Buying and Selling on The RealReal: The Definitive Guide
There are a lot of reviews of The RealReal on the web, either astoundingly positive or negative, without much in between. There are stories of $4,000 fake bags and stories of people making all their income off of commissions, but very little info about the actual process of buying and selling on this innovative platform. Spoiler alert: I sway strongly to the positive side, with a couple of caveats, and I think you should too.
The RealReal Overall
The RealReal is “the leader in Authenticated Luxury Consignment,” and from your first click onto the website, it’s hard to argue with them. The site feels like any other luxury retailer—clean lines mixed in with “real world women” who just happen to be heartbreakingly chic, an ever-present Hermes bag somewhere on the homepage. This is, of course, on purpose, but The RealReal is the only consignment site to put in this kind of effort to be comparable to their full-priced counterparts.
Most thrift shop lovers have run into some beautiful store that’s “appointment only,” just to arrive and be disappointed by 10-year-old, worn-looking Chanel slides still priced at $400. The deal-seekers are used to going to their favorite dingy shops and rummaging around for an hour or two, sometimes just to emerge empty-handed. The RealReal offers a more beautiful, easier way to find those pieces at prices you can hardly believe.
Organized by item type, designer, or price, you can find everything from a $13 Philip Lim shift dress (yes, actually), to a $115,000 Crocodile Hermes Kelly Bag, to diamonds at one-third the in-store price—often with the designer tags still attached.
(okay, well this stuff wasn’t $13, but these Fendis are to die for and they were 1/7 retail )
The Eco Friendly Low Down
Since this is a site all about sustainable living, we better get down to it. The RealReal’s very concept necessitates a sort of eco-consciousness. 10% of the world’s carbon footprint is due to the fashion industry, with a garbage truck full of clothing going into landfills every second.
Extending the life cycle of a piece by buying or consigning preloved clothing is certainly an easy way to reduce that waste. The RealReal makes it easy to see just how much saving a piece from the landfill is worth by providing a water and carbon calculator on the viewing page of each item and on your consignment account page.
They use recycled boxes and tape for shipments, and reusable clothing bags to keep each item pristine along the way. The RealReal has also joined the CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge and promises to be carbon neutral in 2021.
They have also joined the 1 Million Tree Challenge to reforest the earth after disasters both natural and man-made. If you need a cherry on top, they partner with brands (Stella McCartney, for instance) to offer credit at the luxury store for consigning your items with The RealReal. What more could you want?
Selling on The RealReal
So, I might have a problem with thrift shopping. And also shopping in general. Have you ever been in a vintage store and found the most beautiful thing for the most unbeatable price only to find out it’s not in your size?
As a very tall person, I have a lot. And it’s still hard to part with those pieces. That’s why I started reselling five years ago: to be able to see those pieces go to someone who really loves them, and earn my own clothing budget off of it. I’ve tried it all—Ebay, my own site, in-store consignment—and now that I’ve found The RealReal, everything that will be accepted goes there. There are so many reasons why.
IT’S SO EASY. Because The RealReal is targeted toward people reselling their own clothes, the process couldn’t be simpler. You have options, too. Here are all the ways you can sell:
- Go to the site and fill out what you have and then ship it for free
- Have a representative come to your house and help you go through your closet
- Schedule a pickup for someone to come and get your goodies
- Make virtual appointments to go over your items on FaceTime
- Bring your items into the store.
After that, you just have to sit back and watch your pieces sell.
Once your item sells, you’ll have to choose how you want to be paid: You can choose store credit (and get 5% more) or direct deposit, both to be dispersed monthly. Depending on the price of the item your commission will vary—it’s all here. Like a lot of services, you get rewarded for using it, and your commission goes up the more you sell.
Now pricing. I’m sure I have you worried considering the buying review. Some items—think jeans, sunglasses, minimalist dresses—will be priced pretty low off the bat (though nothing under $50). That can be frustrating, but when you shop around it’s not much less (maybe by a few dollars) than what you’ll get elsewhere. And did I mention that they do all the work? If you have a problem with the price of an item, you can call and ask about it, or ask to have it returned.
This has happened to me twice. Once the price was upped by $400, and the second time my item was returned at no charge. (Honestly, why can’t all customer service be like this?)
If you’ve spent some time on the site, you’ll notice that most items are discounted beyond the original price. That happens automatically after a certain number of people have viewed an item but there hasn’t been a purchase. I have found that I can tell when a piece will be bought immediately—and they’re usually purchased the first day at full price. A pair of plain black jeans could take months, however. If at any time you’re unhappy with the price, you can request that your item be returned to you.
All rules are changed when you bring in a luxury bag or jewelry item, though. If you meet with an expert they will take the time to go over your piece carefully and quote you a price on the spot—one that, once you agree to it, is locked in until you also agree to a price reduction.
They also have a new program where you can sell fine jewelry and handbags priced over $1000 and get cash for your preloved goods immediately – at 60% the appraised price. Though the payout is lower, it’s sometimes worth it considering you get paid in about a week and a half versus a couple months.;
All in all, I definitely had some pieces sell for less than I wanted, but I could have gotten the item back at any time. Because they are so professional, quick, and easy, I recommend The RealReal to anyone wanting to clear out their wardrobe.
Extra: They often have promotions running for sellers, too. Sometimes just an appointment and one item can get you $50 store credit, with offers up to $250 for selling your unwanted pieces!
Pros of Selling on The RealReal:
- so easy, send it in and forget it
- transparent process
- large shopper base, so items sell quickly
- lots of options for consigning and earning
Cons of Selling on The RealReal:
- unless it’s over $1,000, you don’t have control over discounts
- processing can sometimes take a while, even for VIP members (think a month tops)
Buying on The RealReal
First off, the rumor of fakes. In the couple of years that I have been using The RealReal for the majority of my shopping, I haven’t run into one. However, I can entirely believe it would happen. People have to sort through millions of unique items to list, and people aren’t perfect. If you want a $10,000 bag for $3,500, I suggest visiting one of their stores. Those bags have definitely been checked by experts, and if you still have questions, they have luxury handbag experts and gemologists in store you can talk to. The RealReal is continuously making strides in the authentication department, and I haven’t found better at any resale shop.
I have quite honestly never experienced better customer service than at The RealReal. Remember that thing about being human? The two minor problems I’ve had with purchases (a half-concealed hole in a dress and a small stain on a white gown) were handled with such care I’ve never thought about another resale site or store since. Both items were taken back without me paying for shipping, of course, and I was also given free upgraded shipping and store credit after returning the gown. That’s better service than you expect from even their luxury competitors.
Okay, now the prices! Some of them are unbelievable. There are those highly coveted, limited-edition pieces that are still expensive, but it is hard to beat a $23 A.L.C. sequin midi skirt (currently wearing) or a red silk gown from Valentino at $200 (hanging in the closet). I know I mentioned two issues I had with purchases previously, but having bought at least 100 pieces from them, the steals are most definitely worth it.
Extra: Have you seen how gorgeous their stores are? Since they also sell luxury furniture, the stores look like the most chic Parisian apartment you’ve ever seen—and the closet of whoever owns said apartment. Oh, and you can get a craft flat white while you’re perusing, too.
Pros of Buying on The RealReal:
- pricing is super competitive
- you can find truly one of a kind pieces
- quick shipping
Cons of Buying on The RealReal:
- shipping costs $11.95
- since you’re buying preloved items, there will sometimes be a flaw they don’t catch
(to be honest, sometimes I go here instead of Starbucks)
The process of selling your clothing and buying preloved (or heavily discounted new) pieces might be new to you, but The RealReal makes the experience feel as if you’re in a Chanel store—with better customer service. Making this store your one stop shop for well-made pieces is a step toward a cleaner planet, and more bang for your buck!