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January 28, 2008 1:55 PM   Subscribe

How does Buffalo Exchange work?

There are two Buffalo Exchange resale shops in Chicago, (one of which - Wicker Park - I simply cannot find) and I'd like to know a little about how they work. Yes, I've been to the website, but it doesn't really say anything specific. Will they take my larger size (16-20 and XL) clothing? I know I can just call, but I'd rather know before I traipse across town to get there, simply to be snobbed out by some size two waif with really killer boots.

Thanks in advance for the help.
posted by santojulieta to Shopping (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you probably have to call (and I kinda don't see how that fails to solve the problem of traipsing across town?), because it might depend on the store whether they want larger clothing, i.e. whether they have a demand for it.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2008


They'll only buy stuff for the season - you'll have a hard time getting them to buy, say, summer sundresses in January. In my experience the person at the counter will have a very different idea of what's sellable than you will, so be prepared for them to reject lots of stuff that you think is totally awesome. Some of them take larger sizes but each store is a little different, depending on the neighborhood that it serves.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:13 PM on January 28, 2008


I don't know the specifics, but yes; they'll likely take your 16-20 and XL clothing. I don't recall if the "store credit" option gives you a higher value than the "cash" option, but I seem to recall the exchange being a $1 a shirt and $2-$3 for jeans (i.e., their prices reflect more than a 100% markup on the value they give you). I'm in Tucson, AZ, btw, if that makes any difference.
posted by parilous at 2:13 PM on January 28, 2008


Yes, the store credit is a better deal than cash, and yes, they'll take your larger clothes as long as they're in season, fashionable and in decent shape. Or super-fashionable and trashed. They won't take wal-mart or target type clothes as a general rule. The snobbiness of the employees will rival that of record store clerks.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:19 PM on January 28, 2008


Yeah, and I'd like to mention that they will offer to take your stuff that they don't want to sell and donate it to a shelter. However, you might walk in a month later and see rejected stuff that they "donated" for sale... so if you want the tax write-off yourself, keep whatever stuff they reject and don't let them "donate it for you."

I have seen them reject $250 limited-edition shoes from England, $300 like-new coats, and clothes with the tags still on... so be forewarned about realistic expectations.

Last time I went in, I got $47 for five trash bags FULL of clothes/coats/shoes/purses.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:30 PM on January 28, 2008


Five trash-bags full? Well, of course the low-paid, non-commissioned salesperson is going to low-ball you. As trades become larger and larger, the greater the customer's desperation, and the lesser the chance that they'll just decline the offer, turn around and walk out the door.

I worked at a couple used-record and used-videogame stores, but the principles are the same.
posted by box at 2:45 PM on January 28, 2008


Eh, if you need to get rid of plus-size clothes and want to make a bit more cash, I'd suggest selling lots on eBay or joining Fatshionista and making a Friday sales post.
posted by lychee at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2008


Seconding the snobbiness...they are really happy to take high-end jeans and all manner of ironic hipster junk, but will reject pretty much everything else. Don't be hurt if they reject a good 90% of your clothes. (In Houston....YMMV)
posted by LittleMissCranky at 3:28 PM on January 28, 2008


The Chicago stores -- compared to the ones in cities where the brand is more established -- like Tucson -- seem to be a lot more picky about what they take -- which makes sense because they have much smaller spaces for resale and storage.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:01 PM on January 28, 2008


my girlfriend is a manager at a buy-sell-trade store that is a competitor to Buffalo. I spent the last half-hour writing a long screed about how buy-sell-trade works, but she just called me on the phone and I mentioned this question to her. She said that the Buffaloes in our area (SF) do not buy any sizes over 14, so you will definitely want to call ahead and see what they take at the Chicago ones.

As for some other stuff mentioned in this thread:

Yeah, and I'd like to mention that they will offer to take your stuff that they don't want to sell and donate it to a shelter. However, you might walk in a month later and see rejected stuff that they "donated" for sale... so if you want the tax write-off yourself, keep whatever stuff they reject and don't let them "donate it for you."

My girlfriend's store has pretty strict policies about what they are permitted to do with clothes that are not purchased. I don't know if Buffalo has different rules, but at her store, items that are NOT purchased are either donated or destroyed. They are NOT put on the racks; similarly, employees are not allowed to take them. Usually they'd rather you DIDN'T leave the clothes with them -- it's a pain in the ass.

Well, of course the low-paid, non-commissioned salesperson is going to low-ball you. As trades become larger and larger, the greater the customer's desperation, and the lesser the chance that they'll just decline the offer, turn around and walk out the door.

Again, don't know how this works at other stores, but at my girlfriend's, they don't lowball. They either buy or pass. When buyers are being trained, they get judged by management on whether they have priced something appropriately, and they get dinged points if they've priced something too low, just as they get dinged if they price something too high. They're not looking to rip you off; they want you to come back. That said, you don't make any friends by bringing in a ton of bullshit, and you reduce the chances that they'll buy any one particular piece.
posted by fishfucker at 4:48 PM on January 28, 2008


so you will definitely want to call ahead and see what they take at the Chicago ones.

oh, and PS, normally I would not advise calling them to see "if" they will take something, because you'll just get the "We are only buy in-season clothes that are lightly-used and from within the last year" line, but in your case they may also have sizing policy that will affect you.
posted by fishfucker at 4:51 PM on January 28, 2008


I practically live at the Buffalo Exchange in Philadelphia. I am a larger woman, and I have found it to be full of great things in my size. I also have found that the employees, at least in this city, run the gamut of full-figured to stick-figured. I am the exact same size/height as one employee, and we trade our whines.

The reason why Buffalo Exchange works for me, as a larger woman, is that they *do* accept clothing in my size, but the screen it (mostly) for awful ugly stuff. I don't always find something to buy every time I go there (about fifty-fifty). However, instead of going to a box-store with certain styles, they have one of many things, which means their shelves have a larger chance of holding something you want. I just go straight to the XL part of the rack.

They have frequently bought my things, but they immediately toss it aside if it has
-lots of lint
-any type of wear in the crotch/under arm area
-dirtiness in any form

I'm pretty sure they don't wash their clothing that they take in, so you should wash it first. Also, showing up with any number of garbage bags is just gauche. They hate people who do that. It means the person trying to sell has not spent the time necessary to sort out what articles are worth selling and what is not. Sometimes they have lines out the door of people laden with many bags of crap. So if they're a bit rude, I understand. However, since becoming a regular at their store, I have always been treated extremely kindly.
posted by nursegracer at 4:58 PM on January 28, 2008


If they do carry your size, you'll have a better shot at getting more of your items bought if you wash them right before you take them in, and fold them neatly in a laundry basket. A trash bag is the kiss of death, not because it's rude but because everything will be squished and wrinkled, it won't look nice and they won't want to buy. You'd also be surprised how many people bring in clothes that smell like smoke or mildew or cat piss... so if your clothes smell like Bounce, all the better!
posted by bonheur at 7:19 PM on January 28, 2008


I used to work as a buyer at Buffalo. It's amazing how much misinformation there is on here!

Fishfucker's stuff is pretty much right on, I just wanted to add a few bits...

s far the XL sizes go, it really depends on the items. We used to take large sized stuff that was cute... dresses from Torrid that were not too campy and that kind of thing. Sadly, a lot of XL sized stuff is either pretty bad or pretty basic, and we didn't take a lot of basic (i.e., if it's a plain blue long sleeve t-shirt, people would probably rather just buy it new, you know?)

Parilous is wrong in that there are no set prices for items, like $1 a shirt, or whatever. You get 30% of the set price (which is tagged right in front of you) for cash and 50% in store credit. So if the buyer thinks they can sell a dress for $20, they'll tag it at $20 and give you either $6 cash or $10 store credit.

Unicorn on the cob is very wrong that "donated" items are sold or taken by employees. If an employee even touches the donation bin to do anything but make sure the stack doesn't fall over, they could get in BIG trouble. BuffEx takes philanthropy very seriously and sees recycling, giving to charity, etc. as a major part of its business practices. You can get fired if you don't show up on the huge all for charity Earth Day $1.

Box is very wrong that employees are trained in psychological tactics. Honestly, there is no time for such negotiation. If the buyer thinks something will sell, they will buy, and that price they think they can sell it for. No tricks. Promise. I don't know where boxed worked but I'd hate to have sold records there...

And sorry, Little Miss Cranky and others, that you felt that not wanting to buy your used clothes was snobbiness. It was not intentional. Buyers only take what they think they can turn around in a month or so. Otherwise, it gets reduced to 50% off the original price and the store makes no money. Hundreds of people sell hundred and hundreds of pieces of clothing a day to stores, and hopefully, at least that many get moved out. If something isn't going to sell we just couldn't take it.

I have rejected beautiful, expensive, and very mature pantsuits just because I knew that professional clothes did not sell well our location and that, even if we did take some of them, we would not have been able to price them very high. I advised the seller about a consignment shop with a more mature aesthetic where she could probably fair better. Same goes for evening wear.

When I clean out my closet, I usually expect that most of my stuff isn't going to be bought. Most employees have the same expectation. There's really no hard feelings involved. Chances are, if you don't want to something because it's old, worn out, or not cute, no one else will either.

And yes, PLEASE WASH YOUR CLOTHES AND MAKE SURE THEY SMELL/LOOK NICE! BuffEx does NOT wash anything. It goes right onto a hanger and onto the floor. Would you buy something dirty and stinky?
posted by lalalana at 8:44 PM on January 28, 2008


Okay, then, I retract my statement about them reselling things that were "donated." I only made that statement on the basis of having tried to sell dresses that my grandmother made me, by hand, that were one of a kind, and seeing them a month later on the racks for sale after they were rejected. In Austin.

It was actually almost 8 years ago that this incident occurred. So, it may be that there was an unscrupulous employee or two at that particular location. Considering that the dresses were cut-down minidresses made from actual work dresses that my grandmother had made for herself in the 1961-1964 period, I am 100% positive that they were the same item, though.

Especially since one had my name sewn into it. Again, apologies if one bad apple left a bad impression on me about the store's general policies.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:24 PM on January 29, 2008


lalalana:

So even if I wasn't UotC's boyfriend, I'd feel the need to step in here. I have had reliable first-hand accounts of the scenario she mentions above related to me on more than one occasion. I've had a roommate that worked for "BuffEx" for most of the year we lived together as well as a close friend that managed a "BuffEx" in a separate major market both independently tell me of the resale of donated clothing taking place. Additionally, both sources mentioned employees helping themselves to items that had been left behind by customers under the assumption that they were donating the items to charity.

I'm not saying that it's company policy or even that it's something that "BuffEx" turns a blind eye to, but it happens, much as employee theft happens in any organization that hires workers at minimum wages. To assume otherwise is to place an inordinate amount of trust in a large group of students and young people.

You can get fired if you don't show up on the huge all for charity Earth Day $1.

Thus is true. I've also seen - firsthand - a "BuffEx" employee fired for being between one and two minutes late three times in a given pay period. No other offenses, just once being a total of less than six minutes late in an 80 hour period.

Your mileage may, of course, vary.
posted by item at 3:14 AM on January 31, 2008


...and let me reiterate: I don't believe that the resale of donated clothing is common practice at "BuffEx", but that, unless my manager friend was lying to me for some unknown reason, it has happened in the past at least one location.
posted by item at 3:18 AM on January 31, 2008


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