It would not be an understatement to say that the popularity of online consignment stores is exploding. Over the last 12 months, online consignment stores have been reviewed 8,299 times on Sitejabber, a 194% increase over the previous year. At their best, online consignment stores provide all the benefits of local consignment stores—great deals, rare vintage items, extra cash for your old clothes, and an environmentally friendly way to shop since new clothing doesn’t need to be made—and the additional benefits of even greater selection with their global reach and even better prices for buyers and sellers with larger, more efficient markets. However, all is not roses: complaints on online consignment shops have also surged, with 4,282 negative reviews logged in the last 12 months. The following are the most common issues of which buyers and sellers should be aware.

FOR BUYERS

1) Mislabeled items

Intentionally or otherwise, sellers are mislabeling items. Worse still, online consignment platforms seem not always to care, forcing consumers to rely on credit card companies for protection. According to reviewer Dawn, “The seller misrepresents their product, I disputed and won. Thanks American Express for your support! Buyers, make sure you take lots of pics. and notify your credit card company right away!”

Another reviewer, Laureen reports, “I’m sending more purchases back due to inaccurate description. Last purchase was a sweater described in excellent condition. The human odor stench was over-powering and can’t believe it was accepted for consignment much less sent to me.”

2) Fake and counterfeit goods

As with mislabeled items, it’s hard to know if sales of counterfeits are intentional or mistakes but there have been many reports of fakes. Janie writes in her review, “…I chose this website to get my 2nd hand Jimmy Choo heels. And that was a mistake! I paid $130 for a Jimmy Choo heels in good condition but all the original materials of the shoes were fake. They patched everything to make it all looked legit but you can obviously see that it wasn’t…”

Margaret tells a similar story in her review: “I purchased what was described as a Dooney & Bourke handbag. What I received was a very cheep [sic] knockoff and the seller would not refund my money.”

3) Poor return policies

With all the issues with mislabeled and fake items, you’d think online consignment stores would make it really easy to return items. Reviewers, however, tell a different story. Lisa writes, “I have emailed and called (left a message no one answers) about a return of clothing I made about two weeks ago and have yet to receive a response regarding my refund or credit. Not very happy. Wish I read reviews prior to my purchase.”

Lanette laments, “This site absolutely sold me a fake Furla bag! I returned it and now stuck with credit!”

FOR SELLERS

1) Poor payouts, steep commissions & fees

Few consumers are looking to get rich selling their old clothes, but getting a fair price seems like a reasonable expectation. This appears not always to be possible. According to Angel, one of the main reasons for this is the large fees charged by the platforms: “So far 11 out of my 18 items have sold. I have gotten an upfront payout of only $13.88 and they have already made $73.00 on the 11 items.”

Jen’s story sounds much the same, “ I sent a couple of very nice dresses that retailed for around $400 here. Both were in excellent condition. After they priced them, put them on sale and then I got my cut I only received around $13 for each. I would have kept them for that!!”

2) Poor seller services & communication

From the look of the reviews, it’s safe to say sellers on online consignment platforms are not exactly receiving top-flight customer service. Sophia exasperatedly writes, “I packed the bag full of nice clothes that I probably could have sold on ebay and sent it out through USPS. The company never told me if my items were received. I never got so much as an email, let alone payment.”

Reviewer Julie, clearly frustrated explains: “…I currently have 4 items that are just missing in the mail with no way to track them…. This has never, ever happened to me with Ebay. One is 100% just GONE. I’m out the time and value of the item. I suspect at least 2 of the others will just be my loss.”

3) Account removal without proper warning or explanation

Online consignment stores are in a tough spot where they need to police counterfeit item sales but at the same time provide sellers with clear guidelines and expectations. Elena points out that this balance is not always properly struck in her review: “Up to this point, I liked the site a lot…..but when I tried to sell more of my high -end items and I proved they were authentic… shut my account down. I understand they don’t want fake items sold (neither do I, its a shame people do it) but! I provided everything necessary to prove my handbags were authentic and they still cancelled my account!”

Closing thoughts and recommendations

The continued spread of online consignment stores seems a foregone conclusion and that is probably a good thing: thousands of Sitejabber reviewers have found great deals and also made money selling. But until the industry works out some of the above kinks, consumers should exercise caution:

  • Check reviews and do research before choosing a platform
  • When buying, use a major credit card in case you run into trouble and need a charge back
  • When selling, have only modest expectations of service and payouts
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Photo credit