Casually selling my old clothes on Ebay: fool's game, or viable option?
October 3, 2013 1:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm cleaning out my closet, and I've got a small number (~30pcs) of garments and shoes that seem of saleable quality. Do I have any chance of getting these things sold on Ebay without inordinate amounts of hassle and time? Or is the used-clothes auction business strictly for high-volume, full-time pros? If anybody's done this, I'd love to hear about your experience.

The things in question are all attractive, in excellent condition, and from decent mall-level brands (e.g., Ann Taylor, Clark's, etc.-- original cost was probably $50-$80 per item). And I'm not looking to make a fortune or wring every last bit of value from them, just make maybe $10-$15 apiece so I can feel justified in getting rid of the stuff and stop kidding myself that I will someday magically begin to fit into/like it.

Obviously there's a healthy trade in old clothes on Ebay, but I'm wondering just how accessible that market is to a casual seller. With no seller ratings on my record, and with no access to economies of scale in listing/ packaging/ shipping, does the cost-benefit ratio still work out favorably, or is this likely to be a huge time suck with very little payoff? Any anecdata would be much appreciated!
posted by Bardolph to Shopping (17 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine sent all of her old clothes to thredup. Apparently they pay decent enough money for stuff like this, and it's MUCH less of a pain than ebay.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:08 PM on October 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think you're better off having a yard/stoop sale. Spend a couple of hours on a Saturday morning selling everything for $5 and make $100 or spend an hour on each item writing it's description and then packaging and mailing it, to make maybe $150 instead? Not worth it I don't think.
posted by greta simone at 1:11 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, don't do this!

Clothing just isn't worth it. For decent mall-level brands you'll maybe get 5% of the original price.

Here's the thing, to sell your stuff, at Plato's Closet or Buffalo Exchange or wherever, you have to clean it and make it nice. Also, they are PICKY! If it's out of season, forget it.

You won't make a lot of money from your clothing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:12 PM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I very occasionally sell children's clothing on eBay. First, know that you're going to give about 40% of the ending price to Paypal/eBay in fees. Second, be sure to sort out your shipping (flat rate boxes are really your best option). I think it takes a full 6 hours for me to list about a dozen items, between photography, cropping/resizing photos, and dealing with the listings. And, even then, I will have some stuff that gets 10 bids and some stuff that doesn't sell at all.

I probably do this 3-4 times per year, and I won't lie -- it's a huge pain. It helps that I have an etsy store (and I've bought and sold causally on eBay for a LONG time), so I'm not surprised by the fees and the shipping hassle. Also, I'm selling higher end brands are in high demand, so that helps.

But, be sure to do some careful research on the items you're selling before you put them up. For kids clothing, there is a hot resale market for certain brands, and I'm aware of that market. For regular clothing, the prices are going to be lower, and I'd honestly be surprised if, for MOST things, you'll be able to clear $10 per item.

So, to recap:
- it will probably take a full day to do this right
- do your research
- plan to only keep 60% of the final sale price
posted by anastasiav at 1:13 PM on October 3, 2013

For the past 10 years or so I've been a casual eBay seller--half a dozen auctions a couple-few times a year when I need to get rid of stuff. That stuff often includes shoes and clothes.

The shoes go pretty quickly, and I attribute that to the fact that they're in great condition and I price them to sell (with a Buy It Now price set on the low end of average past sales).

Clothes are trickier. I'm plus-sized so plus-sized dresses from designers well-known in the plus-sized world always sell, especially since I'm usually selling a dress that's been discontinued by the designer. And unique, interesting, and costumey pieces sell, too, though not always as quickly or at the price I'd have liked. But stuff like jeans, dresses, or shirts from mall-level brands are rarely worth the effort of listing them. I set those aside for clothing swaps (and often just haul them to a local charity when I get tired of waiting for a clothing swap to come around).
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:14 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've done this with some stuff on ebay that worked well and some stuff that didn't.

What worked well

- decently current stuff
- name brands
- barely used but didn't need to be NWT (new without tags)
- that would fit in one size mailing box/envelope from the post office (easy ship)
- good photos and measurements
- women's stuff sold better, decent stuff like men's shirts barely moved
- started auctions at $.99 and prepared to let some things go for cheap (i.e. no reserve prices)
- seasonally appropriate - people want costumes NOW, not in April
- good descriptions

What worked less well

- something with some sort of indie cred that didn't overlap with the ebay demographic
- vintage stuff that I thought had value but maybe didn't
- stuff with non-standard sizes
- stuff that was too big to ship easily

At the $10-15 range you can probably do this in a few days of just photographing/listing/shpping if you are organized and if this sort of thing is fun for you. Otherwise you should consider if you might be better off donating the stuff and taking a tax write-off or doing more of a yardsale (or Craigslist) format depending on where you live.
posted by jessamyn at 1:16 PM on October 3, 2013

I've done a little bit of small-volume clothes selling on eBay, although at probably a grade down in quality level. Anymore, I don't think it's worth it to me compared to the tax deduction + warm fuzzies + time savings I can get if I just bag it up and donate it to whoever's driving a donation van through the neighborhood that week. I've only had maybe 1/3-1/2 of my listings sell on the first go-round, so even if you do get some money for some stuff you'll still have stuff left over to deal with. Your calculus may be different if you don't itemize and/or are in a fairly low marginal tax bracket.
posted by drlith at 1:16 PM on October 3, 2013

I'm cleaning out a lot of stuff and it's just not worth it to me. I feel just as good about donating it our ASPCA thrift shop than spending hours listing it all online. I'm afraid of what the hourly rate for that work would come to when all was said and done!

Bag it. Donate it. That's my motto.
posted by michellenoel at 1:37 PM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

You might not make what you want from it, but this online shop makes it quite easy to sell your stuff as long as they're reasonably high-end brands:
posted by Ms. Toad at 1:53 PM on October 3, 2013

Considering the hour or more you'll spend photographing, describing, listing, packing, and shipping each item, you might want to consider if it's worth your time for $10-15 each.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:55 PM on October 3, 2013

Friend just told me: " is for most brands but pays less, limits the brands you can send in but pays more." Both of those are services where you literally just mail them your clothes and they send you back money.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:05 PM on October 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Never actually used it myself, but ThreadFlip allows you go either the eBay style route where you sell things yourself on their site. Or they have an option where you just send it all to them and they pay you for what they want.
posted by forkisbetter at 2:10 PM on October 3, 2013

Sometimes lots go for a decent price; you can take a look at listings marked "LOT" and get an idea... Mall brands are not really great at holding their retail value, though. But there is an exception -- if you have mall brands of the sort that appeal to teen-agers (Abercrombie, Bench, Lululemon, Hollister...) then those can be an easy thing to flip on local for-sale groups -- Facebook is surprisingly good for this in my area. There are a lot of mummies willing to come to your house to give you $5-$10 for a name-brand teen-girl thing so teen girl is happy and not asking for the same thing for $75 in the mall.

If your stuff is all very same-y and you are an organised sort and have a nice clean spot to lay the stuff out and can take decent pictures, listing it as a lot might be the way to go. It won't be a big per-item profit but it will be a relatively painless way to do it.

Be very careful about inspecting stuff before eBaying it -- holes, pills, stains etc mean don't bother

A lot of 30 mall brand items is also a reasonable thing to dump on a local consignment store. Iron carefully for the best acceptance rate/return...
posted by kmennie at 2:39 PM on October 3, 2013

My experience and the experience of others I know is that it is hardly ever worth it if you're selling more than a couple of things. It's time-consuming, shipping can be prohibitive, and demand/supply is working against you. I found that what I ended up making was so meaningless that I now just donate everything.

Also, since I can get many of the same/similar clothing items new, shipped from overseas, for less than 10-15 dollars USD, I don't even buy used clothes on eBay from US sellers anymore. Nor do any of my lady friends. Mileages vary all over the place with that, though.
posted by sm1tten at 3:50 PM on October 3, 2013

I've been selling some of my and my sister's clothing that we don't wear on ebay for the past 6 months or so. Mostly items that are used but in perfect or almost perfect condition/only worn a few times. It's definitely worth it for me and has brought in a lot more money than trying to sell on craigslist or going Crossroads/Buffalo Exchange type places. I have a fair amount of free time at the moment though and also am trying to pay off debt so every little bit helps, so it works for me but the time to money ratio is fairly high.

About fees, selling, pricing, and shipping:

**The ebay/paypal fees amount to about 15%, not 40% (10% final value on the sale + shipping fee to ebay, 30 cents + 3% I think to paypal; you don't have to pay an initial listing fee unless you are over a certain number for the month). But you also have to factor in shipping supplies, plus possibly cost of laundry, trips to the post office, etc. so that might bring the percentage up a little higher.

**I think that the 5% number mentioned above is a little low. I have sold tops/sweaters/dresses that I bought for around $30 on sale (and would have been $45-90 at the non-sale price) for around $20 after I had worn them once or twice. This varies a lot by brand of course though.

**I don't think that having no feedback is that much of an issue. As long as you don't have negative feedback and your stuff is priced well, it will sell eventually.

**However,i f you don't have any selling history, ebay might more strictly limit the amount of items you can list in each category until you build up a history of selling in that category (this happened to me; it was annoying, I had to wait a week/two weeks sometimes to list more tops for example; and I never could find where/what the exact limits were). This makes it a little harder to do all in one weekend or something. Although you could take all the photos and measurements in a few days and then list over the next few months.

**Also, if you don't have a history of selling/positive feedback, paypal or ebay (can't remember which) might put a hold on the money you get until like 14 days after the item delivered or something like that.

**If you're selling more than 10 items or so, you might want to buy a cheap postal scale (I got one for around $10 on amazon, it only goes up to 1 and a half lbs or so but that is enough for most things other than very heavy jeans). This will save you on postage and/or time since you won't have to estimate/over-estimate or go to the post office to have them weigh it. If your package is under 13 ounces you can send it first class mail which if you use the ebay labels will be between $1.69 and $3.08 I think, depending on the weight. Most tops and cardigans are between 3 and 9 ounces, lightweight dresses and pants are often under 13 ounces. Jeans are almost always too heavy for first class. If you're selling enough to use a lot of them it might also be worth it to get a box of tyvek envelopes. They will save you on postage because they are lighter than bubble mailers and boxes, and the cost per envelope isn't very much.

Here's my experience with specific brands and categories:

**J Crew and J Crew Factory and certain Anthropologie labels retain their value well.

**Lululemon items retain their value extemely well. I don't even understand....especially considered it is stuff that has been heavily sweated in/worked out in.

**Gap and American Eagle - I've sold jeans/pants for $10-20 plus shipping. My sense is that tops might be a little harder to sell.

**American Apparel stuff sells eventually if it's a desirable item, but sometimes have to relist a couple times and/or sell pretty low.

**Old Navy and Target - I've sold a couple of lots of 3 tee shirts or tank tops for around $7-9. Three will usually be under the first class weight limit if they're light. I don't think it would be worth it to try to sell used tops individually. Not sure about dresses or jeans.

**Dresses seem to sell better/faster than other categories of clothing.

**Shoes photograph very well and sell well if they are in great condition and are a brand that people want.
posted by treese at 4:40 PM on October 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

I do this sometimes when cleaning out my closet, if it's a name brand item that's Ann Taylor or nicer you should be able to sell it, I'd think, as long as it doesn't look super outdated.

Here is what I do:

- Four or five good photos of the item (I put mine on a hanger and hang it in front of a white backdrop). Show the full item, maybe a close-up, the back, and photograph the tag with the label at least, maybe also the inside care tag to prove it's authentic. Good photos in natural light with a nice digital camera really help. You could probably download the eBay app and snap/upload directly from your phone, if you have a smartphone.
- A title that includes enough keywords that people will find your listing: brand name, color, type of item, size, NWT if it's new with tags. I try to put the most commonly searchable color name & then add adjectives/descriptors to it, ie Deep Pink instead of Fuchsia because who can spell Fuchsia
- Simple description saying what it is, what fabric, any details (ie pockets, lining, belt loops, back vents), any flaws (or say it is perfect with no flaws). I try to remember to note that I don't smoke or own pets so buyers know it won't smell funny or trigger allergies.
- Note the size in the description and get your tape measure and put down measurements of the item - lay it flat and measure bust/waist/hip/length for tops/jackets, waist/hip/inseam for trousers; for jackets I also measure from shoulder seam to seam.
- Don't forget to fill out as many drop-downs as are relevant for the color and size and fabric of the item. However I don't bother to fill out country of origin unless it's a pricey item made in Italy or something.
- Start or schedule the listing for a reasonable hour in the evening, I find Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday is good, it's less likely to sell if the auction ends at 10 a.m. for instance.
- Agree that everyone buys Lululemon. I guess because there are comparatively few retail stores and the website sells out items often.
- Funky graphics and fonts and such in the description are a waste of time.
- Put a flat rate for shipping or offer free shipping so buyers know exactly what to expect re: cost.
posted by citron at 4:49 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

nthing ThredUp! They don't pay a ton, but if you send them decent stuff in the brands they request, you can make enough money to make it worthwhile, and probably about as much as you would have made on ebay once you subtract fees, shipping hassles, etc. You can use the money you earn as store credit or have it disbursed to you.

The biggest advantage is that it's super easy to deal with - you request a bag, they mail it to you, you fill it with clean clothes, and you ship it back to them using their prepaid label. There's been a bit of a delay in the bag processing lately, so don't expect an immediate payment (it took about a month for my last bag), but it's so hassle-free that I didn't mind too much.
posted by dialetheia at 11:39 AM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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