Monday, May 17, 2010

Guest Blogger Elaine Viets

The Mystery of Consignment Shopping
By Elaine Viets

Why do customers insult an item when they want to buy it?

It’s one of the great mysteries of retail. I’ve seen it in store after store.

For my ninth Dead-End Job novel, I did my research at Hibiscus Place Emporium on chic Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.

Recycling is the rage. Reselling your designer duds is doubly fashionable. Fashionistas earn a little green for their last season’s styles. (They wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything that isn’t cutting edge.) Women who appreciate quality but can’t afford suits that cost the same as a house payment will find designer labels they can buy. They don’t care if hot pink is so last year.

When I was at the consignment shop, an older woman I’ll call Mrs. Rude wanted a well-cut jacket.

“It’s twenty-five dollars,” the shop owner said. “It’s a Gucci.”

“It has a stain on the collar and a loose button,” Mrs. Rude said. “Can’t you lower the price?”

“I’ve already dropped the price from forty-five,” the store owner said. “It’s a $500 jacket. It was new this season. A nice pin would cover the stain. Michelle Obama has made pins fashionable.”

“Don’t want it,” Mrs. Rude said. She dropped the jacket on the counter and slammed out the door.

I thought she’d thrown away a bargain.

The store owner shrugged off her behavior. “It’s a ritual,” he said. “The idea is to convince me I’m selling something so worthless I’ll give it away. I’m immune to it.”

A store can only slash prices so far. Then the unsold clothes are donated to charity.

In Half-Price Homicide, I named the designer consignment shop Snapdragon’s Second Thoughts. When a customer is found hanged in the dressing room with a Gucci scarf (talk about dying in style), Helen investigates the murder to save her job.

Helen and I both know bargaining is permitted at consignment stores. The price is usually negotiable, if you ask at the right time – politely.

Quality consignment stores often have a three-tier pricing system, with the dates marked on the tags. Let’s say you like a chartreuse Laundry sweater set. The price tag will show the date it went on the rack – May 15 – and the price – $40.

A month later, on June 15, the same sweater set will be $32.

After July 15 you can buy it for $20 or less.

If you’re in the shop May 12 through May 14, ask the shop owner to lower the price. Chances are the shop will knock it down to $38—or even $32. The closer you get to the final sale date, the cheaper that sweater will be.

And the faster it will sell. If you see something you like, buy it immediately.

Too many good bargains are lost to second thoughts. A pink shirt from Barneys New York got away when I decided to wait a day. Someone else wanted it.

In Half-Price Homicide Helen has her own wants. She’s still on the run from the court in St. Louis. The divorce judge awarded her obnoxious ex-husband, Rob, one-half of her future income. She wound up in South Florida. Now her greedy ex has tracked her down.

Helen wants to clear her name with the court.

She wants her awful ex to go away.

She wants to marry the man she loves.

In Half-Price Homicide, Helen will get everything she wants—and regret she gets what she wants most.


Elaine visit North Carolina with the “Unarmed But Dangerous” tour June 5 through 8. She’s traveling with mystery writers Donna Andrews, Meredith Cole and Rosemary Harris through the Research Triangle. For details, go to her website.


Jill said...

This sounds like a good series - new to me, but I am curious to check it out. I like the idea of characters getting what they want... but wishing they hadn't!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh yes,I think the key of consignment stores -is to trust your judgement. If you love it--grab it. And cannnot wait to read your book! (I'm such a fan...)

But really? Everything I've every purchased in a consignment shop is stil hanging in my closet.

And Elaine? Do the owners really keep the good stuff for theselves?

SO jealous of your trip to NC--Julie Hyzy, Karen Olson and I had SUCH a terrific time! And I'll never forget: Molly's wonderful sense of humor, her dear husband, the libraries, the bookstores, the flowers, the friendship, --and the barbeque!

(Molly, may I come back?)

Have fun, all of you!

Elaine Viets said...

Hank, the owners of Hibiscus Place did NOT take the best designer deals for themselves.
They were two men. The women on staff already had more clothes than they could wear. And I even sold some of my clothes at the shop!

Anonymous said...

Your blog made me envious that we don't have oodles of well-heeled citizens willing to dump oh-so-last-season clothes at a consignment shop, just so I can go in and browse. I'll have to pick up Half-Price Homicide and live vicariously! Your books are always so much fun, Elaine!

Msmstry said...

I think we're all delighted when someone compliments something we're wearing and we can proclaim, "I got it at a thrift shop." Everybody loves a bargain--and we love sharing the thrill of our findings!

Hannah Dennison said...

What excellent timing Elaine! My step-mother-in-law - that's m-i-law #2) gave me a really unusual designer rabbit fur jacket in a rather bright "smurf" blue. It cost a LOT and I can't bring myself to give it away and had thought about consignment stores but had no idea what to expect. Now if I face utter derision, I won't take it personally. But is it wrong of me to er ... sell it?
Great post!

Elaine Viets said...

It's not wrong at all, Hannah. Wearing fur is a political statement you may not wish to make. In fact, it can be dangerous in some circles. You aren't selling it. You're recycling it. Put that bunny up for adoption so someone who loves it will take it home and appreciate it.

Hannah Dennison said...

I'll let you know if I make a killing on the bunny adoption ... so to speak ...