Causes People to Spend and Consume Strategically in the Service of Affiliation. Nicole L. Mead, Roy F. Baumeister, Tyler F. Stillman, Catherine D. Rawn and Kathleen D. Vohs. Journal of Consumer Research.  Vol. 37, No. 5 (February 2011), pp. 902-919

♥   And Happy Birthday hugs and chumoos this week to my Larissa! 


4 thoughts on ““Never Liked It Anyway”: online garage sale meets self-help aisle

  1. I liked browsing through NLIA, thanks for the link. Like a microcosm of sociology, all the stories and helpful break-up tips. Plus bargain shopping, what’s not to like about this?! Fascinating.

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