Selling Secondhand Bags Online Without Going Mad

Taking a break from holiday posts because there are other things on my mind, namely the Epic Decluttering Effort of 2013. We’ll be moving to a new place early next year, and what with a baby on the way there just isn’t going to be enough room for all my stuff.

As part of my decluttering spree I’ve been steadily culling my handbag collection. A handful have been given to relatives, while I’ve been trying to sell a few more online. It’s been a bit of an experience so far, so I’ve written down some observations I’ve picked up along the way, for anyone else who’s attempting to do the same thing.
(Note: these are specific to the secondhand designer bag buy/sell market in Singapore only. Darned if I know how it works anywhere else.)

1. It’s a buyer’s market out there so manage your expectations. I generally don’t expect to get more than 40-50% of the purchase price when selling a secondhand designer bag, especially if it has any external signs of usage or wear. Even if it’s basically pristine, it won’t go for anywhere near what you originally paid, unless it’s a classic design from Hermes or maybe Chanel. If you’re reluctant to ‘lose money’ this way, then I’d say keep the bag and enjoy it in good health :)

2. Put the word out among your friends (and friends of friends) first. I sold two bags this way, and in the process made two friends happy. Bonus: friends don’t bargain when you offer them a good price. If anything they might freak out that you’re charging them so little.

3. If you list your bags on any kind of public forum, expect to provide a phone number for interested buyers to Whatsapp you, because apparently no one in Singapore emails anymore.
3a. Also, expect all manner of asinine Whatsapp messages from strangers at all hours of the day and night, including after midnight. Because apparently no one in Singapore has manners anymore.

4. It’s safe to assume that potential buyers who approach you from a forum or an Instagram listing are inconsiderate cheapskates until/unless proven otherwise. They will:

4a. Bargain shamelessly.
Solution: list at a price 20-25% higher than you hope to sell for, and reduce gradually “for quick deal” or “self-collect”. If they insist on a lower price, I’ve found it works to say “any lower and I’d prefer to keep the bag and use it myself / give it to my mum/aunt”.

4b. Ask stupid questions. “Why are you selling?” “Want to trade for my xxx? *sends a million unsolicited photos of ugly bag*” Because apparently it’s not acceptable to sell something simply because you don’t want it anymore.
Solution: have an idiot-proof script ready, e.g. “No trades because I’m clearing space before I move house. Selling because I’m moving house and I don’t have enough space.”

4c. Demand more photos.
Not really a solution but: when I reply to ask what they want to see in the photos, usually they have no bloody idea, which is evident when they reply “outside condition” or something equally vague. I suspect they just want proof that the bag is in your possession. Fortunately it’s easy enough to take 12 photos with an iPhone and spam them across all at once, which usually shuts them up.

4d. Take their own sweet time to decide if they want the bag AFTER they’ve taken up your time with bargaining. Seriously. I spent weeks to-ing and fro-ing with one particular buyer.
Solution: giving them a deadline works if you give a halfway plausible reason, e.g. “My aunt is going back to Taiwan and she’s coming to my place on Friday to choose some of my bags to take with her. Hope you can let me know before 12 noon Friday, otherwise I will most likely give this bag to my aunty.”

5. Secondhand bag buyers prefer meeting up to transact, for fear of any bait-and-switch incidents. I’d say this is fair as long as the meet-up is at your convenience and not that of the buyer: at your office building, at an MRT station or mall near you, at the void deck / lobby of your home. (See point 1 for how to incentivise buyers to come to you rather than you to them.)
IMHO, it helps to get confirmation that the buyer is definitely taking the bag before you agree to meet, because some buyers want the option of changing their minds after viewing the merchandise. Which is a waste of everyone’s time, especially yours.

As for why it’s worth it to deal with this incorrigible race of bargain-hunters – the other options are equally undesirable. If you take your merchandise to a secondhand bag shop, the consignment terms are downright cut-throat, and even if your bag doesn’t sell it’ll have been pawed over by dozens of anonymous shoppers. There are some shops that give you cash in hand, but they will drive a hard bargain and leave you feeling you’ve been robbed.  Dealing with actual human beings rather than businesses at least lets you set your own terms, and you have the bag safely in your own possession until the point of transaction. (I’m iffy about eBay because it appears rife with scams – just search for “ebay handbag scam” and check out the hits from the PurseForum.)

Final thoughts: my biggest lesson from this experience so far has been to buy less and buy wisely, so I never end up with too much stuff ever again!

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2 Comments

  1. MissusTay - October 17, 2013

    i know right.. it’s so painful to sell things online nowadays. i just let the bags sit inside the cupboard till it’s move-out day. or pass to my mum to use.

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