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Poshmark (and eBay) for beginners
Buying things and getting rid of things as self care
I’m in a “do you want this?” group on Facebook and I was offloading some office clothes that I couldn’t interest my local consignment shop in. Carly Oishi, a friend of mine, asked if she could have them to sell in her Poshmark store and I said sure. I don’t know anything about Poshmark and at lunch, when I handed over the clothes, I asked her a bunch of questions about what it takes to run a store.
Carly told me where she acquires most of the clothes she sells (at a Goodwill outlet store that’s drivable but in another state) and what lines do the most business for her (Boden, J. Crew, Lululemon.) I learned that the downside of Poshmark sounds similar to that of any social media app—that you have to participate in it to “succeed” at it. The buyers have to handle their own shipping, and there is often pressure for sellers to offer shipping discounts. On top of that, if you’re trying to make some actual money from your shop, you need room for your inventory and to photograph it nicely.
On the other hand! Carly’s store can earn up to an extra $500-thousand per month, and she likes Poshmark more than other platforms where you have to stand out in a much bigger marketplace.
If you want to score deals, she told me, “I suggest ‘liking’ things on Thursdays and Saturdays. If making an offer, a maximum discount should be in the 40-50% range. Bundling items allows sellers to make offers and they (sellers) are not forced to give a shipping discount versus if you just like an item and they send you an offer. Bundling also helps get discounts from sellers, like 20% of two or more items.” (By the way, Carly said she’ll offer witches a discount if you buy something from her shop and mention it in the comments or on an offer.)
I like clothes. I like upcycling and side hustles and the catches that come with making money from home and doing distracting stuff online, so I decided to ask around and round up some additional advice and experiences from some witches who take particular interest in buying and selling clothes online. (NB: This post is not affiliated with any only resale platform and doesn’t endorse one in particular.) If you have tips/experience to share as a buyer/sellers etc below, the comments are open. Happy shopping/selling/looking!
Photographing is my least favorite part of selling. I have a photo area in my basement that is really easy to set up, but I usually don’t photograph anything until I have at least 10-15 things to sell. It’s not really worth it to me to just do one or two at a time. If I have a batch of 10-15 items to photograph, I’d estimate it would take me about an hour to finish. I do that maybe once or twice a month.
Things sell better if they don’t have wrinkles so I also steam anything that’s wrinkled. I have a mannequin that I use for plus size clothes (they tend to look worse on a hanger). It helps show the clothes better but it’s definitely more of a headache to dress and undress the mannequin.
There is a list of things you need to do to get [Poshmark] Ambassador Status. You need to share your posts at least 5000 times, share 5000 other people’s posts, share 50 new users, have at least 50 items for sale, sell at least 15 items, maintain a 4.5 seller rating, maintain an average shipping time under 3 days and leave 1 “love note” (which is basically a positive review for an item you’ve purchased). I completed all of these within the first 4-6 weeks of being on Poshmark, and I haven’t really thought about it since then. There isn’t much benefit to being an ambassador, except that occasionally my profile will appear in a list of recommended sellers and I’ll get a few hundred new followers in the span of a few hours. More followers means that more people see my posts when I share, but I don’t know that translates to more sales. (I suspect it does not.)
Plus size sells really well. Unfortunately, most plus sized clothing is poorly made and/or very ugly, so you have to be picky. I am plus sized myself so I tend to only pick up things I would want to wear. Torrid sells very consistently but I can usually only sell it for about $15. Nicer brands like Eileen Fisher get higher prices but the styles skew way older. ASOS and ModCloth have good plus sizes that are more trendy. I think there is one rich fat lady in my town that donates her designer clothes so I will occasionally find something like Armani in plus size (which I normally keep for myself) but not usually anything that’s considered really high end.
Outside of plus sizes, I can always sell Old Navy sweaters in any size. It’s almost a sure thing because I can frequently find them for around a dollar on clearance days, and I can consistently sell them for $15 if they are still in nice condition. Loft is a really consistent seller too.
I don’t have a huge inventory - only about 100 items. (Many sellers have thousands of items.) Most of my inventory is in a dresser in my guest room. I do have 2 plastic bins in my basement with overflow inventory.
I think people overestimate “the algorithm.” Share your items several times a day. When you search for something on Poshmark, the default search settings sort the results based on how recently things have been shared. The closer you are to the top, the more people will see your items. I share 2-3 times per day, but I had more sales when I was sharing 6-8 times per day.
I have a full time job, so I don’t have a lot of time to work on Poshmark. Basically, it works out to barely minimum wage. If I didn’t enjoy doing it (mainly the thrifting but also the little rush that comes from making a sale), I definitely wouldn’t bother. However, I can see why someone would want to do this full time as opposed to doing something like a more traditional retail job.
I wish I had known earlier to only buy inventory that is on sale. When I first started, I was barely breaking even. Now I average around $10 per item with a much higher profit margin. (I try to keep my cost of goods at less than 1/3 of the sale price, so 1/3 goes to taxes and 1/3 is take-home profit.)
Getting to know all the little thrift stores in my area taught me where all the different sales are and when. For example, one store used to have one day per month where you could buy a shirt and pants for $5 total. They would basically give you a discount on the shirt if you would take a free pair of pants. Every other day of the month, it was too expensive, but once I knew when the sale was, I could make it profitable. I am on a lot of marketing lists now so I get texts when they are having their random sales that I wouldn’t know about otherwise.
My E.W. friend/collaborator Lauren Williamson interviewed a mutual anonymous friend of ours who has a long history of finding most of her clothes on eBay and loving a good find:
Sometimes I have something vague in mind like a polka-dot blouse a dark turtleneck with a small botanical print) and I figure I'll know it when I see it. Other times I've seen a specific item on the internet or tried it on IRL and want to find it or its last-season analog for cheaper. I have the most luck with small- and mid-sized luxury-ish brands. If I search for something super niche, there will be one XXXS sample in Lithuania for €400 plus the same for shipping. On the other hand, if I search for "Anthropologie," I'll get hundreds of thousands of results, including people's worn-out Target T-shirts from 2003. There's a sweet spot for semi-fancy brands that have some volume but not too much, and not such a following that everyone is all over them.
I get almost all of my Mother jeans on eBay, which is why I have too many of them. I've gotten some very fierce and gorgeous shoes by Modern Vice for between $35 and $75, which is pretty great because they are quite expensive in the store. Soia + Kyo coats. Beyond Yoga workout stuff. I used to get baby clothes and shoes, but once my kids got toddler-sized, used clothes get worn OUT. I've found that high-quality lines and designers run true to size, so I can trust that one pair of Modern Vice in size 8 is going to fit the same as the pair I already have.
Just about all of my clothes are from eBay, including my bras, which I recognize sounds gross, but it is not! Maybe a few years ago it sounded gross, but now people seem to recognize that eBay is not just individuals selling stuff out of their closets. It is that, and that's wonderful for items that are not lingerie, but there are also sellers who own long-standing businesses selling new (or new-old, like last season's) clothes, with tags, never been worn.
If I'm looking for a particular type of item and not browsing a brand, it's about narrowing down. So let's say I am looking for that elusive dark ditsy-floral turtleneck that is not $100. I might start by searching floral turtleneck, and then flower turtleneck. Recently eBay has been weird, and I might have to put "turtleneck" in quotation marks to avoid getting tens of thousands of results for every floral top ever made. Then I use the menus to narrow by item location. Usually I put North America, because lately there are a lot of businesses in China and elsewhere that make not-very-high-quality clothes. I am probably missing out on some great items in China and elsewhere, but they're buried in the glut of cheap stuff, unfortunately. Then I filter by size and *sometimes* by brand, but sometimes it's nice to see what's there. What I'm hoping for is around 150 results or less, because that is scroll-able and digestible. If it's a really-wide open search and there are still too many results to dig through, I'll put a minus sign and all the things I DON'T want. This can be colors or fabrics or particular design elements but are honestly usually mall brands that I'm too much of a snob to wear or at least to seek out. Once you take out Hollister or whatever, you'll have much less to sift through. So my search bar will look like this: floral "turtleneck" -(polyester, velour, mesh, nylon, orange, yellow, brown, ruffle, ruffles, aeropostale, old navy). And I always sort by price, because there's nothing like bidding on an item for $23 only to find that you can get it for $11 after all.
I sometimes use a service called Auction Sniper to prevent a bidding war. You put in your highest bid, and it automatically enters that bid within the last three seconds of the auction. Now that eBay does more "buy it now/best offer" and less bidding, I don't use it as often, but it still comes in handy. I very often put in extreme low-ball offers, and sometimes they're accepted! Also, if you can tell that the seller is an actual person, contacting them, being nice, telling them your budget and what you hope to use the item for can go a long way toward endearing you and getting you a good deal. Even one of the biggest secondhand sellers, Linda's Stuff, is an actual person who told me I was her second-favorite buyer, after Suzanne Vega! This was over a decade ago but remains a point of true pride. I think she has a pretty big staff now. Linda, do you remember me?
I don't ever want to pay retail for anything, ever. Ever.
The Madewell track pant were my gateway. The Girls of a Certain Age blog posted something about these track pants that made me think, “They look like the exact pants I need on my body right now.” They’re $90, “I was like, ‘I’m not paying $90 for elastic waist pants; I will pay $20.’” It’s better to know what you’re looking for.
I got a dress from Athleta that had pants underneath it which is my favorite thing. It’s $95 with tags. I got it for $25. I wanted a Boden Christmas tee shirt with the Breton stripe. I got it for $15. Stuff like that, you’re drunk with power: “I’m going to find the sweetest deal.”
I needed basketball shoes for my sons and I’m not going to pay full price. They were $20 each. But in my experience, used little boy clothes—you should just buy new ones. Just go to Old Navy and expect holes.
Most Poshmark clothes have a smell. Like you get in a Lyft, and you know how it smells like they gave everybody the same air freshener. That’s what it smells like. You just gotta wash it.
Sometimes you’ll get something and it has extra shit in it: “Here’s some product samples.” I think [the seller] is trying to make it a lovely experience and it’s wrapped in tissue paper. That’s nice, but I don’t care. You can stick it in a grocery bag and stick a stamp on it and I’d be happy because I got a deal.
[The sellers] don’t get paid until you mark it received. I forgot it the first time I bought something. I later opened the app: “Oh no, this poor person.”
I had some things that I ended up not being crazy about, but it wasn’t the item’s fault: you’re buying used clothes online. It’s less of a bummer than when you missed the return window for something you paid a lot for. When I was going to Mexico, I was buying all kinds of weird stuff and I bought this dress that was Anthropologie and I was like, ‘No.’ I gave it to a 14 year old.
Anne Holub buys and sells on Poshmark from her home in Billings, MT:
I have been shocked at some of the lowball offers I get sometimes. You’re selling a new-with-tags pair of boots that retails for $100 and you’re selling for $60 and the buyer is offering you $10 and you’re like “No.” Some will be really pressure-y about it. They’ll put another message, “Did you see my offer? Did you see my offer?” Yes, I saw it; it was ridiculous.
There’s a lot you have to be careful about as a buyer, since you can't return something if it doesn't fit, etc. Poshmark can be a place to find gems and to discover new brands but the biggest pitfall is that you cannot return it. If you get it and it doesn’t fit you’ve not paid attention to something with a measurement on yourself.
A lot of sellers will post stuff to varying degrees of specificity. As a shopper the best thing I could do was look for something in my closet that fit, measure the hell out of it, and if something I liked didn’t have measurements, put a comment in and request details. “Can you give me pit to pit measurements or length?” or “Can you post a photo of the bottom on the shoes so I can see wear marks?” Some people will list thing as an XL, but if you see a photo in the listing, it’s actually an XL tall. You have to be your own advocate in a way and be able to walk away from something if they’re not giving you the information. I will never fault someone for selling me something that doesn’t fit me.
As a seller I’ve gotten negative feedback when I didn’t put measurements up and they didn’t ask for it and it didn’t work for them. 4 out of 5 stars, but you could have asked for the measurements. Also it was a $5 shirt: I’m sorry your feelings are hurt about it not fitting—it’s H&M.
I got a J Crew barn coat; I’m reliving my youth. But it smelled like someone’s cologne really bad when I got it. “I’m going to Febreeze you and stick you outside.”
[Selling] been kind of pin money for me. It goes into Paypal and I will turn that around and buy other clothes I want off Poshmark.
One thing that we end up doing on our taxes is submitting how much value of clothes/hard goods we donated to charities locally. And that can honestly help our state taxes a TON so you may get more value out of donating them and tracking receipts than getting ‘profits’ via Poshmark. Am I going to get $5 of value out of listing and waiting for a pair of old Gap jeans to sell? Or should I just donate it and keep the receipt?
I hope you enjoyed this issue of Evil Witches, a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers. I am glad I learned about Poshmark right after a pair of beloved new gold Birkenstocks got spray painted silver (??) at the cobbler and it sort of broke my heart and I wanted replacement Birks but not pay full price for them.
If you thought this was interesting/helpful/entertaining I hope you consider becoming a paid subscriber if you haven’t yet, which supports the time it takes to conduct, edit and publish the interviews for issues like these and this gets you extra subscriber-only posts/threads (usually an extra Witches per week). The other day we talked about winter hands and favorite family lotions.