January 16, 2006

Thrift Store Shopping - Tips from the Experts

There is no shame in being smart, and shopping thrift stores is just plain smart. When you find that great bargain, it's brilliant.

As Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, explained in the Modesto Bee, "People are more conscious of recycling and saving money and are less into conspicuous consumption," Meyer said. "Now, people brag about how much they saved on something. It's become a way of shopping."

There are goods available in thrift stores that are high quality, useful, fun, and worthy of consideration - the fact that they are very low cost is an added benefit. Knowing how to shop, and where, can take a bit of time to learn.

Several sites offer great tips on shopping thrift stores. Nattie Gilbert of Colorado offers some great suggestions at her site, including:

"Go potty before you go, because secondhand stores often don't have public bathrooms. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Eat before you go.

"Make a list of what you are looking for including sizes, colors, etc. If I am trying to match something, like a coat to match a skirt, I would bring that skirt with me to the store. I usually let the clerk know so they don't try to charge me for it.

"I keep a list for used store purchases like a grocery shopping list. When someone outgrows a pair of shoes or pants, I write down that item on the list and the bigger size to start looking the next time I go thrift shopping.

Look carefully for stains, rips, etc. Take the time to try clothes on and test electrical items. It can save you a lot of hassle trying to return items.

"Many stores have strict or no return policies. My favorite local store will let you return an item for in store credit only within 30 days with receipt and tag still attached to item.

"Watch for store specials, sales, and coupons. Ask the clerks, if you don't see any posted or advertised information."

DigsMagazine has some good advice on choosing thrift stores:

"The big nationwide thrift stores like Salvation Army, Goodwill, Value Village and (my personal favorite here in town) Savers generally have lots and lots of stuff, but the problem with these places is that every thrift store treasure-hunter in town is probably rifling through the same stuff. Check out some of the lesser-known, locally-run thrift stores in town as well — they'll frequently have a smaller selection, but when you do make that rare fabulous find, it'll be at a real bargain. One of my best thrift store scores was a big, white, 60s space-age-style fiberglass coffee table that I snatched up for a mere $20 at a tiny, out-of-the-way thrift shop run by a small local charity. The table had apparently been sitting there for weeks, just waiting for my boy and I to stumble across it. You can bet that at a better-trafficked store, some other 60s-design-loving hipster would have snatched that table long before we'd ever chanced upon it."

And remember, a thrift store is not a consignment shop. As esortment.com explains, "A consignment shop is a privately owned business, usually much smaller than the thrift store. People bring items to the consignment shop to be sold, at which time they will receive a percentage of that sale. Items may sell for one half to one third the original store prices and profits are put back into the store. Items in consignment shops are usually of a high quality and have been laundered prior to being put on display. No clothes or items are accepted that are damaged or not usable."

How to find thrift stores in your area? Google for "thrift stores" and the name of your city. Citysearch.com also offers a nice, long listing - but it will include flea markets and consignment shops with the true thrift stores. The example for San Antonio is HERE.

And, of course, the best way to learn of good thrift stores is to ask around. From Ginny, about those here in SA: "the ones I like are the Good Will on Dezavala and I-10, the Good Will on Blanco at 410 and the Family Thrift Stores close to Ingram Park Mall at 410 and next to Henry's Puffy Tacos on Bandera inside Loop 410 a few miles."

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