Have you every wondered what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite thrift store? Like really, what are they doing in that "back room?" Well, I may have some answers.
For the past four years I've volunteered at least five hours a month in a local charity thrift shop. Of course every thrift shop is a little different but I've also shopped at lots of different thrift shops so I have a little insight on others too.
Where does all the stuff come from?
The charity thrift shops usually have donation centers on site. Some shops like Savers will even give you a discount coupon for making a donation. Some shops have goods that were donated at off-site centers or even picked up from donors homes. Some retail stores donate all their unsold inventory to thrift shops. And, some shops purchase products from other shops.
It seems that most thrift shops have a similar "aroma". The one that I volunteer at uses air purifiers in the store and back room to eliminate that dusty smell. Thank goodness or I would be sneezing all-the-time. Some shops are big and have laundry facilities that process all the clothes and linens so they are fresh and clean when they hit the shelves. Others don't but will only put out items that were clean when donated. I'm a germaphobe so I always bring my hand sanitizer with me when I shop at thrift stores, just in case.
Some stores have set prices for many items like: t-shirts are $3, mugs are $1, jeans are $5, etc. Many stores have back room angels who determine the prices based on condition, brand name, popularity, and retail value. For most stores, prices are not-negotiable. Some stores even place as-is stickers on items so customers don't try to point out every flaw in order to negotiate price. Most shops also have a "no tag, no sale" policy.
The early bird gets the worm. Thrift shops may not have a set schedule of when a new inventory shipment comes in like at H & M. They usually process the donations as they come in and stock shelves during store hours. But, usually at the end of the day when the customers have left and in the morning before customers come in, a lot of inventory is put out. So, the first one in the store gets the first look at the most "new" selection.
What day is best to shop?
Lots of shops have a sale schedule. Where I volunteer we have "Wacky Wednesday" where many items are sold at half price. Some stores have senior or student discount days. At my favorite out-of-town thrift shop, they have a tag color on sale every day. I've shopped at another cute shop that has a different theme everyday. For example, everything with a heart on it is 20% off.
This varies greatly. Some shops are purely for-profit ventures. Others, like where I volunteer, are all volunteer-run charities. Most are somewhere in-between. Read more about that here and here. Also, the Thrift Shopper shows the charities served. Give.org is another good resource from the BBB. Whether you are a donor or shopper, it's good to know where the money is going.
I suppose this depends on your goal. Some shoppers are looking to buy items for 25 cents at a thrift shop that they can sell on Ebay for $100. There is even a new tv show about thrift shop treasure hunting. If you just lost a bunch of weight or have a new baby and need a new wardrobe for not a lot of money, a thrift shop is a good source. If you are entertaining and need decorations, extra plates, silverware, glassware, vases, etc., a thrift shop is a good place to get those temporary needs met. And, if you want to see a bunch of really interesting things from years past, the thrift shop is a great place for that. My sister and I like to go for the pure entertainment value alone.
Do they take returns?
Most thrift shops do not take returns. It's a good idea to try on shoes and clothing and take a careful look at items for rips, stains, chips, cracks, misspelled words, and ask to plug in things before you leave. If you are shopping for a lamp, maybe take a light bulb with you. If you want to buy a flashlight, take some batteries with you. At the store where I help out, some customers will use or wear their purchase once and then re-donate it back to the shop.
Thank you for visiting the Vintage Sheet Blog today. I'm wondering, what is the best thing you've ever found at a thrift shop?