What (not) to do with discarded clothes in Barcelona: Percentil

A disclaimer: I wanted to try one of the ‘we’ll resell your garments for you’ services just as an experiment. I have never been attracted to reselling as it seemed more hassle than gain, but these services keep popping up and Percentil was recommended to me as the ‘next big thing’ by reasonable people. So I wanted to have a first-hand experience, expecting only mild disappointment as it should be when trying to resell fast fashion stuff to consumers who already have it all.

However, as you will read below, now I have an impossible-to-close dispute with Percentil and, convinced of their wrongdoing, would not recommend using it. But let me explain it…

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August 25: Signing up

One creates an account and says ‘give me a bag’, then this comes:

You also tell upfront if you will want your rejected stuff back. The obvious answer: no! Once it’s out, it’s gone. I don’t care if the Percentil sorting ladies wear them instead of discarding them. They boast about donating to NGOs the stuff that they reject but I’m not impressed with such claims… you know my stance on the garment abundance.

August 30: Package and instructions

I applied for the bag on Saturday, and had it in mail next Friday, so on 5th working day it was with me. It is small and fits neatly in any letterbox.

And there are additional instructions in there:

A) The general how-to with a couple of annoying points. This thing of ‘once we charged 5.95€ for this service but now we don’t’ is ridiculous. Or the clear contradiction between ‘really fill the bag’ and ‘take it to a pick-up point on your own’. I wouldn’t risk dragging it around public transit when that bag is even half-full.

B) More specifications of the garments to be sent. To me the insistence on ‘we are very picky’ only ignites the wish to fuck with them. Also, I’ve looked around what they sell and it is by no means spectacular. Also, I’ve seen enough stuff there without a brand name. Even ‘with a slight defect’, so, please… Providing measurements in cm instead of the brand sizing would be more helpful. And singling out certain shops as beneath them while accepting others is very ugly (why would CnA be worse than HnM?) just to then sell them anyways. Yeah, I checked that by browsing their merchandise.

C) And they’ll include you in a special club if you do refrain from fucking with them and provide at least 20 items with at least 16 of them being in acceptable condition. As I’m explaining below, I couldn’t refrain from messing with them just to try out their rigor (and to imagine that I’m a normal person who does not organize regular swaps; imagine I just pruned my wardrobe and want to get rid of all I’m discarding in one bag): I’m sending 12 things and expecting 3 to 4 rejections, i.e. 25-33% rejection rate. Sound about right after all I’ve seen at swaps.

That leaflet is also your contract with Percentil. A contract that you send them and do not get to keep any proof of what you put in the bag. As you will see later, this is the biggest problem of such system…

The bag is big, though. Very big.

Selection

They want a full bag, but what does a minimalist do to just try their service? Accumulate from other people! I’m sending 12 items. 10 is the minimum. (Although, if you think about it, how are they going to enforce that? Suspend your ‘membership’?) Only two of those 12 have been mine. I did a thorough soul-searching and spreadsheet reorganization trying to find the superfluous items in my wardrobe. Two is the answer.

There are three garments from C, and we are both very curious about how it will go with the Nudies. A new pair costs between 100 and 200€, and these are in a great condition.

Most of the 12 are from Giulia who moved in August, and left some of her stuff with me for the next swap. I was too lazy to go sort through the swap seed suitcase which is at the Ateneu, so I’m sending her stuff. It’s all in the name of proper research, pupsik!

Below you have my full list with all info, my expectations for their selection process and the result of it.

Men’s

1. Nudie Jeans. Thin Finn Black Ring. 99% organic cotton, 1% elastane. Made in Italy. W31 L32.
Should be accepted. Got lost, more on that below...

2. Levi’s shirt. 100% cotton. Made in Bangladesh. M.
Should be accepted. Accepted. Price to buy 18.95€. Gain for me 4.70€.

3. Cheap Monday shirt. Air Short Sleeve Denim Check. 100% cotton. Made in China. M.
With a hole! Should be rejected. Rejected as too worn out.


4. Suit shirt. 100% cotton. Made in China. L.
Should be accepted. Accepted. Price to buy 23.45€. Gain for me 5.81€.

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Women’s

5. Zara top. Cut off fabric composition tag. Made in Turkey. S.
Should be accepted. Rejected as stained.

6. No brand shirt. 100% cotton. Made in India. No size.
Should be rejected because of lack of size tag. Rejected as too worn out.

7. Zara vest. Shell 100% lyocell. Lining 100% cotton. Made in China. M.
Should be accepted. Rejected as stained.

8. Poncho. No tags of any kind. Wool.
No idea, we’ll see. Accepted. Price to buy 9.95€. Gain for me 1.65€.

9. Coat. No tags of any kind. Loose buttons.
Should be rejected because of lack of a sizing tag. Rejected as too worn out.

10. Vibram hiking boots. Dakota XCR. Made in China. 42 1/2.
Should be accepted. Rejected as type of footwear they do not sell.

11. Asos blouse. No fabric composition tag but plastic alright. No country of production tag. 38.
2015. A hand-me-down from Kristīne. 53 wears since I started tracking, 10 wears in the first 8 months of 2019.
Should be accepted. Accepted. Price to buy 9.95€. Gain for me 1.65€.

12. HnM skirt. 95% cotton, 5% elastane. Made in Bangladesh. M.
2017. Swap find. 31 wears, 4 wears in the first 8 months of 2019.
Should be accepted. Accepted. Price to buy 4.95€. Gain for me 0.82€.

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September 3: Pick up / drop off

Ugh… I made the mistake to check the drop off points. They do this with a ‘logistics solutions’ company and that mean’s quite few points in tobacconists, stationery shops, etc. I have two nearby, at 10 and 11 min walk from my place. And my 12-piece bag could be brought there without too much effort. And I was so attracted to the idea of somebody just picking it up from my place! But now my conscience is against it.

My bag was small enough to fit it into one of the big reusable grocery bags and carry it… so I did walk down to a tobacco shop for a drop off. However, from what I gathered from the conversations between the shopkeepers, receiving a Percentil bag implies them asking for a special pick-up while I had assumed that it would be picked up as part of a general Celeritas package run. So the impression I got was that, even if you take your bag to a drop-off point, it is likely that it will require a special pickup anyways, i.e. my walk to the tobacconist doesn’t mean that I have prevented a truck trip across Barcelona. Hence the only benefit of doing it yourself (if you have a empty-enough bag which shouldn’t be the case) is that you do it on your own time instead of waiting around for a pick-up.


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September 6: Confirmation of reception

I dropped it off on Tuesday, September 3rd and received an email on Friday confirming that they’ve received it. The somewhat shocking thing is the estimated turnaround: 3 weeks (!!!) or even more if they get many more bags in the upcoming days. Ugh. Not cool. OK, it’s sorting, pricing and taking photos, but 3 weeks do not feel adequate for that. I am not impressed!

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Then, on September 20 (two weeks later), they had sorted it out… but found only 11 items! And my experience goes downhill from this point…

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Selection explanation

Apparently I have to be grateful for them even showing me reasons for discarding garments, only because it’s my first time. However, the selection seems almost reasonable. I am really surprised only about the Vibram boots.

Pricing

As you would expect, peanuts. And all that, of course, hinges on somebody actually buying them.

I’m not sure if it’s an automatic smile-file email once you have sent your first bag in, but I received en email next day (September 21) congratulating me (?) that now they’ll be paying double on garments…

And they included a table of the percentage of the price you would get before…

…and now!

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The lost item

So they had found 11 garments in the bag I am convinced I put in 12. And, curiously enough, exactly the most expensive one is the one missing… Well, I sent an email on 21st specifying all the details and encouraging them to look for it:

As I had sent my inquiry in on Saturday, they responded on Monday that they would look into it:

On that Friday I got a response that they had revised my bag and had found no error, i.e. no Nudie jeans. For some reason they remind me about their high selection criteria – as if I had complained about something they had discarded – but offer no way to proceed with this:

Starting to doubt my own sanity and – this being the only scrap of paper involved – I asked them to look for my filled out leaflet:

As it again happened to be Friday, I got the response on Monday:

And one more week later – on October 7 – I received this:

And this:

And this is where the whole thing stops… as there is no way to close this dispute. I am convinced that somebody at their reception chain has stolen that pair of jeans, be it the Percentil policy or individual initiative of an employee, while they claim that there were 11 items when they opened that bag.

I have been going back and forth in my head thinking about ways to possibly prove it but there are none. Even if I had taken a video of myself counting and describing the garments and then closing the bag, that could still be questioned as in if you really closed it, if that was the bag, etc.

And meanwhile they kept sending me emails asking for feedback before having resolved my problem and telling that they have made new, better photos of my items… And asking for feedback. So here you have feedback alright. And those poor garments up there are getting discounted already. And then come more emails urging me to ‘share my wardrobe’ on my social media so that people would buy it… Ugh.

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So six weeks after I had the brilliant idea that I should try Percentil, I am exhausted and pissed off at them. You see, I am a very trusting person and hadn’t even considered that something like this could happen. Curiously enough, though, I did receive a message commenting on me telling IG that I’ll be trying Percentil out to count well how many things I’m putting in my bag… so maybe they already have this fame but I’m slow to catch on? Although the person n question was doubting if the supposedly discarded items aren’t getting sold too.

All in all, a shit experience where I expected only a mildly annoying one. The key, of course, is the model of ‘you send us and we’ll tell you’ that – turns out – can easily lead to such impossible-to-solve disputes. I won’t be trying any of similar services soon and I don’t recommend buying from them. Fuck ’em, organize a clothes swap instead! How? This and this. Or establish an old-school consignment store where a staff member evaluates your stuff at the moment (while frowning at your fast fashion wares). Having seen a couple working very well in New York, I think there would be enough space in Barcelona… Maybe there already is one? I shall Google.

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Luīze

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