Oct 23, 2014

Thrift Shop Secrets

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. 

Is it clean? 
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.

Who determines the price? Are prices negotiable? 
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.

When is the best time to shop? 
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.

Where does the money go? 
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. 

Is it worth the trip? Like, is there anything decent there? 
 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?

I'm sharing at:
Motivation Mondays
The Life of Jennifer Dawn


milangirl77 said...

I LOVE thrift shopping. I love the idea of not knowing what I'm going to find, but resting assured that I will find good deals regardless. I just went to Goodwill today and got a silver-plated Godinger candelabra worth $70 for $8. I felt good about that find! #Click and Chat

Jenny N. said...

Great tips! :)

Gentle Joy said...

Good advice.... God has provided for us through garage sales and thrift stores... and has stretched our budget amazingly. Thank you for sharing this. :)

J.E. Gaton said...

The best thing I ever found at a thrift store was a mint condition sewing pattern with all of the pieces from the 1940s. It is a beautiful dress with a cute suit jacket. It was a total steal!

Julia Nyanyo said...

IN the UK we just have Charity Shops where everything is donated (people just turn up with bin bags full) and all the money goes to whichever Charity the shop is for. With the economy how it is there are loads of these shops everywhere and they are a great, like you say, if you've changed weight or need lots of kitchen equipment that doesn't matter too much for going off to Uni. I can't pass one without popping in "just in case" and it feels like you make a donation to charity and take home something for free!

Karissa Barber said...

I have also written a post about tips for thrift store shopping because I adore it! It's great to "meet" a fellow thrift finder! My favorite to find is vintage clothing to add to my wardrobe. Visiting from Anti- Procrastination Tuesday.

Janell Mares said...

Hi, I am stopping over from Frugal Friday Link Up Party! I love thrift store shopping. It is kinda cool to learn some insights about what goes on behind the scenes. Thanks for sharing.

Trish Martin said...

Thanks so much for the awesome tips.

Unknown said...

I don't get to go thrift store shopping too often, but when I get the chance I love to. Thanks for showing us some of the behind-the-scenes. ~Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

Maren Hall Arnold said...

I love "hunting" at thrift stores, estate sales, and garage sales. Recently, I purchased a beautiful camel colored fitted blazer for just 2 Euros! Thank you so much for the tips!


Betty Asphy said...

I have found many a treasure at thrift shops. I say it is more than worth it.

About Jessica said...

I'm a BIG fan of thrift stores! I think the best thing I've ever found is probably clothes. I just bought my daughter's entire fall wardrobe and everything looks like new!

Adrian Peterson said...

I love shopping at thrift stores:) Thanks so much for linking up to Teach Me Tuesday last week. You are very much appreciated. Starting this week, we will no longer be visiting you, instead we will be pinning each and every link. We want to give you more exposure! Hope to see you again this week!!