Today’s guest post is by Emily Jividen from John & Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing.
Most of us have things we need to get rid of or no longer use. You have a few options: keep, give away, discard or sell.
I want to talk about selling your stuff, particularly selling your unwanted items to a reseller. Secondhand shops and consignment stores can be a good way of unloading your extras for cash or turning them in for trade for things you do want.
Selling items yourself has one big advantage over selling to a reseller: You cut out the middleman. Secondhand shops and consignment stores need to make a profit to stay in operation, so you won’t get the full amount that the end customer is going to pay. You’ll usually get a substantially lower price. So why sell to a reseller?
Convenience. It’s probably more convenient to turn your transaction over to someone else, particularly if you have a lot of items to sell. If you sell your unwanted items yourself, you have to find a buyer for each item, collect the funds, and get the merchandise to the appropriate customer.
That can be a lot of work. If you have less expensive items, the time and effort may outweigh the benefits of finding buyers for you. Resellers have already established a customer base and sales method. They can handle multiple transactions more easily. They can also handle smaller less expensive items.
If you do sell to a reseller, though, you still want to get the best deal you can. I worked for a chain of used book and music stores for 17 years and did thousands of buybacks. There are a number of things to make the items you want to sell more attractive to a reseller so that you get the best value with the least amount of frustration.
Pick Your Store
Even though you aren’t trying to find individual buyers for each of your items, you’re still trying to find the right buyer.
That means you need to make sure that the reseller you choose actually needs the merchandise you have.
For instance, the bookstores I worked at sold most biographies for $4 or less and didn’t pay cash for them. We weren’t a good match for someone wanting cash for a large collection of biographies, but we meshed well with someone who wanted to trade in their old biographies for new.
Most resellers will post FAQs on their websites to explain their buying and trading policies, at least in a general sense. That’s helpful, but it also makes sense to scout out their location if possible. Talk to the staff and browse the shelves for pricing and inventory information .
If you have items that the reseller puts higher than average prices on, they probably want more. If you have items like the items they have in clearance or with low prices, the reseller may not have a high demand for them and may only take them for a store credit or not take them at all.
Also, check review sites like Yelp or the Better Business Bureau to make sure the reviews are decent. If you know people who have dealt with a particular reseller, ask them to relate their experiences. Bad reputations usually have a good reason.
Making sure you are picking the right venue for selling your items saves your time and the time of the reseller. It can save frustration on both sides if you take the time to find a reputable buyer who needs your goods.
Consider Testing the Waters
If you have a huge collection of items to bring in, don’t bring it in all at once. Consider taking a smaller sample, which will give you a little experience with the store.
You’ll learn the rules, find out what to expect, and have a chance to see if the reseller can use more of the same.
Not all resellers can handle large volumes. Many of them have limited space and capacity. On the other hand, most will happily let you know if you are bringing them valuable items and they want more.
If you and the reseller are both happy, move forward. If you don’t think they offered enough, you can still try somewhere else.
The Container Matters
Most of the time, when you take items to a reseller, you have multiple items. You’re probably going to put them in a bag or a box.
Don’t use a garbage bag. Seriously.
Part of the garbage bag ban is the aesthetics of the transaction. If your stuff comes in looking like garbage, the buyer’s first impression is “garbage.”
But there’s a practical consideration, too. You can place all the carefully folded clothes or stacked books in a garbage bag you want, and as soon as you pick it up your stuff is going to slide around and become disorganized. And there’s just no way to dig through a garbage bag and keep things organized.
Grocery bags tend to be small enough to stay organized. Boxes and smaller totes are ideal, as long as they weren’t dirty or smelly when you put your sellables in them.
Neat, organized, and clean containers make a much better impression. They will keep your stuff in better condition and protect its value. They will even make processing your order easier, faster and more convenient.
Don’t Try to Sell the Unsellable
Before you try to sell something to a reseller, make sure that the things you want to sell still have some value.
Every used item has a point of no return. That can differ by category and seller, but there’s always going to be items that the reseller doesn’t want to take because it’s just not that easy to find a buyer for the item in that condition.
If you bring in a bunch of dirty, smelly, torn, broken and/or incomplete items, the buyer is going to assume that’s what you have. They may even overlook your good items. Unfortunately, it’s just human nature.
I’m not saying everything has to be like new. Some of the coolest items I ever saw come in our bookstore were older and well used. But if you bring in boxes full of books with missing pages or t-shirts with extra holes and grass stains, you aren’t helping yourself.
Try not to bring in things that need to be cleaned either. It’s possible that if the item is expensive enough, the reseller might still buy it with the idea that a staff member will clean it later. They won’t pay as much if they think they have to put extra effort into getting the item into sellable condition, though.
Comb Through Your Stuff First
Everyone who works as a reseller has That Story about That Time they found That Thing in a box of stuff they were going through.
Sometimes it’s cash or valuables. Sometimes it’s embarrassing pictures or something equally compromising.
Sometimes it’s just something absolutely disgusting.
Don’t be That Customer. Go through the stuff you are donating and pull out anything you don’t want strangers to find.
Make sure you only take in the items you (and your family members) want to sell, too. Most resellers consider a buy transaction final once they pay you. If you find out that your child threw one of your favorite items in the resell box, you’ll likely have to pay the new full price to get it back.
While you’re at it, make sure that things that are supposed to be in boxes or cases are actually in them. You probably don’t want to to be disappointed to learn that that bag full of video games or DVDs you brought in to sell was actually full of empty cases.
Don’t be a Jerk
I’m going to take a minute to remind you that when you are taking items to a reseller, you are making a sale.
Yes, the reseller is in the business of buying and selling stuff, and the reseller needs a good relationship with the customers who sell to him because the reseller needs things to sell.
But you are making a sale. You want the reseller to like you, or at least not dislike you.
If you are a jerk, the reseller is likely to look for reasons not to take your stuff. If they do like your stuff, they are going to look for reasons to offer you less.
It may not even be conscious, but that minor imperfection that they would usually ignore may become glaringly obvious if you are being rude.
Reasonable manners should suffice. If the buyer is trying to ask you questions about your stuff, try to answer them. Try not to crowd them too much while they evaluate your stuff, and to let them do their work. They may have lots of merchandise to process for multiple customers, and their buying process may be chaotic even without extra distractions.
It’s okay to see if they’ll haggle a little, but be polite and understanding if the reseller has a strict no-haggle take-the-offer-or-leave-it policy. If you don’t like the offer, ask the buyer politely to return your items but try not to take it personally if your evaluation of your stuff’s value doesn’t match theirs.
Stress-Free and Profitable
Secondhand stores and consignment shops can be excellent ways of ridding yourself of unwanted items as well as a good source of gently used items you might want. With a little care and consideration, you may be able to form a working relationship that will be stress-free and profitable for both you and your favorite reseller for many years to come.
What tips do you have for selling to resellers?
Emily Jividen spent 17 years working in various roles for a used book and music chain. She and her husband Jon write about various money topics at the John & Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing. Some of their pet topics include teaching kids about money, frugal living, and money-saving DIY.