Making Sure Secondhand Comes First: thredUP Review Part I

Written by Julia Eden

thredUP Review: Sometimes Secondhand Really Is First Rate

Lately, my new favorite shopping experience comes courtesy of thredUP, the secondhand, online marketplace that is absolutely challenging my love of the traditional brick and mortar thrift shop. From the comfort of anywhere, I can browse by style, size, brand, item, color, pretty much anything, to find that perfect piece.

“We know that shopping secondhand helps the world in some small way, and we’re proud to be a part of that. Being a conscious consumer matters. It matters to you, it matters to us, it matters in the whole big picture of the world. We want to leave the planet sustainable for the next generation — saving water, recycling and reusing items, and donating to important causes.” -ThredUP Website

With an incredibly selective eye, thredUP curates a shopping experience that is comprehensive and good for the planet, people, and animals. Of course, with any secondhand offering, the eco-cred is built in, but thredUP’s dedication to quality takes the pain of shopping away. Browsing through pages of what are, admittedly, not the best photos, garment after garment laid flat or on dummy, without the added frills of fancy lighting or beautiful backdrops, the experience is stripped back and easy.

How It Works

The system works much like the thrift store down the street, but with an incredibly discerning eye. Instead of taking your old clothes to Goodwill or The Salvation Army, you mail them to thredUP, who then sorts and appropriates your old duds accordingly. Anything deemed sellable is credited to you in one of two ways: as instant in-store credit or loaded gift card, or through a consignment system that pays out after your item sells.

“We are transforming the way people think about secondhand, and we have the capacity and the energy and the vision to make that a part of people’s lives for 20, 30, 50 years.” -James Reinhart, Co-Founder & CEO

You can scour the options for sale on the website or through the mobile app, make your selections, then just complete payment and shipping options as you would any online purchase. It’s easy, straight-forward, and, dare I say it, fun. After a long day of work, me and my tea get cozy on the couch, Netflix or the local news in the background, and phone in hand for the scrolling to begin.

The Competition

For quite a while now, we consumers have had two options for ridding our wardrobes of the still-wearable-but-not-for-me garments that weigh us down. You can donate your unwanted rags to a used clothing store, often uplifted by the knowledge that your donation is helping those less fortunate who are looking to improve their lot. Or, you can deal with the work that comes with selling your clothing through secondhand sites like Ebay or Poshmark; work such as photography, listing, shipping, and communication with customers.

Filling the growing demand for a full-service resale business, thredUP offers its sellers a pain and worry-free experience when culling the closet. A little bit of credit can go a long way at this place, and though they are a for-profit business, they will still make the most of your contribution, on-selling the rejected items, selling them for scrap fibres, or recycling them, just as a thrift store would. Either way, very little ends up in a landfill, so all donations are still eco-friendly.

It’s Not Your Business

Please don’t be mistaken – thredUP is not a business opportunity. You will not make money, and you should not quit your day job. If you’re looking to make cash on your closet, or you enjoy rooting through thrift shops for hidden gems you can turn into the folding green, then you need to do it your damn self. Get on eBay, open an online shop, have a garage sale, whatever. ThredUP is not that. Instead, by doing all of the dirty work for you, they’re providing an effective compromise between the most you can get, and the nothing you get from donating. They make it easy, and they still, somehow, pay you for it. They just don’t pay very much.

What Could Be Better?

Well, actually, a few things could be better, but probably not as many as you would think. The packaging is minimal and consists of a really pretty outer box (so very reusable/upcyclable/Give Back Box-able), a sheet of tissue paper, and some additional pieces of paper like the packing slip and promotional materials. But, otherwise, it contains no excesses. As far as thredUP’s ability to run sustainably, they’re doing pretty well. But, like most businesses, they could do better (hint, hint James – do you have anyone working on BCorps certification yet?).

My small personal quibble, though, is with the actual listings. I understand listing items individually, especially when so many are low-cost (there’s a ton of stuff available under $10), can be a hinderance to a business like this one. But, I don’t believe that means it’s okay for them to the get fabric content wrong. So far, I have purchased about 10 items from the site and all but one have been correct, so they’re batting average is still totally acceptable. But, in the sustainable world, receiving a garment labeled as “100% Cotton” and then finding it’s actually over 50% polyester is pretty disappointing (true story). Luckily, with such stringent quality guidelines for acceptability, and accounting for that fact that everything is secondhand, it’s easy to overlook a small mistake.

About the author

Julia Eden

With a passion born in rivers, Julia Eden has spent the last decade crusading for the environment. Educated in fashion design and English Literature, and skilled in dance, she is dedicated to finding the information needed to live a new and better life. While not quite a Luddite, she would very much like to live in a cave with a wolf and an internet connection.

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