Meredith Fineman fell in love with consignment shopping at age 11 when she came across a neon green C&C tank top for ten dollars. “Those tanks were the shit. Layering them was life. To find one for ten bucks? Sorcery.”
From that point on she was hooked. Fineman does it for fun, for sport, and as a semi-side hustle: in addition to her 9-5, she created a newsletter called Cosign + Co. that focuses on the art of consignment.
Vintage shopping, selling my own items on consignment, sifting through thrift stores — all of these things tend to overwhelm me. But I know it’s all an important part of the sustainability movement, not to mention it’s another way to make and/or save money. So Meredith Fineman and I talked. I asked some weird questions. And here is what she told me:
Be honest: Isn’t it kind of gross?
The world is divided into two people. Those who think it’s gross, and those who love it. If you buy something from a thrift store, put it in a washing machine or take it to a dry cleaner. However, it’s a completely different story if you’re shopping at a high end consignment store like Ina. There’s a good chance most of that stuff has never even been worn.
People tend to be more grossed out by consignment than vintage, but what’s the difference between something that’s two years old versus thirty?
Okay but so what’s the grossest thing you’ve ever experienced in your 18 years of consignment shopping, vintage shopping and thrift shopping?
I found a used Kleenex in raincoat. But for the most part these places check everything before they put it out on the floor. And they tend not to accept things that are stained or damaged.
Have you ever found anything cool?
I once found a pair of fingerless gloves in the pocket of an awesome leather jacket!
What if you’re superstitious and you’re worried about…
Bad juju? I am superstitious. When I’m buying from a vintage or consignment store I’ll ask about where or who the item came from. I’ve ended up not buying something before because the salesperson told me the seller was terrible.
I guess you could burn sage around whatever you buy.
You could. But normally I don’t think about it. You’re giving a whole new life to a garment.
Favorite place to sell online?
I like Tradesy. Tradesy gives you 90 percent back versus standard consignment stores, which offer 50. Some offer 60. There are consignment stores that offer 70 percent back if you’re selling something for over 5k, but for me, the only time selling something on consignment is worth it is if you can make most of your money back.
I’ve never sold on The RealReal, but I like to shop on it.
Any intense selling-experience stories?
I was trying to sell this Céline bag, and I got a buyer at like, 9 p.m. at night. She was frantic, had to have it, but would only buy it if she could receive it the next day. I had to rush it to FedEx to overnight it and she covered that fee, but I thought, fine, this is my chance. There are so many consignment Céline bags online and for whatever reason she wants this one, and NOW. I made about 1.5k on it!
What sells the best?
Depends on where you’re selling it, but honestly, H&M, Zara, Lululemon and J.Crew. J.Crew sells the best out of everything. My crazy stuff is the hardest to sell.
What should I never sell?
Anything sentimental. I never sell anything sentimental, anything that a family member bought for me or anything I bought while traveling. It’s off-limits. Selling it is just not worth it.
Do you have any trade secrets?
Yes, and this is why I like to shop in person: the price is almost always negotiable. If you are shopping at a standalone luxury consignment store that is not owned by a larger corporation, befriend a sales person. Ask if he or she can lower the price on something. Ask if you can pay less because you’re paying cash. If you see a button missing or a rip, ask for a discount. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. These places have the power to change prices.
And avoid layaway. I think it’s dangerous. You’re on a monthly payment plan with interest. People go into debt because of layaway.
What are your thoughts on buying something that’s the wrong size if you love it?
I believe anything can be tailored or messed with. You might spend more on tailoring than you do on the item, but it’s always less the designer price. You can always make things smaller, however it’s much harder to make something smaller expand.
AND NEVER BUY SHOES THAT ARE TOO SMALL. You usually can’t stretch them, and if you do, you’ll ruin them.
Some of the stuff that you find or come across really is magic. I found an awesome vintage puffer bomber jacket with my best friend’s last name on it in Portland, Maine. It’s an unusual last name, so I gave it to her. I once found an old locket with my initials on it in a flea market in D.C. The chances are so small that it just feels like magic.
Photo via iStock.