As I mentioned in my review of EricDress.com, given my travel schedule for work, I buy the majority of my clothes – and almost everything else – online. And while I don’t blog about non-book related topics too often, every now and then, a bad shopping experience almost begs to be blogged about.

Recently, I’ve been limiting my purchases to staples like jeans, essential tops, a good blazer, etc. For more trendy, wear-it-once type of items, I’ve been trying out rental clothing services, with new ones seemingly popping up every day. Before I go further, I do want to note that the purpose of this post is to simply share my experience. I have not received any free clothes and have personally paid for every item I rented or purchased.

How do rental clothing services work? Depending on the package you select, you receive a few pieces of clothing, typically 3-4. Jewelry and accessories may also be included. Some services, like LeTote and Rent the Runway, allow you to either choose the pieces you receive or view what is styled for you and make changes. Others, like The Ms. Collection, rely on your profile and style notes to select the pieces for you so what you actually receive is a surprise.

With all services I’ve come across, you can keep and wear the items for as long as you’d like and then send them back in order to get new ones. If you love something enough to hang on to it, you’re charged a reduced rate since you’re purchasing a pre-worn item.

Which services have I tried? In the past, I used Rent the Runway and loved it. It was pricey ($159/month at the time), but I was getting designer clothes and accessories that I’d never splurge on otherwise. I also didn’t have to mail back the whole box to get a new one–I could send back just 1 piece and get another. In the end, though, I did not find much use for fancy gowns and suede jackets in Cleveland, Ohio–if only I lived in NYC!

For the past few months, I’ve been using LeTote with varying degrees of success. For $49/month, I receive 4 items of clothing. These are styled for me based on my profile, but I can go in and swap out any – or all – items before the box ships. I do have to return the entire box before I can get a new one. For the most part, this service has worked out well but I do occasionally have issues with finding new pieces to try given their limited inventory, and finding seasonally-appropriate pieces. LeTote’s inventory does vary constantly as clothes are sent back in so sometimes just waiting a few hours or a day helps.

Most recently, hoping to find an alternative to LeTote, I decided to give The Ms. Collection a try. And it was my terrible experience with this particular service that prompted this blog post. The Ms.Collection has 3 boxes to choose from: Ms. Play ($49/month, 3-4 items, everyday wardrobe), Ms. Business ($59/month, 3-4 items, professional wardrobe), and Ms. Combo ($113/month, 6 items, a combo of both casual and business wardrobe).

Why didn’t I like The Ms. Collection? Hmm….where do I start…I figured I’d start slow and selected the Ms. Play subscription. I had no chance to select or even view the pieces that would be sent to me but I like surprises, so I was initially fine with this aspect of the service.

About a week after subscribing, the first box arrived with 3 pieces of clothing. Now, I think that any subscription service should strive to wow their customer on the first try. To me, the fact that I received 3 pieces in the first box sort of signaled that I would always get 3, not 4. They could have at least thrown in a piece of jewelry or a scarf or something.

The number of clothing pieces aside, the entire box was a disaster. I wish I took photos of what I received but I was too busy immediately packing it back up and dashing to the post office to mail it back in the hopes of getting a refund. Here’s a description of what I received:

  • An orange/rust long sleeve tee with some lace on the sleeves. This is the type of tee I could grab at a store for around $5 but price aside, the shirt was tattered and looked like it’s been through MANY washes. If it was part of my personal wardrobe, it’d be going in the recycle bin–it was not even in a good enough shape to be donated.
  • A tan and white polka dot sleeveless dress. This dress was actually cute but when I tried it on, the lining was hanging lower than the actual dress!! This was likely a sign of the dress being cleaned too many times or being cleaned inappropriately.
  • A black and grey polyester turtleneck sweater. This is the type of cheaply made, itchy sweater you’d pick up at a Wet Seal or Forever 21 for around $10. I was especially surprised they sent it given the mostly warm weather we’d been having but when I asked them about it, they pointed out that there were a few days when the weather was in the 40-50s. Fine, maybe the found a few cold days and though this sweater was just the thing! But why send a summer dress if that’s the case?

I emailed The Ms. Collection and requested a full refund since I return all 3 items without wearing them and literally an hour after the package arrived. Of all the issues with the clothes that I brought up, they only addressed the seasonality of the sweater. No word about why I got the dress, why the dress’ lining was longer than the shell, or why the long-sleeve was in such unacceptable condition. 

They initially declined my refund request altogether but after I pushed further, they finally offered a prorated refund of $40.83. So I am still out about $14. Never mind that I wasted my time signing up, trying on these ridiculous clothes, packing them back up and running to the post office to send them back. No apologies and few explanations from The Ms. Collection. Just poor service and crappy clothing quality that I paid $14 to experience…