J. Crew sale bans shoppers from reselling clothes

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - People are flocking to a J. Crew warehouse sale in the West End for deep discounts. But some shoppers are taking issue with a sale rule, banning them from reselling the clothes they buy. Can a store do that?

Dig deep enough in the boxes of clothes, you'll find discounts up to 60% at the J. Crew warehouse sale.

But there are rules. There are no dressing rooms. You cannot buy more than $500 dollars worth of clothes. And you cannot resell the clothes you buy. Some shoppers have been sounding off on blogs, twitter, and to NBC12, saying it's a violation of the First Sale Doctrine, a 1908 Supreme Court Decision.

NBC12 legal analyst Steven Benjamin explains the First Sale Doctrine: "What this doctrine provides is that if we purchase an item, even though that item has copyright protection, we do have the right to resell that particular item."

But that law evolved over the century. So can a store ban you from reselling clothes at a consignment shop or a yard sale?

Benjamin says that depends. "Depends on whether the logo was copyrighted and attached in the United States. If so, then no, J. Crew quite frankly can't prohibit a customer from doing what ever he wants with that item," he explains. "But if J. Crew is selling clothing made outside of the country, and that's where the logos were attached, then J. Crew can prohibit that."

We saw J. Crew labels in clothes from the warehouse sale that say "Italy," which means, according to Benjamin, J. Crew may in fact be able to ban the resale of its clothes.

A J. Crew representative explained to us that the company established the warehouse sale rules to ensure all customers have equal opportunity to purchase J. Crew products after hearing concerns that some buyers bought up large quantities of product at previous sales. The representative says J. Crew's policies are not a violation of the First Sale Doctrine.

"It might be very important for them preserve the image of their product as a product that is only sold in their own exclusive stores and not sold for example on street corners or discount stores," said Benjamin.

Benjamin says there's not much J. Crew can do to resellers, other than refuse to sell to them again. And if you really wanted to sell an item, he says legally you could if you cut out the label.

"It all works if we use a little common sense, and sometimes a pair of scissors," Benjamin said.

The sale is in the former Borders Books building on West Broad Street through January 22nd.

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