Do you reduce, reuse, recycle?

Reduce, reuse, and recycle is advice that’s usually associated with trash, but it also applies to treasures – the treasures you can find in thrift and consignment shops, and online auctions.

I volunteer frequently in a local thrift shop and am amazed at what people donate. My friends and I also refresh our wardrobes as consignment shop sellers and buyers. It’s a win-win: You can dress and decorate above your budget, and do something good for the environment.

Until very recently I avoided eBay. My theory was that you need to see what you’re buying when you’re buying used. But earlier this year, at the urging of a friend, I decided to test my theory by making some trial buys on eBay – with the following ground rules:

  • I would buy only from sellers who accepted returns.
  • I would choose sellers who accept credit cards, so if need be I could contest the charges.
  • I would buy only from sellers who took and posted their own photos, vs. using catalog shots, and who authenticated their item’s labels in writing.
  • I would stick with brands I know in terms of quality, sizing, etc.
  • I would only buy items in “like new” condition, with some reasonable leeway.
  • I would set a maximum bid based on the item’s researched original price and current condition , and never bid above it. (Sometimes that would be a percentage of the original price – my target might be no more than 25% – or for high cost items, a dollar amount.) In other words, I would be willing to lose an unlimited number of auctions for items I wanted.

The results of my four weeks of “research shopping” on eBay are very interesting.

I did lose a lot of auction items. Many items I wanted sold for 60% or more of their original prices. High quality watches seem especially pricey on eBay. (Amazingly, people also list items with a minimum opening bid of $8000 to $10,000, and more. Who buys a $12,000 item on eBay?)

I observed that some auction items bid up quickly over the last 10 minutes they’re offered, but often there are only two people bidding by then.  This may mean that the other bidders are sleeping, or gave up. It definitely means that sometimes you can score a great deal if you bid at the end of an auction. If you decide to bid on something, make a note and come back to the item right before the auction ends.

My two best buys: An authentic, classic Coach bag in near perfect condition (I paid an estimated 15% of its original selling price) and an authentic, like-new Tiffany’s pendant necklace that  cost me less than 40% of its current retail price. (Someone will be seeing that under their Christmas tree.)

(About authentication:, will authenticate high-end bags if you provide the requested types of photos. I took other items currently available into stores. At Tiffany’s an associate was nice enough to verify my necklace as the real deal. If an item is advertised as authentic and turns out not to be, that’s grounds for its return and a full refund.)

Other lessons I learned you may want to apply, if you decide to try eBay:

  • Protect yourself by buying only from top-rated sellers (ones with no buyer complaints).
  • If the posted photos aren’t adequate for decision-making, email the seller and ask for additional pictures and/or item details. Most were happy  to provide more info.
  • Read descriptions carefully: No use buying a bracelet that’s smaller than your wrist.
  • Check shipping charges before you bid. Some sellers “appear” to pad their shipping costs.

The moral here is you can happily buy used, if you’re smart about it. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and then rejoice – and spread the word.

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2 Responses to Do you reduce, reuse, recycle?

  1. Panama says:

    Yes, a thrift store isn’t necessarily charitable , but at least it means that someone is using the thing that you would have otherwise thrown away. And in the case of thrift stores, it could mean that a family facing tough times is able to afford something that they may not have been able to buy new from a regular retail outlet.

  2. Elisa Brent says:

    I’ve sold clothes, gadgets and recently some phones through the internet, it’s amazing the sort of stuff i’ve been able to sell. Clothes don’t go for much but with no charity stores nearby it’s the best I could do. I settled with for the rest of my stuff basically because I am lazy and it was easier for me to search for someone to buy my phones rather than listing on ebay and being hit with charges if someone didn’t want it.

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