Things You Might Not Know About Your Local Thrift Store

by Tisha Tolar on 28 May 2009 35 comments

If you are looking to cut costs, you might want to consider either buying from or selling at a consignment or thrift store to make some extra income during these tough times. There are some tips to follow that may help you sell more on consignment or find better deals.

IF YOU'RE BUYIN'

Don't Shop On Saturdays
If you don't want to be elbow to elbow with pushy strangers, avoid the thrift stores on Saturday. It is the busiest day for both purchases and merchandise drop-offs. If you want time to browse, pick a weekday afternoon to visit. You'll have more time to find the best deals.

What Not to Buy
A big, thrifty no-no is child car seats. Because you never know where the car seat has been (ie: in a crash) or how much abuse it took in its lifetime. Other items such as cribs that may be missing important parts, lowing the safety of the product.

You're Not Alone
Since the economic crisis, sales at thrift stores are up 35% since this same time last year.

IF YOU'RE SELLIN'

Clean Your Closets in Season
If you want to make faster cash on consignment sales, bring in summer clothing in the spring and winter clothing in the fall. People shop for the current or upcoming seasons. They rarely shop for what is already behind them.

Know That Bigger is Better
If all of your clothing sizes run about a 2, consider selling online. Bigger sizes sell much faster than smaller ones. If you have a good size wardrobe you want to get rid of, sell it on eBay as a lot and get a much better price at the same time you get rid of all your stuff at once.

Price It Right
When selling on consignment, consider not how much the item is worth but rather what someone would pay for it at a consignment shop. If you are no happy with the price reduction the shop owner recommends, sell it on your own.

Explore the Store Before Lugging Your Stuff
If you want to donate or sell items, be sure to visit the store first to be sure you will be able to unload that ping-pong table cluttering your basement.

What You Can't Consign, Yard Sale
If you are doing a major declutter, whatever you can't donate or sell on consignment, you might want to consider having a yard sale. If that doesn't work, donate what you can to community centers, crisis shelters, and other organizations rather than sending it off to the dump.

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Guest's picture
Guest

YOU'RE not YOUR!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

"If your doing a major declutter"

YOU'RE!!!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

This article was a little light on the info, really. Maybe you should mention some of the major thrift chains and what charity (if any) each one benefits. Some of the stores in my area benefit a local Catholic charity (St. Vincent dePaul, which fills prescriptions for the needy, operates soup kitchens and provides services for indigent and homeless people), the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Goodwill Industries (provides job training), Myriam's House (battered women's shelter, job training for victims of domestic violence), and America's Thrift Store (donates a portion of profits to undisclosed Christian charities), and Salvation Army (whose philosophy is "to meet all human needs, without discrimination").

I prefer not to shop at or donate to the stores whose causes I don't support.

Guest's picture
Guest

Also be aware that not all "thrift" stores are charitable or non-profits. There are quite a few "for profit" shops out there that happily take donations from people who don't realize it.

Guest's picture
hustler

My small town has had a wonderful non profit thrift store for years. I love it. We also just recently got a goodwill. Also nice. I haven't bought "new" clothes in over two years. My entire wardrobe (of pretty nice, name brand, quality) probably cost less than 50 bucks.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Personally, I really liked the tips on cleaning the closet in season, larger sizes selling better at stores and selling some things as a separate lot online. Thanks, Tisha.

Tisha Tolar's picture

Thought it was helpful to have a check list type of article just to remind people that thrift stores are out their to help you stock up or get rid of what you don't need without having to trash your junk or pay an arm and a leg to dress yourself or your family. Appreciate your comment, Myscha!

Tisha Tolar's picture

oh brother - I spelled "their" instead of "there" in my previous comment - apologies all around. it's early.

Guest's picture

Many thrift stores have half-price days. While you may find some bargains here generally these days are designed to clear the store of inventory it had trouble selling the week before.

The day after the half price sale is the when they'll start placing the new merchandise for the week onto the sales floor.

Debbie Dragon's picture

 

I think it's terrific that so many people take the time to comment on Wisebread articles.

 

 It is unfortunate, however, that so many people get all worked up over a typo or grammatical error, and use excessive punctuation to make their point.  In most online communities, that would be the equivalent of "yelling" at someone, right?

When talking to people in person, I doubt very much these same "guest editors" point out grammar mistakes made in someone's speaking.  "You said DON'T?!?!?!  It was supposed to be "DOESN'T!!!" or "it's not ten items or LESS it should be ten items or FEWER!!!"  Really. I'm positive the people who take the time to point out grammar mistakes online don't walk around correcting people when they talk, because that would be considered fairly rude wouldn't it?

Anyway.  I thought the thrift shop tips in the article were helpful and I bet I would have known what you were writing about even if you didn't fix the "your" to "you are".

 

Guest's picture

Thanks for the post on thrift stores. Many Goodwill stores have special half-off sales daily. The Goodwill stores in Northern New England featured a different color each week that is half off--this is another great way to cut down on costs.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'll try not to shout here, LOL, but it's "avoid" not "void" the thrift stores on Saturdays -- voiding them gives the paragraph a whole new meaning.

Otherwise, this is a good, basic, how-to-get-started selling/buying at thrift store article. You obviously did a lot of research and gave this a lot of thought.

My suggestion: have someone else proofread for you.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Maybe it's not my place, but I have to admit to noticing a few errors in my own work from time to time. (And I spent years as a classroom teacher, to boot!) The thing is, or at least I'll speak for myself here, spell check doesn't necessarily catch everything and also (again speaking for myself) I've found that having spent SO many years outside of the country where English language newspapers and signs are so often completely incorrect and conversations with people aren't necessarily with those whose mother tongue is also English (and is in fact often their third or fourth language), I'm not necessarily spotting things as quickly as I used to when I was teaching English in an English speaking country. It's sad to say, but you really don't lug around an entire library of English books on your back and you spend a fair amount of time as an expat reading English news that isn't written by a native speaker. I don't know if that's Torley's reason, but I'll also point out that we try to get out so much content in a short amount of time in order to share the ideas, and we often do it in addition to numerous other duties when we're already exhausted. Sometimes things are so obvious when we go back and look at them live, but after you've proofread your own work so often, your brain tends to see what you think should be there. Paying for external proofreading services isn't exactly conducive to our bottom line. Not making excuses folks, just pointing out that we are all human, and doing our best to share ideas in a timely fashion.

Guest's picture
SimpleLife

The truth is that you (this includes you, too, Myscha) are making a living as writers. As such, you should strive for excellence. Own up to your mistakes; don't make excuses. You don't have do hire a professional proofreader--could a friend help? Or perhaps you could develop a system where all Wisebread writers help each other out with this task? After all, isn't this blog about being frugal? Lead by example! And if you don't have anyone to help you, maybe you can sit on that article for a few hours or a day, then read it again to make sure it makes sense. This will bring professionalism to this blog--and there's never too much of that.

I never post comments on this site to correct anyone about their grammar, orthography or punctuation. However, I have to admit that lately it has become more commonplace.

(By the way, I am a native speaker of a foreign language. Living in the USA, I have gotten used to people correcting me constantly. Even for my accent--when I use an accepted pronunciation that is unknown to the ones that correct me, they tend to think that I'm wrong, and not that they are the ones that are misinformed. We don't know it all -- let's be humble.)

Guest's picture
Megeelee

I didn't realize the comments section was for commenting on grammatical errors in the article. I was under the impression it was for sharing additional information relevant to the article, which is what I hope I've done with the information below.

Freecycle is completely left out of this article as means of getting rid of things you have not been able to consign or otherwise sell. I cleaned my garage last weekend, and everything I offered was picked up. I didn't have to leave my house, saving me the cost of gas to haul it away. I also have the pleasure of knowing the things went to people who will use them rather than in the garbage.

Google freecycle to find a group in your area.

Guest's picture
NJF

Don't forget about Freecycle! You can post your unwanted items to your local group and someone will likely come take it from you at no cost to you, giving it some additional life and keeping it out of the landfills.

Myscha Theriault's picture

It's not that I don't agree with your point Simple Life, and I believe I stated I wasn't trying to make excuses - just some reasons behind why these things can happen. And yes, I have had friends help out from time to time when my eyes are bleary and I just can't read it again. At the end of the day though, many people are maxed out right now with their own lives. So searching out that kind of support is something I admit to doing less of lately.

Just to clarify on the non-native language speakers issue, in no way was that intended to be negative. Anyone that speaks more than one language has my respect, hands down.  I'm simply stating that these are weaknesses  I've noticed in myself after having listened to those who haven't mastered it for years at a time. I'm certainly not asking for a pass, and as soon as I notice errors I've missed I log in to correct them.

Striving for excellence is something I would agree with completely. I think it is important to note however that many other forms and outlets of writing come with editors built in to the system. Editors that get paid. I think everyone here at Wise Bread takes their work seriously, even though for most of us it happens to be something we do in addition to many other things. If I personally make the call on getting information out quickly, and make an error in the process, I do my best to correct the situation as soon as possible. By the way, I've seen major newspapers make similar mistakes, including one owned by USA Today. These are publications that can (or at least could) afford to pay someone a full salary and benefits to crank out just a couple of main articles a week and still have a separate paid editor or two on staff. That's not even including the fact checking folks.

All in all, I think we're doing a pretty good job here at Wise Bread, and fix what needs to be fixed as the situation arises. Again, you're making valid points. And again, I'm not asking for a pass. I'm simply stating how these things can happen.

 

 

Myscha Theriault's picture

And yes, this is about sharing thrift store information. I agree. Again Tisha, cool post.

Tisha Tolar's picture

we're all human...we make mistakes. No one should make an ass out of anyone else because of it. Now, how 'bout that thrift store info...

Guest's picture
SimpleLife

Just so. I agree, Tisha.

Guest's picture
Matt B

Some thrift stores have certain days when they re-stock. I like to ask if the shop has a day (or days) in particular that they place new items on the shelves. If they do only unveil new items on specific days, it lets me get first shot at the better items.

Guest's picture

"Grammatical arrogance is something up with which I shall not put." Gotta love Churchill. I don't come here for grammar.

Anywho, I like smaller resale stores. I know they are more expensive but they have more of a boutique feel. I'm willing to pay for that indulgence. When I go, I always talk to the clerk. What's coming in; what do they need; do they have an item for which I'm looking? I've also found that the more extensive the conversation (friendly, not annoying) the more stuff they buy and at better prices.

I'd also advocate a careful eye. I once found a hole and a grease spot on a pair of shorts. They wouldn't discount the price so I didn't buy them (found the same shorts elsewhere in perfect condition for less). Another time, I found a small stain and received half off. DOH! Pesky prepositions.

Guest's picture
Justin

Great tips....we have also been hitting the stores that have been going out of business. Sometimes, name brand items for generic or lower prices. Also, at the end of the season, they tend to be discounting items at a great savings.

Guest's picture
Justin

Oops...hope this doesn't post twice. Great tips....we have also been hitting the stores that have been going out of business. Sometimes, name brand items for generic or lower prices. Also, at the end of the season, they tend to be discounting items at a great savings.

Guest's picture
Rosa

Has a website for recalls, and usually lists the reason as well as the item recalled.

All kids stuff except toys: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/child.html

Everything, including toys:
http://www.cpsc.gov/cgi-bin/prod.aspx

Guest's picture

Nice post! The real wins at consignment stores are the items with the tags still on . . . I have found a few of those from time to time.

Guest's picture
Cidre

Oooh, love it when people get into grammatical nitpicks. Last I checked, the world was still going round so nothing crashes and burned due to a typo.

Anyway, I just skimmed the article and I'm a thrifter at heart, so, if any of this was mentioned, you can ignore me.

There are other things you should not buy at a thrift store. Car seats, cradles, high-chairs and other random baby-stuff is numero uno. Thrift stores are supposed to check, but a lot of times, they don't.

Cushions are numero dos. Why? Fleas and weird smells, for starters. Mattresses and couches and the like also fall into this category. A flea or roach infestation is not something you want to deal with.

Watch out for dry-rot and mold on stuff like jackets (which might not be worn often) and shoes. Make sure anything you can buy you can either clean thoroughly yourself, or you can swing the dry-cleaning for. If something looks stained, it is, and you probably won't be able to get it out. Sweat stains do not come out. Neither does chocolate, grass, blood (I've come across it) and a whole bunch of other stuff. If it's in the Goodwill, there's a decent chance someone has already tried to get it out and has failed, and the stuff is set.

Electronics are obviously a no-no, unless you're looking for parts.

Don't go into a thrift store just to browse. Never, ever. Make a list like you'd make for any other store. Unless something has an specific purpose in your life, don't buy it.

Know the prices at your local shops, and where they get their merch. True, Goodwill might get donations, but they also get Target overstock that doesn't sell in the store. Know when they do their markdowns, know when they get truck, know when they process, and don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Cause, these are places you haggle like mad.

Guest's picture

Thrift shops in larger cities (Chicago for me) are at much higher price points, but usually carry more brand name items ... which I don't care too much about.

Some of the best clothing I've found has been in large discount Thrift Stores in Milwaukee / Suburbs. Not as much competition for unique items, I go nuts!

Guest's picture
J.

@Cidre:

Lots of good points. I do take issue with a few of them:

Organic stains like grass and blood can be removed with hydrogen peroxide. Yes, someone probably tried to remove the stain, but that doesn't mean they knew how... So price matters. If the item is a $6 shirt (typical of Goodwill), I won't buy it if it's stained. But if it's a 50 cent item at our small-town thrift store, I might take a chance.

I found the comment about sofas to be sad. Yes, it's true that there's a small element of risk, but in a college town like mine, if all sofas and futons went to the dump after one use, the landfill would expand and bury the town. I was happy to buy my recliners from thrift shops when I moved to town, and I'll be happy to return them to the thrift shop when I leave, for someone else to take a turn with.

As for electronics being a no-no, well, it depends on the price again. I bought my vacuum cleaner for $3. I was well aware that it might not work. But I could have gone back and gotten another one for $3, and repeated this process 25 times for the cost of a new one. Yes, your time is worth something, and if the gadget absolutely must work on the first try, don't buy used. But for $3 versus $75, I thought it was a good risk. (By the way, it did work.)

Thirft stores are an excellent place to get somewhat obsolete electronics if these will meet your needs. For instance, the touch pad on my old laptop is busted. It's not worth getting this replaced, but I would like to get the files off of the machine before recycling it. I will go buy a mouse for maybe $1 at a thrift store to get the job done.

Guest's picture

There is a second hand store close to my home that buys and sells only clothing for babies and smaller children. It is a "for profit" business and I have no problem with that. The clothes are slightly more expensive than traditional thrift stores in the area, however the quality of clothes/toys accepted tends to be a bit higher. Since I have found this gem, I find it difficult to pay "retail" for my son's clothing. I literally get three outfits for the price of one item bought new and like DDFD mentioned, some items still have the tags on them. I found the other tips in this post and some in the comments (who knew I would get a grammar lesson as well ;) very helpful for future shopping excursions. Thanks for the info!

Guest's picture
Em

Cidre, if I stuck to a list I'd have missed my biggest thrift scores: a $1000 musical instrument for $12.50, All Clad pans, a cashmere overcoat, and numerous items, from vintage couture to rare books, that I've sold online for several thousand dollars total. I've also bought most of our electronics and small appliances (after testing them with the outlets most large thrift stores provide for the purpose). Often, just one part - a vacuum hose, for instance - will be worth as much on eBay as I paid for the whole item. Like J., I'll buy a junky older version of something for minor or craft use. And when I buy small appliances that don't work as planned, they go to a neighbor, who supplements disability income repairing such items and selling on Craigslist. Best use of an otherwise wasted five bucks *I've* ever seen.

I'd agree that it's important to be disciplined. Space, including mental space, is valuable. Don't buy junk. Don't buy stuff you're not excited about, that you're not pretty sure you can use or sell. If you don't have a data plan on your cel phone, have someone to call to check out an iffy item; this has saved me from a slick but poorly-reviewed or recalled "bargain" many times (I google the item name/model number plus the words recall, junk, broke, etc.). If you do gamble, make a decision quickly once you get it home, and put it into the donation box posthaste if it's not right. Date items you bring home as "projects;" if it doesn't happen in a month, or six, out it goes. Then get a receipt when you re-donate it. If you got a deal, the tax deduction may even approach what you paid.

Guest's picture
Pollyanna

I have to agree about not sticking to a list --- some of my best finds are items I just happened upon. I can upgrade some of my clothing by discovering a great deal at Goodwill and then coming home and getting rid of something I already have that isn't as nice or isn't in as good shape as the GW purchased item. Or a deal that makes a perfect gift that I wasn't necessarily shopping for --- but need at some point in the future!

Guest's picture
Em

And cushions? P'shaw. Both down and synthetic inserts can be machine washed and dried. Dry-clean-only covers can be put in the sun in a black plastic bag, or even dry-cleaned for a few bucks. Never had a problem.

Guest's picture
Guest

The Vietman Veterans Thrift stores that call an offer to pick up your stuff are actually a for-profit chain. They pay a fee for using the name, and give the Vets a small, 3%, i think, commission on net profit. I still donate to them sometimes, and sure do shop there. Donate with your eyes open!

Guest's picture
Halleycomet

Seriously people--grammer issues have NO PLACE on something like this unless it renders the entire post or sentence un-readable or understandable! Get over it!

That said--I make my living by scouring thrift church and yard sales for items to re-sell. My fave places are local re-sale places attached to community organizations that offer their items at rock bottom prices (even for thrift stuff!) and benefit people I know. One venture here supports among other things the summer camp program my grandkids go to. And they raise money for heating oil for people. And donate to fire victims.

I have found vintage items like old jeans that sell for hundreds on line. And I have found items of jewelry that no one bothered to look carefully at--at all kinds of places--that were karat gold or sterling.

If you are going to go into this full or part time KNOW YOUR MARKET and KNOW your BRANDS. Off market or non branded (except vintage) items do NOT sell. Tags or not! Age is important--if it is more than a season old or so depending on type of item--hard to sell. Inspect EVERYTHING. I have learned this the hard way--zippers shred at the bottom; pockets shred and are sometimes hard to fix; buttons are missing and hard to match; hems shred; elastic can get old and lose it's strength--check by stretching--if it crackles and the piece does not go back to it's pre-stretched condition--don't buy it! Make up stains do not come out. Items with monograms do not sell. Make sure you know what the REAL label on high end items looks and feels like-shop at a RETAIL store to get this info--it is research that will pay off. Check for original hems--unless the pants were made to be hemmed this might be well done or a cob job or some really odd size. Make sure you look at things in GOOD LIGHT! Ask to take them outside or carry a pocket flashlight or use the light on your cell. Fading and blotchy--not saleable.

I have sold many pots and pans and if you know your brands you can clean up. But--clean up the merch first! Oven cleaner can take off the worst baked on crap. Missing a lid? Have only the lid? Both can and will sell if they are a good brand. Calphalon Le Crueset Revere Farberware---all sell well. MAKE SURE BASES ARE FLAT!!!! Cast iron is another item that some knowledge can pay off big time. Some older brands or models get big bucks on line.

And--remember--when you sell on line--the BUYER PAYS THE SHIPPNG. Do NOT fall into the trap of offering "Free Shipping"--it is NOT free. Either factor it into your initial sale price --in which case your item WILL be more expensive than the next sellers--or sell the item and then calc the shipping based on the weight BOXED TO SHIP. Don't rely on the ebay ship calc either! Make friends with your postal people--you will find that they can find better ways to ship somethings and you can make this a selling point. We use several different local PO's because some are more rational about some sorts of sales than others.

Be professional and know how to write a good title and description and for the love of Mike do NOT do this on your PHONE. Beg borrow or steal a laptop for this if you must. I dunno how ppl who spend all day texting cannot seem to write a simple description but over and over I see this--and I have a new habit of looking at these poorly done ads and buying them; re-listing properly and selling for sometimes many times what the original price was. Their loss my gain.