Don't shop at The RealReal until you read this

Luxury consignment shopping always seems much more complicated than regular shopping — and it only gets more complicated when you're browsing online at a store like The RealReal. Whether you're after a second-hand Chanel or Hermes bag, the latest Gucci cat-eye sunglasses, or a pair of statement-making zebra Louboutins, it's hard to know what's real, what's fake, and what's worth it. In other words, it can be a bit hit or miss. But if you go in with your eyes open (and know some of the insider secrets), it can be one of the best places online to bag a bargain or find the old-school Celine you've been trying to hunt down since creative director Phoebe Philo left the fashion house.

As Julie Wainwright, founder of The RealReal, told CNBC (via Forbes), "Some of the smartest people I know have been buying consignment forever but never talked about it — even some of the richest people I know, because they like good value." Well, who doesn't? Read on to discover all you need to know about the RealReal. 

The RealReal has faced questions about authenticity

The RealReal says that it takes authenticity seriously (read: there are no fakes). But they have faced criticism for selling fakes or items that were not in the condition they claimed to be online. For example, a report conducted by CNBC in 2019 found that there were hundreds of customer complaints regarding the receipt of counterfeit goods and products that were damaged. The company responded with the following statement to CNBC: ""Unlike most resale companies, The RealReal takes possession of all items and physically evaluates every one to authenticate it."

However, a former employee with The RealReal told CNBC: "It's so much product. It's really hard for someone to properly authenticate something when they're not probably the best qualified to be even doing that in the first place. And they're being rushed to hit a goal."

Ultimately, buying luxury goods online from anywhere other than the luxury brand's online store involves a degree of risk that you're not getting an authentic item. 

The best steals are in the Editors' Picks section

Most luxury online stores (think Net-A-Porter and Nordstrom) have a section on their website that is a curated mix of the products deemed to be the best of the "best," which has been handpicked by the company's fashion editors and/or buyers. And luxury consignment stores like The RealReal and are no different. On The RealReal, this section is called "Editors' Picks," and it's a great place you should start if you're trying to bag yourself a real (or even rare) deal. But don't buy things just because the editors are suggesting them. When it comes to luxury consignment shopping on sites like The RealReal, you need to shop smart. 

She Finds suggests checking the website daily at 10 am and 7 pm, as this is when new arrivals are released. They also recommend creating your own personal feeds to ensure you can keep track of brands and specific products that you're after — that way you won't miss any items that are likely to sell out quickly (and they'll all be in one place). Make sure you put everything in on your "Obsessions" wishlist, too. Come sale time, everything you've been lusting after will be in the same place.

Use the search function and filters to discover hidden gems

According to The RealReal shopping experts, the search bar on the company's website can help you out so much more than you may think. And it's all about being strategic with what you search for and the keywords and filters you use. Michelle Scanga, managing editor at WhoWhatWear, who revealed she does almost all her vintage shopping on The RealReal, notes that the search is her secret weapon. "First I start by narrowing down by designer plus the item, so let's say I'm looking for a new pair of shoes: I'd search 'Gucci heels,' of course," she told WhoWhatWear. It can also be useful adding in the year the product was designed. 

If you're not looking for anything specific, but instead want to find some hidden gems, try searching "limited edition" or "limited release." In terms of the filter, simply filter down to your size to avoid wasting time. "The second thing I do is filter by just my size so that I'm not clicking through several pages of inventory just to find the pairs in my size," said Scanga. It may also be worth adding the size below or above your size, as fits can be different for different brands.