When the Buyer Becomes the Seller


It’s no surprise that I’m a consignment lover. It’s a tactile shopper’s dream — every excursion is a voyage into the unknown, and no two stores or items are ever alike. Not only are you practicing greener, more sustainable shopping, but you are cobbling together a new sartorial biography built on the history of others.’

Hunting the racks at Tokio 7, Ina and Beacon’s Closet can often be fruitless, but the exercise feels infinitely more satisfying than a double click on an e-commerce site.

But I think I have found a sensation that rivals the shopping — the selling.

A few weeks ago, I started my bi-annual closet clean-out, and I soon was surrounded by dozens of dresses, shoes and handbags that no longer fit my frame or my lifestyle. I was faced with a couple choices:

  • Drag everything to the nearest Beacon’s Closet and hope for 30% of the price in cash
  • Photograph everything with my cellphone for an eBay listing
  • Have a garage sale

None of the options were appealing. And that’s when I remembered one forgotten option — that online consignor The Real Real would personally pick up your stuff to sell FOR FREE.

Dolce, Manolo and Prada were some of the shoes on the chopping block.
Dolce, Manolo and Prada were some of the shoes on the chopping block.

I visited the site and scheduled an appointment for 10 a.m. on a Sunday. The buyer arrived early and went through my piles of stuff efficiently and politely. Whenever I asked why she wasn’t taking a particular item, she would give specific, non-judgmental responses like, “Too much yellowing by collar” or “We no longer accept this brand.” This is a preferable approach to the kiss-offs I’ve gotten elsewhere like, “This isn’t in fashion anymore,” or “These shoes look really used.”

I mention the buyer’s demeanor because so often, consignment stores are staffed with well-meaning-but-brusque employees who seem to be judging you for your terrible former fashion sense. (This Portlandia skit below is ON THE MARK.)

Of the 50+ items I wanted to sell, The Real Real wound up taking 34 items. (I brought the rest to Beacon’s Closet, where I earned $200 in cash.)

The Real Real did sent back a few items  — like an anorak by Stella McCartney for Adidas — because of wear and tear, or the site was no longer accepting the brand. The accepted listings were up within a week.

Some of my items on the site.
Some of my items on the site.

I had very low expectations for the process, figuring my clothes would languish in the dark corners of the Internet until a fire sale. Alas, within a few weeks, the commission starting racking up:

My total sales on TheRealReal so far.
My total sales on TheRealReal so far.

You read that right — I’ve made nearly $500 just for cleaning out my closet, and that’s only for a fraction of the items I’m selling on the site. The process has been so fun, I’ve been digging through my closet looking for MORE items to cull. I’m even curious about starting my own eBay shop to try and make a bigger margin. Stay tuned for more tips and stories, bargain shoppers!