Monday, August 5, 2019

Reselling with TheRealReal

The four items I dropped off at TheRealReal, three of which they accepted. 

As I mentioned in early June, after letting certain more pricey unwanted items in my closet (which I knew that neither my sister nor any of my close friends would like) collect dust for years, I finally decided to try reselling them in the only sufficiently low-effort way that would suit me: I took them to one of TheRealReal's brick and mortar shops here in NYC and dropped them off for consignment in the last week of May. Now that all the items they accepted from me - three of the four things I brought in - have been sold, I am writing about my experience reselling with TheRealReal. 

Overall, I was very satisfied with my TheRealReal consignment experience. My only real goal was to resell these items after having spent as little of my time or effort as possible to accomplish that goal. I didn't have a specific price in mind for anything I sent in. The most important thing to me was that each of the items would find a buyer, and if I only got paid a nominal amount, that was fine by me. Hopefully, the buyers of each of my things will get far more use out of them than I did. Like I did with one of my items, these buyers may even someday send the items back to TheRealReal for another round of resale when they're done with them.

Some of my items were extremely old - I purchased two of them, the Rebecca Minkoff Morning After Bag and the Ferragamo Varas, nearly a decade ago - and I didn't think there was much of a market for anything I gave to TheRealReal. I had no interest in continually listing or re-listing the items myself on places like eBay or Poshmark until I found a buyer. (I was actually shocked that my items sold out so fast, within a month or two of being posted for sale!) Plus, I find the chore of shipping things out far more annoying and tedious than most people would, so that was something I preferred to avoid, which left me with basically no other practical option besides dropping off these items for consignment in person. 

In terms of whether my experience is a representative one, keep in mind that the items I sent in are probably some of the most modestly priced ones in TheRealReal's entire product catalog. Just from my limited experience, I could see that they take longer to scrutinize and process some categories of items than others. And as you'll see, the pricing of your items by TheRealReal will affect the commission rate. Among other bloggers I read, Elaine (part one, part two) and Kathy have also posted in some detail about their experiences selling with TheRealReal. Both of them seem to have more experience than I do with sending in items from a wider range of categories, so their posts might be more helpful than mine, if you're thinking of consigning something.

Please follow the link below to read a step-by-step account of my TheRealReal reselling experience! 

As of yet, it seems that only NYC-dwellers have the option of dropping off their items for consignment in person at one of TheRealReal's brick and mortar stores here. I made an appointment a few days ahead through their website. When I got to the store in Soho that Sunday for my appointment, I noticed that a few people were also able to walk in to consign their item(s) during the brief time I was there, so there may not actually be a pressing need to make an appointment. I arrive for my appointment a few minutes early, and one of their in-store "consignment specialists" is able to see me almost immediately.

It turns out that, at least for my items, the in-person consignment process is actually just a quick and easy drop-off. The only thing that the in-store "consignment specialist" appears to check is whether your items are from the list of brands TheRealReal accepts. Any actual decisions about whether your items are in good enough condition for them to resell are made later, after your items are shipped to their warehouse. Because it's my first time reselling with them, I also needed to spend a minute reviewing and signing their consignment contract. (I'd actually gone online and signed the contract already, but ah well, it's no big deal to me to review and sign again.) Among other things, the contract's terms indicate that one has minimal recourse if one is dissatisfied with TheRealReal's pricing decisions.

The "consignment specialist" is very upfront with me about how, as a general rule, most of TheRealReal's accepted items will be eligible for one of their ubiquitous 20% off coupons or some other discount. That's consistent with my experience as a buyer, there's always been some kind of coupon available on everything I've ever purchased from them. When I comment, somewhat sheepishly, that one of the items I brought in that day was something I originally bought from TheRealReal years ago, their "consignment specialist" says that this is actually common and somewhat expected. She does this too, she says. After barely 15 minutes at their store, I'm done with my drop-off. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in a commission, typically a few cents, for me if you click. Thank you for your support!

My items take two or three business days to arrive at TheRealReal's warehouse, and after that, I check in to the "My Sales" section of their website frequently to keep track of how my items are doing. I soon notice that it takes them longer to process certain categories of items:
  • My Rebecca Minkoff Mini Morning After Clutch ("MAC"), a fairly recent design that's still available new at some retailers, is listed remarkably quickly, within another two business days. It also sells very quickly. 
  • It takes them another two or three business days to decide that my ancient pair of Ferragamo Varas (which were already quite well-used when I bought them for ~$55 on eBay in 2009, though I barely wore them since) is not in good enough condition for them to resell. That's a fair decision on their part, because from looking through TheRealReal's Ferragamo shoe section, they tend to price most pairs of Varas they accept at ~$100 to start (even if those frequently available 20% off coupons will reduce those prices), and my pair is definitely not worth that! 
  • It takes another week or two for TheRealReal to process my remaining items. I originally purchased that Diane von Furstenberg ("DvF") Julian silk jersey wrap dress from TheRealReal for $66 - after factoring in one of those 20% off coupons - back in February 2015. They end up accepting it and listing it for a little less this time around. Back when I bought it, DvF silk jersey wrap dresses were still fairly easy to find new at department stores and DvF's website, but I don't think that's the case anymore, they're no longer a particularly current style. One can still find a decently wide range of them at TheRealReal, however. 
  • My Rebecca Minkoff Morning After Bag ("MAB") - a design that has been discontinued for at least five years, probably a bit longer - takes the longest for TheRealReal to process, but they ultimately decide to accept and list it. That ends up happening around the end of the second week after my items first arrived at their warehouse. 

Please refer to the below screenshot of my personal "My Sales" page at TheRealReal to see the list of the prices that each of my items sold at, and the commission I received for each. Payouts happen fairly quickly, the 15th day of the month after the sale becomes final. Handbags sold by TheRealReal are final sale, so the payout reliably becomes available the following month. (Not sure what happens if there ends up being a return anyway. I have heard, anecdotally, that TheRealReal will take returns on handbags if the buyer has questions about authenticity. That's generally not an issue for the Rebecca Minkoff price point, I suspect.) Clothing bought from TheRealReal is not final sale, though they have a fairly restrictive return window - the return authorization must be requested by the buyer within 14 days from when the item ships - so the payout for clothing might take a bit longer than for handbags. I'm scheduled to get my final payout on August 15.

In terms of TheRealReal's notes about the condition of and any defects with each of the items they accepted, I thought they had reasonably good attention to detail and were accurate and fairly conservative in their assessments. They described my DvF dress as being in good condition - which was accurate - except for "light discoloration" at the neckline, something I never noticed. That Rebecca Minkoff MAB had "light tarnishing" on the hardware and "light creasing" on the exterior, as well as some light residue on the interior lining, which was also all accurate. The only correction I would make was that there was at least one noticeable small scuff on the body, which their condition notes did not specifically call out. Whoever did the evaluation of my Rebecca Minkoff MAC was arguably a bit more detail-oriented, and was a lot more cautious about scuffs, saying that there was "light creasing or scuffs throughout," which I think slightly overstates the problem. Regardless, I was okay with the prices they set for each of my items, and the photos they took also gave an accurate sense of each item for potential buyers.

TheRealReal's commission structure is a bit complicated. Technically, new resellers - like yours truly - are generally entitled to a 55% commission for most items. That commission rate could go up if one successfully sells enough. (The next level, which one attains after reselling $1,500 worth of product, has a 60% commission rate.) More modestly priced items, however, those that start with an original TheRealReal list price of $145 or less, are only entitled to a 40% commission rate regardless of your past resale volume. Additionally, certain categories of items, including high-end watches and ultra high-end handbags, are always entitled to a higher commission rate (currently 80%).

By August 15, I will have received $79.50 for my three items from TheRealReal, at least one of which - that Rebecca Minkoff MAB - may have been particularly difficult to resell due to it being an old and not especially sought after design. Not too shabby, considering how little work I needed to do! I'm quite satisfied with this, though I know not everyone would be. TheRealReal's pricing decisions can be a bit mysterious. When browsing their website as a buyer, I've certainly noticed that some very similar-looking items - even substantially identical-seeming ones - can sometimes be priced very differently. If my items were more valuable, I might not be happy to have so little control over the pricing of my item, and through that, the commission I could expect to receive.

As for the Ferragamo Varas they rejected? One feature of TheRealReal's consignment process is that they ship back rejected items for free, so it is, essentially, zero-risk. In my case, there was a minor snafu where they accidentally mailed out the item to an old address they had on file for me. I didn't get an automated notification when that package was returned to TheRealReal, so I needed to follow up with their customer service to make sure the package was sent out again to the correct address. Not sure how it took so long, but their customer service is maybe not so great or so well-organized on the return shipping end, and it ended up taking 4-5 weeks for the return shipment to be sent out. I needed to follow up a second time in the meantime. This wasn't a huge deal to me, however, as there's not much I can do with those shoes, and they're not worth much either. The only lesson there might be to make sure to delete old mailing addresses from your TheRealReal profile, to prevent this type of mix-up from happening.

In the end, this was a bit of a one-shot experiment for me. I'm not likely to have another set of items that I could drop off with TheRealReal anytime in the foreseeable future, because there simply aren't that many other items in my wardrobe from brands that they accept, and I rarely shop from such brands. Have you ever resold anything with TheRealReal? How long did it take your items to sell, and were you happy with the payout? 

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