This was the third pair of pants I'd touched that were covered in mysterious stains and as I placed them aside in a pile of questionable clothing I could hear the customer inhale, ready to ask why her pants weren't good enough. I needed to sanitize my hands, but I couldn't be rude and pull out sanitizer, like, “Oh, yeah, your clothes are that dirty.”
I've been on the other side of the counter. It's like that episode of Portlandia where Carrie Brownstein's character goes to a secondhand shop to sell things and Fred Armisen's character and that girl with the weird laugh make fun of her.
But, trust me, for every bad employee is a bad customer (you're not all saints!) and being on the other side of that table is just as bad, if not worse. When people hear that they can take their old clothes somewhere and get money for them they freak out. Its like a pawn shop, but less seedy. That also means that you are going to have tons of strange people coming into the store and selling really strange things.
Retail is a thankless job, anyone who's worked in customer service knows this. I've worked in retail for about five years starting in my sophomore year of college. I dabbled in food service, but that was just as bad so I choose the lesser of two evils.
Anyway, eventually I landed a job at a secondhand retailer that allowed customers to sell clothing in exchange for cash or store credit. The usual customer service rules applied except this time I would spend a portion of my day look through peoples clothes and deciding whether or not they were worth purchasing. And, as you can image, not every customer was polite. So, for all of you secondhand shoppers looking to sell or trade your items here's a guide on to be the kind of customer everyone loves.
Don't Stroll In Ten Minutes Before Closing
Ok, so maybe you had other things to do today but so do we (I finally made plans to get drunk with my friends!). It's rude, it's like when your boss gives you an assignment just as you're about to leave your desk. Our world doesn't revolve around the place we work (hello! It's retail, it sucks), so when someone drags in large overflowing garbage bags full of clothes on a Saturday night right before we close we see the plans we made to get to the bar early fading away.
Now we're angry and now no one is going to help you carry those bags over to the counter. As a matter of fact, most of us are going to pretend we didn't even see you. Hell, one of us might even be rude enough to point out the fact that we're closing in five minutes. Come back tomorrow or later in the week, but don't stroll in minutes before the store closes.
Understand That It's A Business
A consignment shop is still a business. Buyers do not have to purchase your clothing if they don't think it will sell. Please don't give us a sob story. We're trained to be robots and don't yell or insult us because we can just refuse to buy from you. Also, don't expect to get rich. Think of your clothing as a car, once it's drive off the lost the value decreases. You aren't going to get tons of money or the equivalent of what you paid.
Don't Bring In Dirty Damaged Clothes
I really shouldn't have to explain this and yet it's something that needs to be discussed. I mean, I really don't know what people are thinking. If there are blood stains all over your clothes don't bring them in! Hmmm, is that a jizz stain? Don't know? Don't bring it in.
I've encountered incredibly personal (vibrators) and dangerous (needles) things while looking through people's clothing. I've actually told people I would not purchase any of their clothing because it was filthy (I didn't say that, I mean, I said it politely).
And, don't get indignant about it. If I place something to the side and you ask why I'm going to quietly tell you why so that no one else hears, but if you continue to get an attitude then I will embarrass you. Stop trippin' and wash your clothes before you sell!
Do Your Research And Listen
Don't get me wrong, I owned a peasant blouse once too but when was the last time you saw one in a store? Everyone has that one item that they think is amazing and will never go out of style, but fashion doesn't work that way. Trends change so be mindful of what's in stores.
The retailer I worked for only took quality vintage and current trends. You can always call ahead and ask an employee what season they're buying for and what they really need. And, once you arrive the buyer should always explain the process. This saves you from hauling things over that we don't want and keeps things running smoothly for us. Also, don't ask us if we can buy things over the phone. Would you buy something you'd never seen? Get real.
Don't Change Your Mind After Cashing Out
Throughout the entire process you will be asked if you would like to receive cash or store credit. Now, once you get to the register please have your mind made up and don't change it! Once you've taken the cash or credit it's difficult to go back. Don't be the asshole who holds up the line because you suddenly remembered that you need money for something and you don't want the store credit anymore. That's seriously a dickhead thing to do.
This all you really need to know, the holy grail of consignment guidelines. Just be patient with the buyers. Looking through clothing isn't our only task we still have to work the register and the floor, we still have to dress mannequins and keep the store.
The added pressure of telling a stranger that we don't want to buy their clothes isn't easy and we're just as intimidated as you. Really, just try to imagine being in our shoes and treat us the way you'd want to be treated.