After shopping on The Real Real for the last three years, I’m sharing a full review of The Real Real. We’ll cover how to find great things, what categories to avoid, and if the products are legit (they are). This post is backed by our “100 Hour Guarantee” meaning I have spent over 100 hours shopping on and wearing products I’ve ordered from The Real Real. This post is not sponsored but may contain affiliate links.
Have you heard of the luxury resale platform, The Real Real, before? Today we’re delving into my three years of shopping experience on The Real Real, how the platform works, and whether or not it is worth shopping on. I do not have any experience selling on The Real Real so we’ll talk a little bit about how they consign and price items but we’re not delving into the selling experience. Here’s a personal review on the selling experience from Elaine at Fairly Curated.
We’ll talk about how The Real Real authenticates luxury goods, tips for getting the best prices, and some of my worst shopping experiences (and the best).
What is The Real Real?
The Real Real is the leader in luxury resale in 2023. They separate themselves from the competition by a rigorous authentication process (we’ll talk more about that below) for items before listing them for sale.
The platform collects seller’s pre-owned luxury pieces, authenticates them, and then lists them for sale on their website or app. They use an algorithm that takes into account current demand and fashion trends to set prices for the items. As the items remain, unsold, on TRR, they are slowly discounted until sold. Sellers earn a commission on items once they have sold.
As a shopper, I love this treasure-hunting aspect of shopping AND the risk/reward for waiting to purchase an item. The longer an item sits unsold on TRR, the cheaper it gets, but, there is always a chance it will be gone the next time you sign on.
Manolo pumps, Isabel Marant Booties, and Sea New York Blouse all via The Real Real
What can you buy on The Real Real?
The Real Real carries a wide assortment of high-end brands in the clothing, accessories, handbag, jewelry, art, and home goods departments. You can find standard luxury brands like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel along with more contemporary designers like Sea New York, Zimmerman, and Ulla Johnson. You can also find fine watches and jewelry from Tiffany’s, Rolex, and more.
Categories at a glance:
- Clothing (men’s, women’s, kid’s, limited maternity)
- Accessories (belts, wallets)
- Home goods (vases, candles, etc)
How does the Real Real shopping platform work? Getting the most out of your shopping experience?
Once The Real Real receives a product from someone looking to sell their high-end items, the piece is authenticated before being photographed and listed on the website or app. The Real Real uses an algorithm to price the items based on it’s condition along with the current fashion trends and demand.
I primarily shop on the app but you can do all the same browsing from the website. The Real Real is great at being able to sort through the hundreds of thousands of listings to find treasures. You can filter by category, size, color, brand, and condition. Additionally, you can just type something into the search bar and see what they come up with.
Creating Saved Searches
When you are signed in to your (free) account on TRR, you can SAVE any of your searches to your account. This means that the next time you sign on you can visit “My TRR” tab and see if any new items have been listed in your search parameters.
A few of my current saved searches include:
- Gucci Soho Disco Bags (in any color, in ‘very good,’ ‘excellent,’ or ‘pristine’ condition)
- Zimmerman dresses (in my size, in ‘very good,’ ‘excellent,’ or ‘pristine’ condition)
- Neutral pumps (in my size, with a few specific brands including Jimmy Choo, Manolo, Chloe, Louboutin, etc)
- Mansur Gavriel (all categories with condition specifications and my sizes)
- Burberry Kids (I’ve never ordered something but I’m a sucker for the Burberry plaid)
- Claire V and Ulla Johnson clothing (some contemporary designers I love)
Favoriting Items / Saving Items
Additionally, you can “heart” or “favorite” items as you browse. These items are added to your “obsessions” tab. You can view items on your obsessions tab and sort them by newest items and pricing (‘low to high’ or ‘high to low’). On TRR, items are slowly discounted as the remain unsold on the site. The maximum they will be discounted is 80% off the first price they are listed for. I love to browse through new items and “heart” anything I would buy for 80% off the listed price. I keep checking back on my “obsessions” page to see which items are newly discounted. You always risk the items selling out but you also have the chance of scoring things you love at huge discounts.
It is a brilliant sales move to “gamify” this shopping experience. I almost feel “productive” sorting through new items that have arrived in my saved searching and deciding which pieces I like enough to “heart.” It has me logging in more often to the app even when I don’t have any intention of shopping. I find myself becoming attached to items I have “hearted” and, as someone who gets a lot of satisfaction by getting a good deal, it is harder to pass up these items when they start to go on sale.
*You can see I’m on a midi dress kick, have been eying Claire V sweatshirts, and am determined to own a heeled paired of Loeffler Randalls.
Authentication Process: Are products on the Real Real, real?
The Real Real claims to have the most rigorous authentication process in the industry. There was a scandal a few years ago when it came to light that copywriters were the ones authenticating items. The founder of TRR gave this press release where she explained the process for authentication:
- Item is received by TRR and given a risk level. Risk level is determined by brand, value, style, etc. For example, an Hermes bag would be a high-risk level while a Sea New York dress would likely be a low-risk level.
- High-risk level items are given to authenticators with significant experience (often coming from the luxury brand’s themselves to work for TRR or auction houses like Sotherby’s).
- Low-Risk items are given to copywriters to authenticate. TRR clarified that copywriters no longer “just write copy.” They are trained in authenticating items and the high-risk authenticators are always available to review items or answer questions.
- The Quality Control team is also in place to review certain at-risk items. It is unclear what items are “at risk” vs “high risk” but my guess is that the quality control spot checks random products to add another layer of protection.
Some of the stats shared in press release are interesting. These are from October 2019 so we can assume that in 2023 the numbers are even higher:
- TRR received nearly 490,000 products for consignment
- RR rejected just over 4,000 products due to concerns uncovered during authentication
- Another 139 products were rejected by the Quality Control team before being posted on our site.
The Real Real Pricing: Are the products worth it?
One thing that is worth considering before you delve into The Real Real is the pricing of the items. Are you really getting the best deal?
The initial price listed on The Real Real is some percent off of the price of the product new. The exception here is for some Hermes bags which resale for MORE than they sell for new (a bit mindblowing, right?). In my experience, it doesn’t seem like TRR takes into consideration how often a brand discounts their own products. For example, you can buy a pre-owned Mansur Gavriel bag for 50% off (give or take). But, I am constantly getting ads for 40% off directly from Mansur Gavriel’s website. At the end of the season you might even get a larger percent off a brand new bag.
You’ll find a similar thing with clothing. If you can usually buy pieces at the end of the season at 50-70% off brand new, finding the piece on TRR for 40% is less exciting. I think it is worth doing a quick google search for sale prices on items from that brand.
What I love buying on the Real Real:
- classic styles that don’t go on sale as often
- high-quality basics: I love a good cashmere sweater but don’t love the price point. The brand doesn’t matter much and you can usually find something on TRR.
- pieces I loved from previous designer collections that are no longer available or sold out in my size
- heavily discounted items
- items with listing errors: Sometimes you’ll get a glitch and find a gem. For example, I bought Ben a Mark Cross briefcase for under $200. The same briefcase retails for $2500. The item was very gently used BUT it was photographed on a female model and listed under women’s bags. I think this miscategorization meant it had stayed on the site for a long time and was 80% off, despite being in great condition.
Placing an Order on The Real Real
Let’s talk about actually placing an order on TRR. I’ve placed 8 orders over the last 2.5 years.
When you are finally ready to order something on TRR you have fifteen minutes from the time you add the first item to your cart to check out. After the time is up, the item is removed from your cart automatically. While the item is in your cart it is reserved (there MIGHT be exceptions to this).
*When you add an item to your cart that item still appears in searches and on other people’s “obsessions” list but NOW says that it is in someone’s cart. I know that I’ve seen items I have saved in people’s carts and it has made me more likely to buy them if cart expires and they’re available for purchase again. For this reason I DON’T recommend adding the product to your cart (alerting all other people who are potentially interested in that item that you’re interested in it) unless you are ready to buy it.
Potentially the most obnoxious part about TRR for me is having to pay for shipping. However many items you order within the contiguous US, standard shipping is $12.95. This does make me more likely to add an item to my order but it also means that if you’re watching that cashmere sweater get down to $20, paying $12.95 for shipping might be a deal breaker.
The Real Real does offer free curbside pickup for their SF, LA, and NYC locations if you’re local and buying something that is instore.
I have always ordered items via standard shipping and they have arrived within 1-5 business days. Not all items from a given order ship together but you are only charged once for shipping. When I’ve ordered a few things at once, I will get separate emails and tracking numbers for each shipment.
I have ordered clothing, bags, and shoes on TRR. Each time bags have come in dust bags and shoes have come in the original box, the original dust bag, or a Real Real dust bag. Usually, whether the original box or a dust bag is included is described in the product listing.
The Real Real dust bags are cheap and synthetic but the little black bags add a little something to the unboxing experience and protect each pair while in transit. The bags I have purchased all came in their original dust bags.
It is not quite the same shopping experience as when I ordered from What Goes Around Comes Around but I am buying lower priced items from TRR.
Condition of Items on The Real Real:
Each item on The Real Real is given one of the following conditions:
- Very Good
With each of these conditions, there is also a description of the specific wear on each item.
I’ve found that I prefer items that have a ‘Very Good’ condition rating or higher. I usually set this parameter when searching for items on TRR. That said, I have had some really good experiences with shoes in “Good” quality rating but it is more of a gamble. For example, this pair of Ferragamo flats retail for $800. I purchased it in “good” condition from The Real Real and it shows very little wear.
Here are the conditions according to me:
- Pristine + Excellent: Basically brand new
- Very Good: Someone wore them a handful of times but you can’t really tell.
- Good: Hit or miss (might be great with gentle wear or might have heavier wear definitely look CLOSELY at pictures and read product descriptions)
- Fair: I haven’t ordered anything in this category and will continue to avoid it.
Product photos of items in “Very Good” condition:
Product photos of items in “Good” condition
Here are three of my favorite purchases from TRR that I snagged in “good” condition.
- Ferragamo Flats: These flats had a little more wear than the black patent leather version I ordered in “Very Good” condition but the crocodile texture on the shoe hides the wear.
- Tods Drivers: These have quite a bit of wear (but were only $50 down from $500+).
- Manolo Blanik pumps: These have been re-soled and have lots of wear on the vamps as well.
The Real Real offers returns for some categories and some discount prices. Usually when an item exceeds 40% off, it is no longer eligible for returns. Handbags, luggage, swimsuits, and beauty are also not eligible for returns. If the item you order IS eligible for return, there is a $12.95 return fee (covering shipping) and a $6.95 restocking fee if you return the item in-store. The restocking fee is waived in-store IF You return the item while making another purchase.
My return experience:
When I didn’t want an item or it didn’t fit:
I ordered a few pairs of neutral pumps and ended up returning two of them. It was easy to print off a shipping label to mail them back. I received a refund on my credit card with no problem.
When the item came was incorrect:
I ordered a Burberry blazer for Ben that was over 40% off and final sale. When it arrived it was WAY too big. It turns out the sizing was listed incorrectly on TRR’s site. I contacted customer service, gave them my order number, and explained the problem. They quickly gave me a shipping label for a free return and I received a full refund. I did notice, though, that they DIDN’T update the product info on the listing to reflect more accurate sizing. I wonder if this is standard practice or this item just slipped through the cracks? The next person who ordered it almost certainly got a blazer that was too big and had to return it as well.
Alternatives to The Real Real:
- What Goes Around Comes Around (limited availability on Amazon here)
- Local consignment stores
Conclusion: Is The Real Real Worth it? Will I continue to shop there?
Yes, I love The Real Real. I will continue to shop there, especially for timeless investment pieces.
The Real Real FAQS:
Yes, The Real Real is a leading retailer for second-hand luxury goods. It is also very easy to get hooked on this gamified way of shopping for second-hand items.
The RealReal was founded in 2011 by Julie Wainwright, an e-commerce entrepreneur. On June 28, 2019, The RealReal went public on Nasdaq under the symbol REAL and raised $300 million during its IPO.
The RealReal’s headquarters is located at 55 Francisco Street, San Francisco. It also has retail stores at the following locations:
LA – Melrose
NYC – Brooklyn, Madison, Midtown, and Soho
Items get progressively cheaper on The Real Real the longer they remain listed without selling. The Real Real will also occasionally do a $25 or $50 off promotion (with order minimums).