You know what a miserable experience it can be trying to thrift shop for pre-owned designer clothing if you have ever visited a high-end secondhand store. In order to find that one diamond in the rough Versace blouse, you have to look through endless racks of deteriorating fur coats and smelly knock-offs. Searching for a needle in a haystack is almost more appealing. And, you can forget about finding a pleasing item in a size that actually fits you.
Shopping designer consignment stores can be time-consuming, frustrating, and almost always fruitless. Fortunately, just as you are about to give up on ever wearing the top labels, the Internet once again has a smart solution. TheRealReal.com is here to save the day with luxury secondhand offerings that are easy to find with just a couple clicks. You don’t even need to have hand sanitizing lotions to get the smell of mildew and mothballs off!
When it comes to authenticated luxury consignment, The RealReal is a global leader. They supply the widest selection of authenticated and pre-owned luxury merchandise, such as fine watches and jewelry, fine art, and women’s and men’s luxury fashion. The RealReal sells watches and jewelry from Rolex, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Cartier; blue chip art from Roy Lichtenstein, Sam Francis, Andy Warhol, and hundreds of others; and pieces from designers like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel.
The RealReal was founded by current CEO Julie Wainwright, who was the former CEO of Pets.com. After lackluster success with several other startups, Wainwright got the idea for The RealReal while visiting many of the women’s boutiques that dot the posh Russian Hill neighborhood in San Francisco. Her first employee was an owner of one of these boutiques, Rati Levesque, who now serves as the Chief Merchant for The RealReal.
The pair worked out of Wainwright’s home in Marin County beginning in 2011. They would receive the consignment items and photograph them by hand. They also did all of their own shipping. But, by 2013, they had outgrown their digs and moved into a large warehouse. It was also that year that they were able to get the funding they needed to take The RealReal to the next level.
The popularity of The RealReal has exploded. These days, they receive about 130,000 new pieces every month. The company is valued at $300 million, and they have more than 400 employees and growing. Each item is photographed at least six times by professional photographers they have on staff. There are also authenticators who sniff out any fakes by examining the threading on skirts, checking bags’ serial numbers, or any number of other methods.
When you first become a member with The RealReal, you get a $25 site credit. The home page is also packed full of sales you can browse, including 30 percent off must-have looks, 30 percent off investment pieces, 30 percent off denim, and much more. At the time of this writing, The RealReal was pushing New York Fashion Week designer favorites.
You can use The RealReal site as a free member, but in order to take full advantage of what they have to offer, the paying memberships are where it’s at. There are two levels of paid membership. The First Look membership costs a minimal $5 per month. For this, you get 24-hour advance Wait List notifications, new curated luxury sales emailed daily, First Look only promotions, and 24-hour advance access to sales.
The second paid membership level is First Look Platinum, which costs $20 per month. This is for those shoppers who want their purchases quickly. With this plan, you get unlimited upgrades to two-day shipping. You will still pay the standard rate for ground shipping. You will just get two-day shipping at no additional charge.
The RealReal ships via FedEx from warehouses San Francisco and New Jersey to street addresses in the United States and many international destinations. They do not deliver to post office boxes. There are flat rates based on how fast you want your order. Ground delivery in three to five business days is $11.95, Express takes two business days and costs $20, and Overnight arrives one business day at a cost of $30.
Buying items is not the only perk of using The RealReal. When you are done with your designer clothing, you can sell it on a consignment basis. There is a $100 gift card to Neiman Marcus bonus when you consign your first ten items. The RealReal makes consignment easy. They offer full service, private consignment with free pick up or shipping. Most of the items they list are sold within three days to their millions of members.
In addition, most brick and mortar consignment stores might pay you 40 percent. That is not the case with The RealReal. When you consign with them, you can earn up to 70 percent of the selling price. You start off earning 60 percent, but as you sell more and more on a consistent basis, that number is bumped up to 70 percent.
When shopping The RealReal, prices tend to be all over the place. You can find some Chanel heels that will make all of your friends jealous for under $200, a Birkin bag for a cool $7,000, or an array of one of a kind items from Rebecca Taylor, Rag & Bone, Kate Spade, and many more. Plus, I have gotten a twenty percent off code emailed to me just about every week since joining last month. That makes the savings even better.
Occasionally, when their stock is piling up, The RealReal will send you discount coupons of up to half off. When I got one of these, I emptied my bank account on a gorgeous silk dress, an elegant Stella McCartney dress for just $70, and a Phillip Lim blazer for under $40.
The RealReal prides itself on offering designer items at up to 90 percent off of their original retail price, and my experience has been that they are true to their word.
One of the aspects I do not like about The RealReal is that you have to sign up before you can even browse the site. This is annoying for a person who likes to share their top discount finds with friends, who may not necessarily want to log in to see the discount. This does cut down on the site being spammed, though. And, The RealReal does send great deals to members.
Unlike most online retailers, The RealReal does not offer free shipping for orders of any size. You can buy $1,000 worth of stuff, and you still have to pay the $11.95 ground shipping rate. I thought that seemed kind of tacky, but I imagine it helps them to keep the actual costs of their items down.
Customer service is available through a number of means. You can contact The RealReal via email, online form, or over the phone during regular business hours, which are 9 am to 5 pm Pacific Monday through Friday. They also have an extensive FAQ section, so you can find answers for yourself.
To get a firsthand glimpse at their customer service, I called their customer service line at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon to see if I could catch them ducking out early. After just a couple rings, I was greeted by a real, live person. She was incredibly knowledgeable about the product I asked about, and she made a point of making sure my questions were answered thoroughly.
Based on my experience with The RealReal, it is the real deal. They do an excellent job of connecting consignment sellers with shoppers of top brands. You no longer have to search through stinky clothes for that diamond in the rough. There are no other sites that even come close to this level of quality. You just have to be careful that you do not get too addicted!