Consignment shops can leave customers at a loss

Published: Mar. 14, 2012 at 5:58 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2013 at 9:50 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In a down economy, people are always looking for ways to make a little extra cash. An increasing number of you are choosing to consign old clothes and furniture to put a few extra bucks in your pocket. But the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department discovered that process can get ugly.

Troubleshooter Eric Flack heard your complaints and started digging, to find out what you need to know before you consign your old stuff.

Consignment can be a great, safe way to make extra money, but you have to read the fine print, or you might end up empty handed. Marilyn Glotzbach cleared out her closet using consignment.

Out of everything she took to Margaret's Consignment and Collectibles in Clifton there was one piece she wanted to keep an eye on.

"It was a dress for my daughters wedding," Glotzbach said. "It was brand new it still had the tags on. It was a $400 dress."

The consignment contract Marilyn signed showed everything priced $100 or more was kept in the store for 90 days before being donated to charity. Marilyn returned 87 days later and was handed a printout showing her designer dress by Tadashi had not sold.

According to the computer system, the dress was still listed as available, and Glotzbach had arrived within the pick up date. So she decided to take her dress home. But when she and an store employee searched racks, the designer dress was gone.

"We looked everywhere," she said. "No dress."

Frustrated, Glotzbach demanded answers from the store manager.

"To me that that's not the way you do business," she said.

Louisville Better Business Bureau President Charlie Mattingly said Marilyn may be frustrated but she doesn't have much of a case.

It turned out Margaret's priced her dress at $98. Their contract reads anything priced under $100 is kept for 60 days, not 90 as Marilyn assumed.

But what about that print out that said the dress was still supposed to be there when Marilyn showed up? The store manager, who was not available for an on camera interview, told me either someone entered the wrong pick up date or the dress was lost or stolen.

Something Margaret's is also not responsible for under the contract Marilyn signed.

Mattingly said people using consignment shops to sell things need to play close attention to what's going on.

"Don't drop your stuff off and think that's the end of it," Mattingly said. "And don't assume it's going to sell."

Mattingly said the BBB gets complaints about consignment stores fairly often usually from customers who took their clothes or furniture to a consignment shop that closed down without returning items. He suggests: researching a consignment store before handing over your stuff; verifying how long the store has been there, how long your items will be held and how much of the sale the store keeps; and also make sure the consignment store specializes in what you are trying to consign.

Marilyn Glotzbach said she did all that and still ended up at a loss.

"It was a pain," she said. "And I won't do it again.

Because there is virtually no law or regulation of consignment shops in our area customers who encounter problems have few options. You can complain to the Better Business Bureau or take the business to small claims court. But legal action is often more trouble, than the items are worth even for a designer dress.

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Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.