Experience Review: "The Plus Bus" [with Update]



Business Information:  www.theplus-bus.com   #theplusbus   @theplusbus   theplusbus@gmail.com

My Experience at The Plus Bus.

**UPDATES AT THE END**

I made my way to the Pasadena Rose Bowl on Sunday to checkout The Plus Bus.  Refinery 29 (link) and SKORCH (link) had both said great things about them (it gave them instant-credibility) and I was really excited to get my swap on! These were plus sized women aiming to fill the gap in the clothing resale/trade business and had promised seriously great finds in all sizes. I was excited. 
The ladies who started this awesome idea are Jen Wilder and Marcy Guevara.  I know both ladies only through social media and have had a great deal of respect and reverence for them for months, now.  Needless to say, my hopes were very very high!
I want to start this out with what my expectations were.  Please note:  The Plus Bus isn't a charity.  I feel like I want to make that clear before I proceed so that you understand that I am holding them to the same standards as other thrift/vintage shops that purchase clothing in exchange for store credit. They do donate all work clothing they receive to charity, but they are a for profit Trade/Buy/Sell business.

From the photos and hype I expected that there would be high quality on trend garments from brands and designers I was familiar with. From my previous experiences with selling clothing to vintage and thrift shops (yes, most businesses that buy clothing do buy and offer items up to a size 26 or 28) I anticipated that items would be resold for 1/3 of their original value or 1/2 if the tags were still on or the item was brand new with no wear what-so-ever. I expected to get 1/2 of what they were going to sell my items for in trade credit.  This is pretty standard.  This is what I had worked out in my head before going. 

So, I dug through my stuff and found all of my best brand new items that I hadn't worn much (if at all) that I felt I could let go of if the trade in price was fair and there was something that I wanted available to me.



What I brought:
An Eloquii skirt (Originally $89.99, brand new with tag).
A ModCloth skirt (Originally $50, worn once for about an hour).
A Textured Black skirt with Illusion panel (Originally $50, Brand new without tags).
An IGIGI dress (Originally $80, brand new without tags).
What I anticipated that I'd get in trade value: $50-65


I thought that would be plenty to score a couple of decent pieces, or one exceptional piece or maybe a handful of more worn or older funky pieces. I had heard such great things about the selection and had seen great things on Instagram.  I didn't want to bring anything of poor quality or in bad condition because I assumed that it would be rejected and returned to me, if I tried.  In my mind this was the queen mother plus size mecca of thrift opportunities. 


When I arrived the ladies greeted me and Marcy took my bag of clothes and told me to go shop while she added up my total. This is fairly standard with clothing resale and I was confident that she knew what she was doing. So, I started to look around. The selection wasn't great. In my size range (22-26) there wasn't a lot available. Nobody explained to me how the racks worked and I just kind of cruised around grabbing random items that would possibly fit. There was a lot of really junkie stuff mixed in. Stuff that would never ever be accepted even as a donation at a thrift store. Stuff that was falling apart or washed until it was faded and worn looking.  There was a Domino Dollhouse dress in my size where elastic threads were sticking out at the seams on the outside where the red mesh met the bodice.  There were a lot of fun oddball vintage pieces mixed in but most weren't season appropriate (lots of long sleeves and jackets). There was a Torrid cherry cardigan with lace back that had a tear in the lace with pills covering the entire surface of the garment.  This wasn't what I had expected to find!



Then I overheard the ladies all chirping excitedly about my super cute cotton ModCloth Fox skirt. I looked over and grinned because they were really happy over the items I brought. That made me feel stoked! I really loved the idea of people loving my taste.  I love the idea of community!! I also thought that it was a good sign that I was replenishing their racks a little. I went back to hunting for items in my size.
I tried on a handful of items on in the dressing room. Which had no mirror. It was a little hot oven of a zip-up tent. But, hey... No big deal! If the items fit... and I felt good in them... I didn't need a mirror. Some items were priced as I had expected around $30-50. Some were priced much lower at $8-10. Not much that I grabbed actually fit me. One cute Kiyonna dress I liked was really beat up but it wasn't obvious on the hanger until I put it on (It would have been appropriately priced at $10, not at $30). It had threads pulled out on the bust and skirt as well as pilling and a run in the mesh on the left sleeve.



I walked out  and thought "Okay, I will check that rack with my size again." I walked over to the rack and... my ModCloth Fox skirt was already on a hanger and out for sale! MY HEART SANK! I went to check the price tag.  I wanted to see if it was maybe a mistake.  One of the sweet volunteers grabbed it and then was trying it on.  I complimented her on it and explained that I had only worn it once and told her where it was from.  Then... it disappeared. 

I was not sure what to do. When you sell your clothes at a reputable store that works in trade/sell... they give you your totals and you have the option to agree or decline.  I was NOT given that option.  My stuff was already tagged and being put out before I found out how much I'd get for it.  The lovely gals working the event were already claiming my skirts!  Marcy herself appeared to set my brand new Eloquii skirt aside for herself. 

So, I walked up to Marcy and asked her what my total trade in value was. 
$23.  And she walked away without explaining anything else or giving me a rundown.

How that breaks down:
$80 IGIGI dress:  $8
$90 Eloquii Skirt: $5
$50 ModCloth Skirt: $5
$50 Illusion Skirt: $5
$23!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(this is actually me guessing about the breakdown.  The paper she had just had my name on it with a total... nothing else about which items were mine or what I was getting for them).

I have to tell you that I would NEVER have accepted that offer at any establishment that buys clothing. I understand that items are undervalued for resale and wasn't expecting to make a profit or get what I paid what-so-ever. I just wouldn't have approved the trade-in at $23 for the lot.
I hadn't found anything that I wanted anyway. But, now I was suddenly in this horrible social situation where these lovely women were excitedly claiming my clothing and I hadn't consented to that, yet.  Even when you pawn something at a pawn shop... they don't snatch your stuff and force you to take their offer.  You get to negotiate, accept or decline!

I asked for some water and sat down.  It was hot.  My head was swimming.  I was confused and wasn't sure what to do about it.  I eyed my Eloquii skirt under the table on top of a box... which Marcy saw me doing and so she moved it away (further solidifying my realization that she claimed it for herself).  My beautiful brand new (with tags) Eloquii skirt... that I was just given $5 in credit for.  Gone without my consent!
I mentioned to the other ladies that I was having some serious separation anxiety about my clothes. 
I mentioned that everything was new and I had hardly worn it.  One lady asked me "Why... did you bring it, then?"  (Because I thought that I'd get a fair trade in for it.  Because I thought there would be great stuff, here, and didn't want to bring any junk.) I replied “Because I haven't worn it much and thought that I would find some new things I would wear more frequently.”

I decided that I would grab a couple of shirts from the SWAK clearance rack.  They were both a size too big... but, for $10 each I figured that I would at least walk away with two brand new items that I could wear for a little while. I even thought to myself "I'll just let them have the extra $3. No big deal. Everyone will be happy!"

We sat around for a while talking.  Jen, myself and two of the sweet volunteer ladies.  It was nice.  They're nice ladies!  I felt like I was making friends.  They were kind to me... and Marcy was off somewhere else.  But, then we got near closing up time and I wanted to leave.  I didn't feel very good about things... and I just wanted to go. 

When I attempted to trade the SWAK tops in for my trade credit... it was explained to me that THOSE items are "green sticker items" and aren't part of the swap (which, again, no one had explained to me).  I was told that they were worth DOUBLE points.  So, that would be $40.  They wanted $17 from me for two tops I didn't really want... $17 for two tops priced at $20!
Are you understanding this suddenly? They were now offering me $3 in store credit for my clothes if I wanted the SWAK items.

At that point... I wanted to start crying.  I didn't want to get confrontational with anyone. 
I asked Jen Wilder if I could please just... forget about it all and get my clothes back. 
She told Marcy that I would like my clothes back. 
Marcy said no
Marcy said that my stuff was "already packed up and gone".  Meaning... they had already claimed it and I wasn't going to get it back. I had sat there and no one had purchased my items. The ladies working there took them!

I was so shocked and confused. 
Marcy broke and said that I could have ONE of the SWAK shirts... but, not both. 
I didn't want either at that point.  I said "I could really get way more selling those items online!"
Inside I was thinking "This isn't what you said it was.  You don't have what I thought you'd have.  You aren't doing what I thought you'd do... which was ask me to confirm before moving ahead. What you technically just did was push ahead with a transaction that I didn't accept... and now you won't let me have my stuff back?!"
Instead... I stood there in stunned silence. 
What was happening here?

Marcy said to Jen (I was standing right there) "She didn't find ANYTHING on the swap racks?"
I turned to Jen, glanced at the rack and grabbed the $30 Kiyonna dress that I had tried on (that looked okay on the hanger... but once I tried it on it had a run in the left arm and the front of the dress had a bunch of shredded and pulled threads).  I showed it to Jen (still fighting back tears) to let her know that the ONE item that I had wanted... was ruined.  She said "I can't believe this made it through like this!" 
Marcy saw us talking about the dress and said "Does she want THAT?" and I said "No.  It's ruined."
Marcy softened a little and said "Oh, that's one of Gabby's dresses." (as in Gabourey Sidibe)
I'm... not... sure... if that was supposed to justify the $30 price tag and the shredded quality? 
Was I supposed to perk up and say "Oh, this is a celebrity dress?!  YAY!"?? 
I'm not sure why that was mentioned. 

Marcy gave me a huffy look and kept on with her work as they started to pack up for the day. 

Maybe all of this was happening because it was late? 
Maybe the selection was poor because I came later in the afternoon?
Maybe she was having a bad day and didn't realize what she was doing? 
Maybe her brain was swimmy from the heat? 

Jen, I think, saw the look of confusion and bewilderment on my face. 
She took me aside and said that I could just have the two SWAK tops. 
I didn't really want them anymore.  But, I felt like I wasn't going to have any other options...
She asked me if I saw ANY of my stuff... and I pointed out the one thing that didn't get claimed.  My IGIGI dress!  She grabbed it for me and tossed it into my bag. 
Marcy rushed over to confront her loudly saying "I DON'T KNOW WHAT KIND OF DEAL YOU'RE GIVING HER!" and again... I felt like throwing up, crying and passing out. 

Jen told me, "I just want you to be happy!" 
She told Marcy, "I just want her to be happy!"

I sincerely felt... like... something had just happened to me.  I felt suddenly weird and dirty holding the bag. I was in a state of shock.  I didn't actually feel like it was decidedly okay for me to leave with my dress and those shirts.  I didn't actually want to sell them my stuff and was completely removed from the process. I felt like if I just hung out that maybe people would come to their senses and when they stopped being busy they'd just talk to me and we'd sort it all out. 

That never happened. 

I asked Jen if I could help in any way (My way of saying "Hey, I'm a nice lady!  I don't know what I did.  Can I make it right?").
Jen asked me if I was waiting for my ride. 
My cue to leave. 
I said "No.  I drove. I just wanted to give you a hug before I go."
Again.  I felt like crying. 
I said "I wish I had brought my good camera today.  So I could blog all of this."
I couldn't see her eyes but she turned her face toward me.  I said "I'll... blog it... anyway.  I'll give you a good review."

I left.  I cried on the drive home.  I got home.  I told my husband what happened... and he was LIVID. 
He said "They just... STOLE from you!  WHAT THE HELL?!"

I don't know.
I seriously don't know!!!!

I don't know if it was because it was me... or if Marcy was mad at me for some reason (I don't know her personally, only peripherally, so I can't imagine this was the case.  I can't really presume that it was personal at all. ) ... or if I caught them at a weird time and she was on auto-pilot and would normally explain more to customers and would get confirmation before moving ahead. 

I can't think that it would be known behavior if SKORCH and Refinery 29 were promoting them. Both sites have such good reputations and promote quality brands and establishments. 

I have been very conflicted about sharing my experiences. I turned to my friends online and asked “is radical honesty important? Or, is pride more important?” I wanted to write a good detailed blog about my experiences and convey things clearly.  I was afraid it might make me look like a passive idiot who didn't stand up for herself.   And, would it cost me potential friends in the process?  If so, were those the sorts of friends I even needed? Would I lose opportunities as a blogger because of Marcy becoming a popular rising star in the plus community? Would this cause friction and chaos?  I didn't really like the idea of potential drama or black-balling. 
In the end I felt that I had a duty to myself and my readership... and to the community of amazing women who want something like The Plus Bus to exist and thrive!

...

My valuable advice if you go to The Plus Bus:
 

1.)  Don't bring your best stuff!  Just don't do it.  This isn't the place for it!  I thought it was... it isn't!  Bring stuff that is worn and thrift store quality.  Don't bring anything new with tags!  Sell it online.  You'll get way more for it. Or join a reputable swap group so you will get a truly fair swap.

2.) If you do decide to bring stuff to trade in for swap credit... hold onto it until after you've already found stuff you want!  Do not hand it over beforehand.  Your property is yours until you consent to the total offered.

3.) If something weird happens: Speak UP!  Don't do what I did.  I should have been as confrontational as I needed to be to get my stuff back!  This is a business.  They shouldn't treat you weird.  If they do... say something.  Don't leave until they make it right.  (Please note: Jen tried. Marcy was not having it.)

My advice to The Plus Bus:


I don't think that you have hit your stride, just yet. You have a lot of potential to do something awesome, here, and I still believe in you! I think Sunday was maybe just a really bad day. So, here are some ideas to help improve:

1.) Most thrift and vintage stores don't allow employees to grab brand new items as soon as they come in.  It doesn't give customers much of a reason to shop. Typically employees (even volunteers) have to wait a set amount of time before being allowed to claim items. Maybe you could set it to where you, and everyone else working, have to wait until the next weekend at closing? If what I observed is typical, the best stuff goes home with the ladies working there. That isn't good business!
You want there to be items that people actually want. Since Instagram mostly shows Marcy and Jen wearing items from The Plus Bus (I had thought that it was because they were new and they were advertising on their own bodies) I want to stress that the owners should not be running this business to flesh out their own personal wardrobes.

2.) PLEASE make sure that you explain your process to everyone who brings items in. PLEASE make sure that you get confirmation about the trade in agreement before tagging items and putting them out for sale. Consent is important. Deals are two sided. Lack of consent to a deal is theft. Please check your behavior to make sure that you are not being predatory.

3.)  If someone asks for their stuff back... just give it to them.
What Marcy decided to do was just... unbelievable. Being hostile was the opposite of the right thing to do. You aren't just representing yourselves. You are representing the brands you have on consignment. You are representing the plus community. Conduct yourselves like ambassadors instead of privileged shoppers waiting for the good items to hit the store. If you treat The Plus Bus like your personal candy store it is going to fail quickly!

4.) Print out some little fliers explaining the swap process and how the racks work. Then you don't have to say anything to people if you are busy! Or, hey: Figure out a quickie little explanation and get everyone there to say it and actually help customers. Don't expect people to approve of whatever you decide unless you tell them beforehand. We don't come to The Plus Bus just to see you and bring you our clothes for your personal collections. We are your customers. When we trade in or sell you our clothes, we are your partners and we have the right to consent.

5.)  When doing intake on items it is important to assess wear before putting items on the racks.  A very worn dress from a popular brand that is falling apart isn't worth more than a lesser known dress with the tags still on.  For some customers these items are their very first experience with these brands.  They may be popular on the internet, but that hype doesn't translate to the real world.  Pricing should reflect a combination of original value as well as current condition.   The original owner of the dress doesn't matter to the customer looking at the dress on the hanger.  That is not a selling point when the customer is there to purchase items to wear (not items to collect from their favorite plus celebs). 

_______

Based on my experience with how The Plus Bus is currently run, I can't recommend it, but with a few serious fixes, it could be really great!  They plan to start traveling and bringing The Plus Bus to a city near you, this Spring.  Hopefully they figure out how to fix these issues before hitting the road.

Jen and Marcy of The Plus Bus. 

___________

UPDATE:


A lot has happened in the last 24 hours since I published this blog. 

I plan to put together a follow-up to this piece for next week complete with screenshots and emails.  I need time for the dust to settle and to think carefully about what I want to say about the emails and accusations that have been made about this being libel (and my being a liar). 

Some quick things to note --
  • Marcy told me that her fiance was in the ER and she was hot (which might have explained her attitude).  
  • I was told that leaving my bag with her was "consent".  (You see.  It's MY fault for handing her the bag).
  • When I pressed Jen Wilder on Facebook about being there when Marcy said "No" I was called a liar and she would swear to that on a Bible (which is interesting, because in calling me a liar she also admitted that I had asked for my items back and was told that I could have them if I could find them on the racks).
  • I was told (not asked) that I would be sent $50 for the cost of the items not returned to me... and in exchange Marcy expected this blog to be promptly removed.  She sent the money through PayPal.  I promptly refunded it (as I had not agreed to that deal nor consented to that arrangement). This is indicative of the situation I had a problem with on Sunday.  Marcy made a choice that involved me... and I was expected to go along with it.  
  • I was reminded that the plus size community is... small.   
  • I made the point that the rock hard defense to libel is the truth.  Nothing I said in this blog was a lie.  In places where the information wasn't obvious to me (or I had to guess motivation) I was very clear on that.  The broad strokes are that something bad happened and I don't want it to happen again.
  • I was told that they'd find my clothes (and apparently take them back from the ladies who got them??) and give them back to me.  This isn't what I want.  That's horrible!  Don't make your volunteers pay for something you did wrong. 
...

What this is all boiling down to is that Marcy and Jen feel entitled to bully me into silence about this situation.  Instead of working together towards a mutual understanding... I'm being told what is going to happen (and then expected to comply without giving my consent).  They are showing a distinct lack of respect and humility at this unfortunate situation. 
There is a lot of fear over reputation and perception. 
Unfortunately, reporting on the issue as it was (and doing so kindly and with consideration to the business continuing and improving) is not me ruining their reputations. 

Since legalese has been brought up (specifically libel) I refuse to have a phone conversation with either of these ladies.  Using the word "libel" lets me know that they are litigious minded, right now.  Phone conversations are hearsay.  In the event anyone goes to court over this (which would just be SILLY) I have to cover my butt. 

Everyone makes mistakes. 
It's what you do afterward that counts! 
The detailed follow-up blog (next week) will express the conclusion of our story, here.

I've been written by many members of the community telling me to keep this up.  That it's brave to speak up.  That I should give in to the pressure/bullying tactics.   I've also been told to contact the brands they deal with on consignment.  I've had it suggested that I file a police report.  Someone said that I should also contact the Rose Bowl directly. 
Thank you for your feedback!  I don't feel that this should be escalated unless absolutely necessary. 

My goal with this blog was to give a fair and accurate account of my experience and how I feel things can improve for the future.  Now I feel like things are getting out of control.  Hopefully things calm down... people STOP and THINK about what they are doing and saying... and we can hopefully have a more reasonable, respectful and mutually beneficial dialogue. 



5 comments:

  1. I'm sorry this happened to you. I agree with Rex, consent is Cardinal. They stole from you. I don't care if it is sex, swaps, consignments or friendship, both parties involved have to be in agreement.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gah, I wrote this long comment and Google didn't save it! So the short version.... I had a very similar experience and think your blog is spot on and suggestions are good thoughtful ones (that I would say if I had a blog). I didn't know what to expect from the clothing swap... And brought a lot of clothes that I was credited a couple dollars worth ($53 credit). Out of sheer laziness I didn't bring my 3 suits, but I did bring a pair of suit pants and career blouses to be donated. I assure you they were "business" and not "trendy" items. I was horribly disappointed can to find the pants on the rack shortly after I brought them. I didn't say anything... Just thought to myself how grateful I didn't bring the complete suit sets for them to donate and get tax credit for. Also, when they reviewed my clothes, Jen, specifically grabbed items she liked and through them in the bus, she eeven said she liked it so much she would take it. Marcy was also adamant that I find something I like on the racks... Even though I didn't LOVE any of it, just got what I thought was OK. I don't even know you and it was my friend that forwarded your blog to me because I had very similar comments as you stated here in your blog. Stand tall - speak the truth - don't be bullied.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *Hero Status Award*

      You aren't the first person to tell me that you had a very similar experience!!!!
      But, you are the first person to be brave enough to do it publicly, like this.
      I'm mega proud of you for doing it publicly and doing it with your name attached to it.

      I also feel better hearing that you had the same experience with them snatching your good stuff for themselves, first. I am appalled that they took donation items and put them out for sale, like that.

      Seriously... your comment just made me feel a rush of solidarity. Thank you!

      Delete
  3. P.S. I typed the above comment on a broken iPad, so please excuse typos and grammatical errors.

    ReplyDelete

 

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