How to tell consignors no in 5 easy steps

March 16, 2017

This article originally appeared in our SimpleConsign newsletter from 2013. I’ve updated it for you today.

When you tell consignors no, you should never have to say “I’m sorry”

I was reading a blog post about a woman’s experience with two of her local consignment shops. The title of the blog post was “Consignment Shop: Fail!” She used words like “demoralized,” “woes” and “failure.” Even the comments said, “I feel your pain” and “…it was so stinkin’ demoralizing.” The post ended with, “From now on, I’m donating everything to charity.” How do consignment shop owners let potential consignors down gently? Is it even possible? Confrontation is never easy, but there are better ways to tell consignors no thank you.

It all begins with you and your shop

You have to be secure in your consignment shop policies. When the rules are clear and written down from the start, it’s much easier to say “no thank you.” Before you ever begin accepting items for consignment, make a thorough list of what you will and will not accept. Not only does this help you turn items down, but it also establishes up front what type of merchandise you will be offering in your consignment store. Always give clear and concise reasons why you can’t accept their items based on your policy. Do not waiver!

Step 1.) Start with a compliment if possible

Even though you may disagree with my choice of the pink elephant peanut bowl, it speaks volumes about who I am. Everyone wants to be affirmed and when it comes to personal possessions, a consignor feels especially vulnerable. Begin your answer, whenever possible, with a solid compliment. Then, follow up with “I” never “you.” An example given in “13 More Things Your Consignment or Thrift Shop Won’t Tell You” from the Reader’s Digest is, “That’s adorable, but I don’t have a market for it.”

Step 2.) Get to the point when you tell consignors no

Do not waiver in this next step. Get to the point immediately. Handle a consignor’s items with appreciation, but speak with firm resolve. Don’t beat around the bush. You need to have the strength of your policies behind you. Don’t lecture, but use a conversational voice when you tell consignors no. It’s easier to receive. If possible, stand on their side of the counter when chatting with them.

Step 3.) A thank you goes a long way

If the first 2 tips don’t help you win their acceptance of your courteous rejection, remember respectful communication should always rule. Thanking them for taking the time to bring in items is essential to building relationships. If there is push back from the consignor, always maintain your cool. Avoid any escalation of emotions. Return kindness for kindness, but never return rudeness.

Step 4.)  Never say, “I’m sorry”

Your policies are set in writing. You’ve given a straight answer and spoken with confidence and respect. When you tell consignors no, there’s no need to apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t feel guilty for not taking items that neither fit your policies or your store brand. In the end, if you do, you’ll be the one to suffer.

Step 5.) End by offering encouragement

Maralee McKee, the Manners Mentor, suggests ending the conversation with an encouraging word. Perhaps the items don’t qualify today, but you never know what they’ve left behind. By leaving with a good experience, a potential consignor isn’t likely to write a nasty review or blog post. Plus, they may return with friends and family ready to do business with just the right merchandise you are looking for.

For suggestions on how to deal with customers who surprisingly aren’t always right, read “In resale, the customer is always right, right?”

Deb McGonagle

I have been a writer for various forms of marketing for over 40 years. I've written my share of radio and TV scripts, magazine and newspaper ads as well as direct mail brochures and newsletters. Currently, as the Marketing Coordinator for Traxia, home of SimpleConsign software, I've moved into blog posts, eBooks and website text. It's been an ever changing and ever challenging journey but I've loved it all along the way.