How to Shop Secondhand on Thredup
My relationship with Thredup has been a roller coaster, to say the least. I was an early adopter of, and early collaborator with, the “world’s largest online thrift store.” An online thrift store is exactly my speed, after all.
But things turned sour for a few reasons:
- Resale Issues: I sent them some of my own items for resale and was offered like $2.00 for a large bag of like-new, current items. I read dozens of similar stories from sellers who were disappointed with the lack of transparency regarding Thredup’s consignment pricing structure and selection process. It kind of felt like they were stealing people’s stuff, and I’m not sure if this has changed.
- “Remade” Line: Thredup tried to start their own product line a few years ago, and the marketing was transparently greenwashing. You can read my critique here. That line has disappeared from their website as of this writing.
- Disingenuous Marketing: While I totally get why Thredup calls itself a thrift store – after all, they’re selling secondhand clothes – I also feel like their marketing capitalizes on thrift‘s historical association with charity. That makes them seem more benevolently-minded than they are. Thredup is a for-profit company, which is totally fine as long as everyone realizes that.
For these reasons, I actually stopped shopping on Thredup for several years. But a couple of months ago, I decided to take another look. Since then, I’ve placed several orders and have been (largely) satisfied with my shopping experience.
Thredup is not perfect, but it does approximate in-person thrifting better than other secondhand sites. That’s because you don’t have to buy things one item at a time from individual sellers. It’s more efficient, shipping is cheaper, and the search process makes it more likely you’ll discover something you may not have noticed on a site like Ebay.
My Process for “Thrifting” on Thredup
1. Have a loose shopping list: Just as in the case of in-person thrifting, I like to have a basic list of what I’m looking for, along with basic criteria for each item. For example, I have recently been looking for cotton midi dresses, cropped ballet cardigans, and classic black loafers. I like to use Shop Look to help me narrow down wardrobe gaps.
Don’t input a search term just yet.
2. Set your size: Thredup allows you to save your preferred sizes, making it much simpler to peruse merchandise. I input a range that includes my typical size, as well as one size down and one size up. That’s because sizing varies by brand and era, and I don’t want to miss something that would actually work for me.
3. Input a general search term: The important thing to know about Thredup is that you will be very frustrated if you try to use it like Ebay. Don’t put in a specific search term like “lavender cropped cardigan.” Instead, either search by a preset category in Thredup’s drop-down menu (e.g. “Sweaters”) OR input a one-word search term like “cardigan.”
4. Limit your search using the lefthand menu: Once you are presented with product listings, narrow your search by using Thredup’s categories. For instance, if I’m looking for a lavender cardigan, I can check: Category-Sweaters, Style-Cardigan, Color-Purple, Neckline-V-neck, Material-Cotton,Acrylic.
5. Be patient: Because Thredup’s backend is largely automated by AI (which is actually pretty cool), there are some specific search terms that just won’t come up. I can never get a precise result when I get too specific with search terms, but as long as I’ve narrowed my search enough using Thredup’s tools, I can normally find something similar to what I have in mind.
Tip: Change sorting from “Relevance” to “Newest First” if you decide to window-shop for the same item over several days. This way, you won’t keep seeing the same listings first.
6. Check listed measurements, and external size charts: Thredup listings typically include basic sizing information, but they’re not always complete. Some of them are also misleading. Check the listed measurements, as these are more reliable than the listed size. But if you’re not familiar with the brand, do a Google search for their size chart to see if you can get a better idea of their usual sizing.
7. Add things to your cart before they sell out: If you’re interested in an item, but aren’t sure about it yet, adding it to your cart will place a 3-hour hold on it. If you’re not ready to consider buying it, you can favorite it for later.
8. Take advantage of rewards and sales: Thredup has a pretty good rewards system, so make sure you see how many points you’ve racked up from previous purchases before making your next one.
9. Be mindful of the return policy: Thredup will accept most items back, but some items are final sale. Returns comes with a restocking fee, but you can get the fee waived if you have enough rewards points.
10. Be careful to curate: It has been really hard for me not to become a Thredup shopaholic because I’m so starved for novelty. Make sure to check your needs versus wants to avoid impulse buying.
11. Don’t be afraid to do a price comparison: Thredup’s pricing is generally fair, but occasionally the listed resale price is unreasonably expensive. If you’re interested in an item, check Ebay and Poshmark to see if you can find it cheaper.
Would I recommend Thredup?
Yes. I’ve come back around to Thredup as a good resource for online secondhand shopping. I still have some misgivings about their consignment process, though, so if you’ve sold to them recently, tell me what your experience was like.
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.