One of my “20 for 2020” goals is to “sell designated items on eBay or similar.” This is something I’ve been wanting to do since last fall, but I procrastinated on it for many months. The task felt daunting because of the sheer volume of items that I planned to list, but I finally got around to making it happen during the second half of August. In today’s post, I share why I decided to sell wardrobe items online, what I’m selling and why, and the lessons I learned from my expensive shopping mistakes.
Why I Listed My Items on eBay
Over the last couple of weeks, I spent a number of hours listing thirty items – clothes, shoes, and accessories – on eBay. The time spent included taking photos of the pieces I planned to sell (or finding stock photos online), writing descriptions, packing things up, and setting prices. As with many tasks in life, this process took a lot longer than I thought it would. I have very little experience with selling items online, as I’ve generally opted to either donate my castoffs or take them to a local consignment store instead. So why did I decide to go the eBay route this time around? There were three main reasons for my decision, as I’ll detail below.
Reason One – Consignment Store Changes
The last time I drove to my favorite resale store with items to consign (pre-pandemic), they passed up almost everything that I brought in. Because of “fast fashion” and the high frequency of sales throughout the retail industry, such stores have had to change their strategies in order to survive. This particular store has opted to focus primarily on higher-end designer items, so they’ve stopped accepting clothing and accessories from mid-level retailers and brands. Since most of my wardrobe is purchased from those mid-level sources, consigning is no longer a viable option for me (as I suspect other local consignment stores have adopted similar practices).
When I look back, I realize that I never received much money for my consigned pieces anyway. After seeing printouts of what I sold on a few occasions, I was shocked to see how small the payout was per item. However, it was nice to get some cash or store credit periodically in exchange for handing over things that no longer worked for me (or maybe never did).
Reason Two – Expensive Mistakes
I continue to donate the majority of my wardrobe castoffs to a couple of charity shops, but some of my pieces were quite pricey and I wanted to try to recoup at least a portion of my losses. Most of the items that I listed on eBay had never been worn, but I wasn’t able to return them for a refund because they were either “final sale” or the return deadline had passed. They weren’t all expensive, but collectively it added up to a lot of money that never should have been spent!
The final sale items were mostly bought at end-of-season sales for the brand CAbi, which I became enthusiastic about in recent years after attending a few clothing parties hosted by a friend. The pieces are nice and well-made, but many of them have no place in my ultra-casual life. I also purchased them wearing “sales goggles” and got dazzled by a “good deal” (the end-of-season sale items are priced at half-price or lower).
Of course, I should know better by now, which is why these mistakes stung so badly. My thought process for selling items online was that if I could get back even a portion of what I spent on costly errors, I might be able to assuage some of my guilt. I know all about the “sunk cost fallacy” (that the money has already been spent and I can’t get it back), but I still felt like it would help me emotionally to be able to sell some of my castoffs. That may not end up being true, but it was part of my rationale for listing many of my items for sale.
I also thought that I could use the proceeds from selling my mistake pieces toward buying things that are more appropriate for how I actually live – or perhaps for something not wardrobe-related at all. Most of the mistakes were made in 2019 or earlier, but a few were from the beginning of this year, which hurts all the more. How long is it going to take for me to stop making these types of stupid mistakes?
Reason Three – “Penance”
Clearly, I’ve been making shopping mistakes for a long time. Even if you just go back to when I started Recovering Shopaholic, we’re looking at over seven years, but the truth is that I’ve been making ill-advised purchases for as long as I can remember. Yet it’s been all too easy to just dispense with my mistakes by making a quick trip to a local charity shop or consignment store. After handing over my castoffs at one of these establishments, the items could be “out of my hair” – and the guilt often went right along with them.
I wanted to “feel the pain” a bit more this time, though, in the hopes that maybe I would “get it” and learn more from the mistakes that I had made. It’s not really that I wanted to beat myself up, as I do more than enough of that already (it’s something that I’m working on!). Rather, I wanted to make it a little harder for me to get rid of my worst mistakes. If a short car ride is all it takes for me to get my bad purchases out of sight and out of mind, and then I just go out and buy more stuff, that’s a whole lot of waste and not enough learning and reform. I’m aiming for far less of the former and far more of the latter!
What I Listed For Sale
As I mentioned above, I listed thirty items for sale on eBay. The items can be broken down into the following categories:
- 7 pairs of shoes (2 new, 5 pre-owned)
- 6 pairs of pants/jeans (all new)
- 10 jackets/coats (7 new, 3 pre-owned)
- 2 cardigans (both new)
- 2 dresses (both new)
- 1 top (new)
- 1 purse (pre-owned)
- 1 necklace (new)
The pre-owned items that I listed are all in excellent, “like new” condition, and many of them were fairly expensive when they were purchased new. Here’s a quick look at all of the items:
Why I Listed the Items – The Issues
I always think it’s helpful to make note of why we purge garments, shoes, and accessories from our closets, as this helps increase our awareness of potential issues to be aware of when shopping. If we notice, for example, that we often get rid of items that are a particular color, style, or silhouette, that can alert us not to buy such things in the future.
When it comes to the pieces that I listed on eBay, there are four main reasons for my doing so: uncomfortable shoes, garments that are too small, unflattering silhouettes, and overall style issues. Several of the thirty items fall into more than one of these categories. Let’s look at each category one by one. I’ll share the items, the issues, and the lessons I learned from my expensive mistakes.
Both of the shoes shown below were purchased online. I love both of the styles, but the comfort was not up to par. In the case of the metallic peep-toe heels, I thought they would work when I first received them (back in 2018), but the strap in the back was very uncomfortable against my heel and gave me blisters. I tried getting the strap stretched by a cobbler, but it didn’t help much. I bought the red and black animal print shoes on Poshmark recently because of my newfound love of red, plus I thought they would work well with my black-heavy wardrobe. Sadly, the ankle strap is painful against my prominent ankle bones, so the shoes are a miss for me.
I learned three lessons from these shoes that didn’t work out for me:
- First and foremost, I should never purchase shoes that I have not tried on (like the red and black print sandals) and that I can’t return (Poshmark has a no returns policy). My feet are fussy enough to make such behavior a very risky proposition. I either have to know that something works (i.e. I’ve tried the shoes on previously and am confident of the size and fit) or I have to be able to return it.
- Ankle strap shoes rarely work for me due to the structure of my ankles. I love the look, but I think I just need to enjoy this style on others, at least until I’m back to trying on shoes in stores and can check for fit and comfort. We all have shoe styles that are risky propositions. For you, it may be ballet flats or tall boots instead of ankle strap sandals, but it’s helpful to know which styles to either avoid or tread lightly with when buying.
- If shoes aren’t comfortable right out of the box, they’re probably never going to be cozy to wear. We shouldn’t have to “break our shoes in.” Yes, shoes will loosen up with time, but if they hurt our feet from the get go, we should either not buy them or return them (if we ordered them online). It’s also a good idea to wear shoes around the house for a little while to see how they feel. Sometimes shoes will feel good when we first put them on, but not after walking around for even a short while, as was the case with my metallic peep-toe heels.
Too Small Clothing
The five items below were listed on eBay because they’re too small for me.
The only garment that I wore multiple times was the cobalt coat, which I purchased in early 2013. This coat would have been better for me in a size larger, but it was a one-off Nordstrom return from the previous year’s anniversary sale and was the only size available. It was always a bit snug when fully buttoned, but it worked fine until my post-menopausal weight gain a few years ago. I wish I could find this coat in the next size up, as the style is a perfect match for my personal aesthetic, but no such luck. Hopefully I’ll be able to find something similar this coming winter.
I bought the black lace coat and the red coat on Poshmark last year. I thought they would fit me because I was familiar with the brands and knew what size I usually wore in them. The red coat actually did fit when it arrived, but it had such a strong laundry detergent odor that I had to wash it multiple times to try to get rid of the smell. The coat was supposed to be machine washable and I used cold wash, gentle cycle, but it still shrunk considerably. The black lace coat had either been altered (it was supposed to be new) or that particular style from a familiar brand ran very small. In both cases, I was unable to return the coats, so I’m hoping to find takers for them on eBay soon.
The pants were both purchased at a CAbi end-of-season sale and they’re probably a size too small. Some people would wear them as they are, but I don’t like to wear super snug clothing. There are also style issues with both pairs of pants, which I’ll address in a later section, but I shouldn’t have bought them for the size issue alone.
The important lessons that I learned from these too small items are:
- Don’t buy items that almost Coats need to be comfortable when fully buttoned in case they need to be worn that way, as is often the case when I visit my family in Lake Tahoe (I usually wear my coats unbuttoned in temperate Southern California). Pants also need to be comfortable to wear both when standing and sitting. All too often, I’ve owned pants that are great when I’m standing or walking around but are painful when I’m sitting down. It’s important to do a “sit test” for all pants and jeans before buying them.
- Don’t buy things that can’t be returned unless I’m absolutely positive about the fit. It doesn’t matter if I’m familiar with a brand and usually wear a certain size. The fits for various styles within a brand can often vary, as was the case with the black lace and red coats.
- Only buy “new with tags” items when purchasing from online resale sites. Since I’m sensitive to fragrances, laundry detergents, and fabric softeners, it’s too risky for me to buy pre-owned items online. I wouldn’t have thought a wool blend coat would arrive smelling like detergent, as such items are generally dry clean only, but you never know. It’s better for me to stick to items that I know are new and have never been laundered.
Eight of the items I listed for sale were unflattering on me:
The only item above that isn’t new is the polka dot dress, which I wore just once, to my brother’s wedding in August 2018. I actually love the style of the dress, but the waistline came up too high on me, which is a common problem with my height, even though I’m relatively short-waisted. I ended up feeling self-conscious in the dress the entire time I was wearing it, and I kept trying to tug it down so the waistline would be in line with my anatomical waist. I should have tried harder to find a better-fitting dress for the occasion, but I left it too late and didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that I likely wouldn’t wear much.
Here are some notes about the other items shown:
- The joggers are too snug in the calves and the side stripes accentuate my hips, which I don’t want to do. I took a chance on these pants on eBay last year and am hoping another woman who wears a size Medium Tall will want to snap them up.
- The bomber is cozy, warm, and well-made, but the boxy style hides my slim torso and hits right at my hips, which isn’t a good look on me. In general, it’s good for me to try out new silhouettes so I don’t get into a clothing rut, but this one was a miss on me and I should have returned it while I could.
- The black trousers are too high-waisted and hip-hugging for my personal preferences. I took a chance on them because they were a tall size and a low price, but they were a miss.
- The cobalt top is totally my color, but I didn’t love the cap sleeve (my upper arms aren’t as toned as they once were) and the curved hem (if I were shorter, it might work, but it hit right at my hips and was unflattering). This item was the first one to sell on eBay, so I recouped some of my investment, but I wish I would have sent it back within the return window.
- The long mottled black/gray cardigan is the duster style that usually works well on my tall frame, but the horizontal ribs across my bottom and the flared hem only served to make me look bottom heavy (which I kind of am, but I don’t like to shine a neon light on it!).
- I love the style of the black asymmetrical dress, but it didn’t look very good from behind. I could probably make it work if I wore Spanx, but I generally feel that if I need shaping garments to wear something, it’s a no go. Life’s too short to feel uncomfortable in my clothes, and that’s how I feel in Spanx! The dress was an inexpensive sale item, but I should have left it in the store!
- Finally, the olive cropped pants were supposed to be the same style and size as a black pair that I own, but they were about two inches shorter and hit me across the meaty part of my calves. Since they were bought online on final sale, I’m hoping someone will want them on eBay.
You may have determined some of the lessons I’ve learned from these eight purchasing mistakes, but I’ll still encapsulate them here for you (and for myself):
- I need to give myself plenty of time to find an outfit for a special occasion, such as my brother’s wedding. Because I waited too long, I had fewer options available to me and ended up settling for a dress that didn’t fit me as well as it should have. That led me to feel self-conscious during the reception, which adversely impacted my enjoyment of that event.
- As I mentioned in the previous two sections, I shouldn’t buy things that can’t be returned unless I’m certain that they will work out for me. I’ll cut myself some slack for the olive cropped pants because I had the same style in another color and they should have fit me, but it was unwise for me to purchase the other two pairs of pants when I hadn’t tried them on previously.
- I need to be mindful of return deadlines so that I can return items that aren’t a good fit prior to that time. Some brands and retailers have very small return windows (for CAbi, it’s 30 days, and their end-of-season sale items can’t be returned), so I need to decide as soon as possible whether or not something is going to work for me.
- I need to always carefully check the back and side views before deciding whether or not to keep an item. Additionally, it’s helpful to get my husband’s opinion, as he knows that I’m sensitive about my lower half and will always be honest with me if something isn’t as flattering as it could be. It’s good to try new styles and silhouettes, but I need to be sure that something works before deciding to keep it.
Overall Style Issues
The final category of my purchasing mistakes is the largest one. All of the items below didn’t work for me because of style / aesthetic issues.
It’s important to note that they were all purchased prior to the style exploration and refinement that I did earlier this year (which I wrote about in this post and this one). As a reminder – or if you didn’t read my two recent style-related posts, I have selected dramatic, polished, and elegant as my three “style guideposts.” As you can see, some of the pieces shown above are not in line with those descriptors, including the distressed jeans, leopard print pants, and black bomber jacket. The shoes mostly don’t work with my newly defined style statement, either. As for the other items pictured, while they might adhere to my three guideposts, there were other issues with them.
Because there are so many items in this category, I won’t address them one by one. But here are the key lessons that I learned from the garments, shoes, and accessories that I’m passing on for style-related reasons:
- I feel frumpy and matronly in dressy flat shoes and patent leather. While such shoes can be considered polished and elegant, maybe it’s the lack of the “dramatic” that makes them a miss for me. I much prefer heels over flats because they help me to feel more in line with my style guideposts, but I can do a flat shoe in certain styles. I’m still searching for flat shoe options that feel dramatic, polished, and elegant.
- I don’t like toppers that need to be buttoned or zipped in order to look good. I like to wear my coats, jackets, and cardigans open most of the time, so in the future I’m not going to buy toppers that need to be worn closed.
- I like simple collars and necklines. If a collar or neckline is ruffled or fussy in any way, it’s not going to work for me and my style. And while I like open cardigans and jackets, I don’t really like waterfall styles, as they can be fussy and often don’t stay in place. Such styles don’t feel polished or elegant to me when they flop around.
- I like my purses to have some structure to them. If they’re too “floppy” and don’t hold their shape, I’m not happy with them.
- I need to not compromise when it comes to color. The burgundy coat is too warm-toned and the navy coat is too dark to pair with black pieces (it looks almost black), which are a big portion of my wardrobe.
- I also need to remember that I have very few occasions for fancier pieces and should stick to casual items. Both of the coats I mentioned above are too fancy for my lifestyle, so they wouldn’t be the best purchases even if the colors were exactly what I wanted.
- Most of all, I need to NOT be dazzled by sales or potential scarcity/FOMO. I have to remember that no matter how low-priced something is, it’s NOT a “deal” if it isn’t right for me. There will always be lots of other options available and many other potential deals.
I guess the best lesson of all is to never settle! Knowing our personal style aesthetic helps a lot, too, as I don’t believe I would make such horrible mistakes now after taking the time to define what I’m looking for in my clothes and my outfits. The time we take to get clear on our desired style statement is time well spent.
So far, only two of the items that I listed on eBay have sold. I got one low-ball offer on another item, which I promptly declined. I’m by no means an eBay expert, but I’m learning some things along the way on how to best navigate selling things on that site. I’ll likely do another post soon to share about my eBay experience, both in terms of the outcome of my listings and my lessons learned (about eBay specifically, as I already shared what I learned from my buying mistakes in this post).
If any of you have any tips or tricks that you’re willing to share, I’d love to read them. Also, if you have any insights as to whether Poshmark (or another site) is a better way to go than eBay, I would appreciate your chiming in. I’m not sure how much online selling I will do in the future, but I think it’s helpful to be informed, plus others who are reading may be looking to use these types of sites. Tips for buying clothes on resale sites are welcomed as well. And, of course, you can feel free to share any other comments you have regarding this post.
31 thoughts on “On Clothes, Mistakes, and eBay”
Hey Debbie. I enjoyed your latest post regarding selling unwanted items. I dabble a little in sewing and have discovered that I am able to adjust some clothing items so that they work for me. I find it quite rewarding. I like Clarks Haley Jay suede flat. I have them in gray and black and have had good luck with them. Looking forward to your selling adventure update.
That’s great that you can sew and make adjustments to your clothes, Nikki! It would definitely benefit me to learn how to make some basic alterations, as I’m picky about fit and have a lot of tailoring done. I think I would have liked the Clark’s suede flats better in black or gray, as the purple color is difficult to work with and I don’t like to do a pop of color that doesn’t coordinate with other items in my outfit. Hopefully they will be just what someone else is looking for… I’m already learning a lot from this selling adventure and I will share more soon!
Thank you for sharing your clothing struggles and lessons learnt, I like posts like these.
However, don’t worry or beat yourself up on your “continued buying mistakes”. There is no need to make yourself feel pain. You are not alone, I have very similar problems with buying online and trying to sell items.
When I was working, I used to have a lot of designer clothes, shoes and bags and when they no longer worked for me, I took them to a designer consignment store, hoping to recoup a lot of the money, as they were very expensive and some were new with tags or hardly worn.
A few of them sold, but for a lower price than I would have liked and after they took their commission I didn’t get that much. However I felt sad that some didn’t sell at all. I didn’t want them back, so they gave them to charity.
For my mid range items, again they were either unworn or hardly worn, I felt that trying to put them on eBay myself, when I have never sold anything online, was too much hassle, time and effort for me. So I gave them to a company that listed and sold them for me, for a commission. It was very disappointing that some only sold for a pittance of what I paid and some didn’t sell at all and I didn’t really get any money back.
So now I just give things to charity, however much they cost, as the money is going to a good cause. In Australia they have charity bins, where you can just drop things off at any time, so very easy to donate.
As I am 6” tall and I have big, narrow feet, size EU42 (US11), I always used to try things on in store before I bought them, to make sure the clothes fit properly in the legs, arms, waist, shoulders etc and the shoes fit me, were comfortable and not too wide. When I was slimmer it was much easier to find clothes that fit me in most stores and I knew the styles that suited me.
Now with COVID I don’t go to stores anymore, I only buy online. However, most of the items I buy online do not fit me, do not suit me or are uncomfortable.
Some of the issues I have is that I have put on weight and I am a much larger size, so the style of clothes that I used to wear no longer suit me. Also, my lifestyle has changed, I am no longer working, so I don’t need the style of clothes that I used to buy, I need more casual clothes as I spend most of my time at home.
As I am not used to buying for this new body or lifestyle and I am buying different types of styles that I am not used to, most of the things I buy now don’t work for me.
Even when I buy clothes and shoes from a brand I already have, in the same size, sometimes these don’t fit as they are in a different style.
I am not prepared to waste money on something that isn’t right for me, whether style, fit, colour or comfort. I only buy new clothes and I only buy from sites with free delivery and free or cheap returns and a good returns period. Also the site must offer a refund, not a store credit, as I may not buy from them again. If something is in the final sale and you can’t return it, I don’t buy it.
As soon as I receive the new clothes and shoes, I try them on and walk round the house and sit and stand and if they are not right, I return them that day, to get my money back as soon as possible.
Even if I think they are right, they go in my wardrobe, but I keep the tags on until I wear them, as occasionally I have retried them on another time and decided that they are not right after all, so I have returned them whilst still in the return period.
With online shopping I think we should expect to have to return clothes & shoes, so ensure that you make the process of buying online as cheap and easy as possible.
Also, when our style recipe, body shape or lifestyle changes then there is going to be a period of adjustment, whilst we work out the right things for us now.
I think you have made great progress in refining your style recipe and learning lessons from what hasn’t worked to reduce mistakes in the future, but accept that they will continue to happen and that’s life and it’s no reflection on you.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and tips on selling unloved items and avoiding shopping mistakes. I have usually felt just like you do – that selling items online is too much work. I still basically feel that way, but I wanted to at least give it a go this one time, both for the potential gains and to hopefully prevent future buying mistakes because of the hassles involved with selling online. So far, I’ve sold just four of the items that I listed, so this will likely be a long haul and I may end up donating some of the items after all (just depends on how patient I want to be). I didn’t think of giving the items to a company who would sell them for me, but it sounds like that’s not really a good way to go, at least not for clothing pieces (maybe better for other categories of items).
You have an even harder time with fit than I do, as you’re two inches taller and have larger-sized feet (I wear size 9-9.5 shoes). Buying online is hard for everyone, but even more difficult for those of us who are harder to fit. I understand that other countries have less lenient return policies than the U.S., too, as well as fewer opportunities for free shipping, which adds another layer of difficulty. Even with free shipping and good return policies, though, it’s still a lot of time and effort to buy and return until we find what works for us, which is making me think even more that it’s better to be a minimalist!
I try new online purchases on right away, too, and keep tags on until I wear things. I never really understood the practice of cutting tags off right away, but then again most people aren’t as picky and fickle as I am! I know that I will never get to the point of ZERO buying mistakes, but I hope that my mistake percentage will go down dramatically as a result of better understanding my preferred style and buying for my real lifestyle. I definitely think my Covid-era purchases have been much better, so maybe it took a pandemic for me to truly “get” how I really live!
I, too, am very sensitive to smell. In the past six months I’ve purchased several items on EBAY and Poshmark, some new, some used, and I think sellers may be storing items with dryer sheets. Several new- with- tags items have arrived smelling of detergent and that’s the only reason I can come up with. I’ve had pretty good luck getting the smell out by washing a couple of times with some white vinegar added to the wash, but it’s so frustrating.
I have had that same experience, too, Wendy, and I’ve wondered if the supposed “new with tags” items weren’t really new. I thought that perhaps the sellers had a way of re-attaching the tags after wearing and washing items, but maybe you’re right that things were stored with dryer sheets, or perhaps the items were sprayed with Febreeze or something similar. In any event, I agree that it’s frustrating! In some cases, I haven’t been able to remove the smell no matter what I tried, especially for synthetic fabrics like workout wear/athleisure. I will try the vinegar suggestion. I think I’ve used it before, but it’s been a while…
Over the past few months, I bought 3 things online that are not a good fit for me. Two of them were final sale. If I paid to return the one item that I could return, the refunded amt would have been only about $10. I think I learned my lesson! (Don’t buy anything unless it can be returned!!). I’m debating trying to do some basic alterations at home vs donating to Goodwill.
Good luck with the ebay sales.
Such mistakes hurt, don’t they, Katie? I think final sale is always risky, even if we think we know that something will work for us (like my olive pants that SHOULD have fit the same as the black ones I have and wear often). I would like to learn how to do some basic alterations, too. As it is, my tailor gets a lot of money from me! I like supporting her, but it would be great to take on some of the easier projects on my own. Thanks for the good wishes. I will report back soon.
I just don’t have the patience. When I do err–and I have made a mistake in online buying since we are over 70 and are afraid to shop in stores just now–I just donate. I am lazy, and I luckily rarely have anything unworn enough to give away. Recently, though, I learned not to shop online. I need to feel the fabric and try on. Sizes are all over the place. (I am even too lazy to return by mail. The only thing worse is the thought of a garage sale! Luckily, as I said, I buy very little and hence do not have stacks of giveaways.)
It felt good to donate the mistake anyway.
What I have learned in this pandemic is that sometimes not having extra clothes can be a problem when you cannot shop safely and do poorly online.
Yeah, it really DOES take a lot of patience, Gail, and my resolve has been tested with this! I can understand your fear of shopping in stores now. I have trepidation about it, too, and have only done a small amount of brick-and-mortar shopping since this whole mess started. I agree that it’s hard to discern how something will work for us without at least seeing it in person and feeling the fabric, and trying on is critical in today’s age of size inconsistency (I have quite a range of sizes in my closet that all fit!). I usually donate my mistake purchases, too, and hope that someone else will love what I didn’t. I may end up donating some of this batch as well, but I wanted to give the online sales a go for the reasons I mentioned. We shall see!
What a lot of beautiful things you’re selling! I expect these will all sell…eventually. Why do some things sell immediately and others have to be renewed every 30 days for what seems like eternity? The selling experts on eBay have lots of suggestions, but at least for me, it just comes down to waiting.
I have been through several phases with eBay. The first phase was probably about 10-12 years ago when I got really excited about sewing, and was buying most of my patterns (vintage) on eBay and Etsy. As my pattern collection approached 1000 and boxes were overflowing, I started thinking about all those eBay sellers and how much money they must be making selling old patterns. So I tried selling some of mine. Through trial and error I learned what types of patterns sold readily and for a good price, and which ones were unlikely to ever sell. Thinking then that I had become a shrewd seller, I started buying pattern lots with 50 – 100 vintage patterns each. It was fun going through each box and seeing the really gorgeous old dress patterns from the 30s and 40s, but not so fun culling the 80s and 90s patterns, which usually formed the majority of the lots. For a while I was making a small profit but soon I was out of the sought-after styles and down to the piles of unwanted ones. I ended up giving away some patterns and donating hundreds to local charities.
The next phase was clothing, bags, and jewelry. I had a large collection of vintage purses, a few iconic vintage clothing items, and piles of jewelry from vintage to modern. I had varying success: the purses all went so fast it became clear that I had priced them too low. Some clothing sold – fun things like a 70s disco dress and an embroidered cashmere caridigan from the 50s. Other things that seemed just as cool to me did not sell at any price. Jewelry was also hit and miss. I put about 6 months into this phase, donated everything that didn’t sell, and considered any amount of sales to be a win, even if it wasn’t a profit.
The third phase was shoes, starting a few years ago. Having been retired for more than 10 years, and not planning on going dancing anytime, I admitted that I did not need 50+ pairs of dress and work shoes. Most of them had never been worn! These sold very well, partly because they were in perfect condition and were still in the original box, but also because I priced them at 1/3 – 1/2 of their original cost. Believe it or not, I am still working on getting rid of those shoes. But I think the sell pile is down to just 5 pairs.
As you know, preparing for selling (the photos, the pricing research, writing the descriptions) takes a ridiculous amount of time, and then there is the packing and shipping. I can’t manage all that while working full time so I only post things for sale when I’m not working – 4-6 months of the year. I don’t know how professional eBay sellers do it year in and year out because as you say, it is daunting: exhausting, frustrating, slow, and sometimes futile.
Now to briefly (HAHA) comment on one other thing: buying on resale sites. I have had way better luck buying from individuals on Etsy and eBay than I ever have with places like thredUP. The items I have bought from individuals have been new with tags, and came through just as advertised AND NO HORRIBLE SMELL! That was what surprised me most. After my experiences with both thredUP and Swap, I thought everyone must be using fabric softener/deodorizer on all their clothes all the time. Apparently it is just a matter of policy that when those resale places receive goods, they douse them in smelly stuff.
Good luck with your selling, and I look forward to reading about your eBay experience.
I agree that there’s little rhyme or reason to why some things sell quickly and others seem to languish on eBay indefinitely, Katrina. I really thought it would happen more quickly, but I had little experience in selling online. Sometimes it takes the perfect person looking for exact what you’re offering (I’ve been that person at least a few times and have been thrilled to find some Tall pieces for sale that were just what I wanted). It sounds like you are well-versed in selling on eBay and I appreciate your sharing your experience. I doubt I will put more than 6 months into this process, even if the time I need to spend from this point forward is minimal. I likely will donate whatever doesn’t sell by the end of the year. Your pattern selling experience sounds very interesting!
One of the hardest parts of all of this is deciding on pricing. I tried to set things at more of a middling level, but they’re not selling well (just four items so far), so maybe the prices are still too high, or perhaps I’m not selling the types of things people want right now. It’s really hard to know what people want and what they’ll pay. I don’t know how professional eBay sellers do it, either! I used to think I’d want to do something like that, but now I don’t think so, but I guess one learns better what to do over time, just as you have.
I haven’t bought anything on thredUP, but a friend found one of my “white whale” items there recently and got it for me. I was very happy that it didn’t smell bad and I was able to keep it. It seems to be very hit or miss with smells when buying online, but an advantage of thredUP is that items can be returned for a refund (less a small restocking fee). I wish that these services wouldn’t use the smelly stuff, and that goes for thrift and consignment stores, too. It’s gotten harder and harder to find things that don’t stink in such places… I will likely still try them once in a while once this whole pandemic thing is over (please let it be over soon…), but I’m not overly hopeful.
Hi. I have read your blogs for years but this is my first post.
I buy and sell on EBAY. I much prefer this to buying in person both for value and for having so much more choice. I am a very small-time seller selling my own barely used clothing or purchase mistakes. My weight has fluctuated widely so I have a lot. As I still work full-time I can only do a little at a time. The local consignment stores take 60% and they are strangely picky— you make only pennies. So they aren’t worth it.
On EBAY for clothing my number one thing is measurements. I would not buy or sell without them. A Large means very little. For a dress I would measure length, bust, waist, and hips. Additionally in description I would provide any feature like a deep v neck or sheerness or a hidden back zipper or lining. I would provide condition and original price if I know it. i take a front and back photo, and also photograph tag size and brand, care tag, and material tag, and occasionally a closeup of the fabric pattern. Some people primarily look at text, others at photos. Measurements and this level of description is necessary as I don’t take returns (for many reasons). As a buyer, I look for a decent description as well.
The second thing is patience. Some things take forever to sell, others sell quickly.
The third thing is realism. Generally people want a deal. Some brands like anything Anthropologie, Lilly Pulitzer, and Eileen Fisher retain much of their value. Others not so much. It would be pretty common to have a dress worn once or even NWT that originally retailed for $150 sell for $29, even with free shipping.
The fourth thing is shipping. Buyers want it fast and cheap. So I have exclusively used flat rate priority because it includes insurance and tracking and is fast. But it is getting so expensive I’m going to start charging buyers $2.99 or 3.99 with me paying the rest.
The fifth thing is I use only my photos and words. I have seen many people lift entire ads including the photos.
Some people successfully use bidding but I like buy it now. I don’t use make offer because my prices are already the lowest I can accept. I have not used send offer but I think that could be effective.
I look forward to hearing what others are doing.
Thank you so much for your longtime readership, Lisa, and for taking the time to share your wonderful tips for selling on eBay! I will definitely share them in my follow-up post, as not everyone reads comments and you offered a lot of wisdom. I can see that I have made some mistakes with my eBay listings that may be partly to blame for my lackluster sales thus far (although you did say that patience is really important and it hasn’t been that long). I don’t have measurements for most of my items, although I was able to get some of them from the manufacturers or from other listings. I do have multiple photos for most of the items, but some of them are stock photos or came from other listings (I didn’t realize that was a faux pas).
My two biggest challenges with all of this have been pricing and the shipping issue. How do you keep from “losing your shirt” on the shipping? Three of the four sales I’ve made so far have been to people on the other side of the country, so the shipping costs have been high. If you have tips on how to set pricing, I would love to read them. What I’ve been doing so far is searching to see how others have priced the same or similar items and then set the price a bit lower. That hasn’t seemed to work so far, but maybe the fact that I’m charging for shipping is coming into play. I know that when I buy online, I hate to pay shipping, so maybe I need to up the price of my items a bit and offer free shipping.
I feel like there is so much to learn! I have about half of my items set as auctions and have as buy it now (with the “make an offer” option), as I wanted to see what works better. I may change some of the listings if things don’t sell. Again, I really appreciate your taking the time to share what you’ve learned about selling on eBay. I know your tips will help me and others.
Lisa your comments are so helpful! Thank you!
First I have to agree about the measurements. As a frequent eBay shopper, I think the majority of listings are hopelessly uninformative. Your attention to all those details is very much appreciated by your buyers, I am certain. And as a seller, I really agree about the shipping. Ugh! Flat Rate box rates are now more of a deterrent than a selling point and i really have a hard time deciding what to do about them. A lot of my items are priced at $20 – $25 but fit into a large Flat Rate box, which mails for $21! No buyer is willling to pay double to get their item, but if I pay it, I have approximately zero net proceeds for my efforts. I’m glad you shared your approach with charging a smaller shipping fee.
Thanks for sharing all of these very helpful concepts.
I loved Lisa’s comments, too! I’m really learning a lot from the comments here. The shipping is a big issue and it’s a challenging one. I know that when I purchase things from retail stores, I hate paying shipping and try to avoid it at all costs, but I know that those who are selling on eBay and other resale sites aren’t usually businesses. I see that some people who offer free or low-cost shipping are charging more for the items, so we’re usually paying one way or another. But maybe the PERCEPTION is better when a buyer feels that they are paying more for the actual item than having to pay a lot for shipping. Not an easy answer either way! When I first sold some items via eBay, I charged a low price for shipping and then realized that it cost more to ship things than I had thought. I’m still trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do regarding shipping, but the comments here are giving me food for thought!
Hi Debbie: My experience with eBay and other sites began simply because of your Recovering Shopoholic and this blog; like you, it assuaged my guilt substantially when it came to purchases – especially more “foolish” ones. Like you, I found that the Houston-area consignment stores got quite picky about what they’d accept, and this is a recent occurrence as I’ve been taking to consignment stores for more than 20 years. While I don’t purport to be an expert, a lot of Katrina’s advice resonated with me about selling online. I sell my nicer, designer pieces (Kate Spade and the like) through eBay and the RealReal; I’ll send those mid-level brands (Talbots, White & Black, Chico’s, J Crew) to thredUP which pays a small sum, but it’s better than nothing. Because of the work involved in this process – and because of the intentionality I’ve learned since following your advice these past five years, I believe it has helped me be truly recovering in my shopoholism. And I can’t say this pandemic hasn’t contributed as well: there’s no one or nothing to dress up for!
I agree that the changes to consignment store policies have been more recent, Catherine, as I’ve also been taking items to such places for close to 20 years. I may end up sending my mid-range items (which is what most of my pieces) are to thredUP if they don’t sell on eBay. When I was in Athleta recently, they had signs for a partnership with thredUP where you send your items to thredUP and receive credit for shopping at Athleta. I may end up doing that with the things that don’t sell, as I do buy a lot of athleisure pieces at Athleta.
I was happy to read that your resell experiences have help you recover from your shopping issues (I’m also glad that my advice has been helpful – I need to take more of it myself!). A big part of my reason for going through all of this trouble with eBay was to really FEEL the pain more of my mistakes so that I’d be less likely to repeat them. Your experience tells me that I’m onto something there… Congrats on your wonderful progress and may it continue!
I might have mentioned this before, but I have been selling my clothing through ThredUp. They are quite backed up at the moment, so the last three bags I sent them won’t be up for sale until February! Like other consignment stores, I don’t make a huge profit from selling through them, but the convenience is too hard to resist. They send me a postage paid bag, I fill it and take it to the Post Office. I can even have my earnings transferred to PayPal.
I’m sure you will make more money using Ebay, Debbie, and hope you are successful in selling the items that didn’t work out for you in the long run.
I’m not sure if you mentioned that before, Jenn, but I’m surprised to hear about how backed up ThredUP is! Do you have to wait that long to get your money / store credit? I know that there’s not a big profit from sending clothes to ThredUP, but it definitely sounds convenient and is A LOT less work than what I’ve been dealing with around eBay. I’m sure I will become more well-versed on how to best navigate eBay over time. I don’t think I will go a lot of eBay sales after this, but I might want to list a thing or two there from time to time. As I mentioned to another commenter, I may end up sending some of my items to ThredUP if they don’t sell, but I’m hopeful that I will sell a lot of them via eBay over time.
I am an admiring reader and have been selling since I was a poor grad student 40 yrs ago. I think the best for what you have is poshmark. You have a coherent closet (similar brands and sizes) and Poshmark has flat 7 or so dollar shipping for one item or for “bundles.” You can list with your phone. Very easy. Ebay is like a needle in a haystack. With Poshmark, someone who searches CABI size xx will come upon your listing and see you have lots of similar.
If you hate doing it yourself, see if you can find a young person (kid of an acquaintance perhaps?)–what takes you a long time takes them no time. You can split the take.
Thredup pays pennies to sellers (LITERALLY in my case–I think they deduct any coupons the buyer has from the seller’s take)–I would NEVER send them anything unless I tried on Posh first.
And-I skimmed through the comments–the reason your Thredup/Posh/ebay purchases smell bad is that most items are sourced by professional resellers from thrift stores–either the store or the buyer sprays with Febreze to try to cover the thrift store smell.
Thanks Debbie for your great blog. I am a recovering thrift store addict, daughter of a retail shopping addict.
Thank you so much for offering your perspective, Eva. I really appreciate your insights (and I’m glad you like my blog!). I’m wondering if I should list my items on Poshmark now or wait a while longer to see if they sell on eBay. I’m also wondering if it’s okay to list things on BOTH sites, or if it needs to be one or the other. I don’t really hate doing the listings, but it’s time-consuming, especially when I’m a novice and am not sure what the best practices are. I don’t think I’m going to be selling online a lot, but I do think I’ll likely do it from time to time after this big group of items sell.
As for ThredUp, I think I would only use it for items that I don’t think I can make much money for and that probably wouldn’t be worth my while to list on eBay or Poshmark. I usually take such items to local thrift stores, but some aren’t taking things at the moment. A friend of mine does a lot with both Poshmark and ThredUp, but she always tries Poshmark first. She told me she doesn’t get much for her items on ThredUp, but it’s easy and convenient, so she keeps doing it (plus, she likes to buy things from there).
What you wrote about the smell of the items makes sense. I’m wondering if maybe I just shouldn’t buy resale items online anymore for this reason because I’m so sensitive to smells. I thought I could avoid the issue by only buying new with tags, but if everything gets sprayed with Febreze, I’m in trouble.
Debbie–Lots of people (not me) double list. I really think you would do better on Poshmark because, as I said, of the coherence of your closet. If you list things there, email me and I will help you price them (as a thank you for your blog and also b/c I need a relaxing break from my real job!) Posh has flat 7.11 for up to 5 lb shipping paid for by buyer–often buyers will buy several things to get all for one shipping price. You don’t have to figure anything out. Print out the label and slap on a priority envelope or box.
What you say makes a lot of sense, Eva, and thank you so much for your offer to help me with pricing! I will send you an email soon. I haven’t listed on Poshmark yet, but I can send you the link to the 24 remaining items on eBay. I may list a few more things, too, if I have better luck with Poshmark. I will leave the eBay items on since I went through the trouble to list them there. The shipping with Poshmark sounds SO much easier! My reason for choosing eBay was that I had some experience with it and thought it would be easier, but maybe not. I really appreciate your insights and your help!
Great post! I am with you 1000% on the shoe lessons learned.
If they aren’t comfortable from the moment you try them on, don’t buy them!
This is a great motto to live by, Ginger, and we can save ourselves a lot of money (and pain) if we stick with it!
currently in Melbourne in lockdown. That means I can’t take things to opshops but i considered and rejected selling on eBay. Unless you really want to save money for the trip to Australia you have mentioned a few years ago, that would be a great motivator for all that work!
Helen previously in Sydney.😷
It would take a lot of clothing sales to pay for a trip to Australia, Helen, but it’s a great point to have something specific to save for! My hope is that I won’t need to sell many more clothes online because I’m making better choices (and I really am, especially since the pandemic, because I”m buying more for my REAL life now). I hope the lockdown in Melbourne eases up soon. We’ve had restrictions here for 6 months now (although some have eased up) and it’s really getting old!
Well Debbie thank you, you are as good a writer as ever! I don’t think I have commented since perhaps 2016, which was your old blog. But I read that one assiduously and I also thank you for introducing me to You Look Fab, which I have now been an active forum member of since 2017. It can be a hard and slow process undoing bad habits. Thanks to you and YLF I am doing better. I have also had very little success with consignment stores, and with selling online which I tried about 2016. Have sold one beautiful vintage silk skirt from the 80s is all, through a store. Another one in our area was so snobby and horrible on my 2 attempts ( they force you to have at least 5 items they will accept at any one time, and they told me to bring back later a worn-twice pair of shoes the first time, then the second time claimed the shoes showed wear and they wouldn’t take them) that I have decided never to return.
I feel the answer is *absolutely* to buy better in the first place, planning for #30 wears. I may yet try one more newer website in our country (NZ) to sell a designer jacket online- but it has had 30 wears so if I end up donating to our fancier charity shop ( hospice shop) I should be OK with that. I feel the colours are not that flattering on me and it is slightly tight.
I think if I buy better, which I am succeeding on by being very picky, then the cost is not sunk, and if I tire of the item after 30 or more wears I am happy to donate.
The 3 pairs of high uncomfortable shoes earlier this year, were from 2010 and 2014, including the one the consignment store would not take. I eventually bit the bullet and gave them to Dress for Success. Worn only 4,3 and 2 times. Never again!
Thank you for your kind words, Jenni! I remember you commenting before because I think only a few people from New Zealand have ever commented (and I love NZ so much after my honeymoon there in 2002!). I’m glad that I introduced you to YLF (link for others who may be reading: https://youlookfab.com/welookfab/ – that’s for the forum) and it’s been helpful for you (I’m also happy that my blogs have played a role in your improvements). I still read the blog often and also lurk on the forum from time to time as well. Congrats on the progress you’ve made with your shopping and wardrobe habits! It can take a while to get to where we want to be, as you’ve seen with my situation, too. I like the 30 wears concept and I wrote about it back in 2016: https://recoveringshopaholic.com/2016/10/21/30-wears-initiative/ (I’m not tracking wears anymore, but I know that I still need a lot of improvement on this front).
Consignment stores were great for me for a long time (mostly as a seller, although I did find some “gems” at resales stores amidst the many mistakes I made there!), but that landscape has changed a lot. Far better to be more mindful of what we buy, which it sounds like you’re doing great with. That one consignment store sounds very restrictive in their practices – very strange to require at least five items. I wouldn’t go back there, either, and I haven’t returned to the one I went to after they only took one of my items the last time (they’re only going for higher-end designer pieces now). Now I’m mostly donating my cast-offs like you are, other than this group of items I’m trying to sell online (we’ll see how that all goes).
Jewelry is risky even for seasoned sellers. Unless you have a receipt and an appraisal, don t sell expensive jewelry with pure gold, silver, or precious gems on eBay until you have more experience and a high feedback score (at least 100). The buyer can state that he received anything, and without proof of the content of the item, the seller won t have a case if a dispute is filed.
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