Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thrift Store Tips!

Try saying THAT three times fast! Go ahead, I'll wait!
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Okay, so gas has hit four bucks a gallon, your grocery bill gets higher every week, and you've decided it's time for a little belt-tightening. Maybe, you've decided, you should check out the shopping options at your local thrift store. (and then you kind of shudder a little and think, eewwww!, and then you take another look in your wallet and think, well, it wouldn't hurt to give it a try.)
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So! As a loyal thrift store shopper (because I know no shame and I am cheap), I am here to give you some helpful tips! Here goes:
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1. If you enjoy garage sales, you will probably enjoy thrift stores, because a thrift store basically is a garage sale. A giant garage sale. If the idea of going to a garage sale makes your upper lip curl, you probably want to avoid thrift stores.
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2. Thrift stores are full of (gasp) poor people. Is true! If you are going to shop in thrift stores, you will have to get over your aversion to being in proximity of dirty/smelly/clearly insane people.
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3. While more and more thrift stores are accepting credit cards and personal checks, be prepared for ye olde "cash only" sign. Also, once you buy something, it's yours. No returns. No refunds. No exchanges. Ever.
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4. If you are looking for the latest clothing styles, you're shit out of luck. If you are looking for clothes that were in style twenty years ago, you're about to hit the jackpot. But the great thing is, mixed in with all the out-of-date stuff are plenty of classics. Keep an eye on the labels. For some reason, Talbots is very well-represented at thrift stores. (Of course, I'm not saying that everything that comes from Talbots is a classic. Far from it. But their stuff does tend to be more well-constructed than, say, clothing from the Kathie Lee line.)
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5. I don't care if it's a pair of Seven For All Mankind jeans on sale for twenty-five cents, if the cut/fit/style isn't right, you're not gonna wear it. Oh, you'll try. But your heart won't be in it. And a deal is only a deal if you actually wear/use whatever it is you've bought.
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6. There is only one reason that a pair of women's shoes ends up at the thrift store: They are incredibly uncomfortable. Because a woman will wear a pair of comfortable shoes until they fall apart on her feet. Just stay away from the women's shoes. Trust me on this one.
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7. I was totally lying in Item #6. I just want you to stay away from the women's shoes so I can have them all to myself. No, but really, you can occasionally find a gem of a pair of shoes at the thrift store. You just have to kiss an awful lot of frogs before you find your prince in this particular department. Oh, and by the way, as soon as you get those shoes home? Either lysol the ever-loving shit out of them, or put them in the freezer for 24 hours. You don't want to catch a freakin' foot disease from thrift store shoes. Been there, done that. And yet, I still buy thrift store shoes. I never learn.
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8. If an item of clothing is wrinkled on the rack? Those wrinkles are never, ever coming out. You can use all the Spray-N-Starch you want, but the reason the wrinkly clothes are at the thrift store is because they are permanently wrinkled, and the previous owners got tired of ironing, and ironing, and IRONING, to no effect.
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9. Check carefully for pit stains. Likewise, crotch stains. I know it's gross; I'm just sayin'. Also check for food stains. Hell, just check for stains, period. (Also period stains. Heh.) (Eeewwwwwww.)
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10. Check the clothing tags. Not just the name brand tag, but also the size/care tag. If these still look like new, chances are the item has been worn very little, if ever.
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11. Do not buy electronics at the thrift store. EVER. I don't care how good the deal is; you're gonna get it home and plug it in, and five minutes later you're gonna wonder where that burning smell is coming from.
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12. Virtually every thrift store has a sale day once a week, when all clothing is 50 percent off. Find out when that day is, then shop the store the day before. If you find something great, conceal it on an out-of-the-way rack, then come back on sale day for the kill. Ahem. However, if you find something SO GREAT that you just HAVE TO HAVE IT, bite the bullet and pay full price. Because invariably, those are the items that are gone when you go back the next day.
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13. Some thrift stores sell only name-brand clothing, and almost all thrift stores have at least one rack of "brand new" stuff, with the tags still on. If the idea of wearing someone else's clothes is skeeving you out, start here. That being said, the best deals are always on the used stuff. I got my Talbots, fully-lined, wool peacoat which I have worn virtually every single day for the past several winters at a thrift store for seven bucks. Today at lunch I paid a grand total of $3.98 for four summer polo shirts, two of which are L.L. Bean. I mean, not like L.L. Bean's the messiah or anything, but it is fairly good-quality stuff.
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14. I'm sure this goes without saying: Before you wear anything you buy at the thrift store, wash it or have it dry cleaned. Just to be on the safe side. Heh. Oh, and tons of clothes that say "dry clean only" are actually not averse to the washing machine. And when you've only paid a couple of bucks for something, even if it says "dry clean only", you might as well throw it in the washer and see what happens. (Except wool, of course. Unless you are trying to shrink it in half. Believe it or not, I actually had to learn this one the hard way. Because I am an idiot.)
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So! There you have my helpful tips for thrift store shopping. Did I miss anything? Unfortunately, I am well aware that I may have scared some of you away from thrift store shopping forever with this post. Sorry about that. On the other hand, more stuff for me!
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Oh, and people wonder if the thrift store employees "cherry-pick" the good stuff before it ever gets to the sales floor. Sadly, I am pretty sure they do. I know that I would, if I worked there. However, I have found enough great stuff as a shopper to know that the employees aren't getting all the good stuff. Evidently, there's plenty for everybody.
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*In case you're wondering, the little ' marks that have been in between my paragraphs lately are there because Blogger has evidently lost its ability to properly space paragraphs. So I am helping poor little Blogger out by forcing the "correct" spacing, i.e., the spacing as I want it to appear. You're welcome, Blogger!

3 comments:

listie said...

all very good hints

A couple of my favorite things have come from the thrift store, including that fully-lined wool skirt with the price tag still on it.

Kerri said...

Thanks for such an entertaining read. I am not above shopping at thrift stores myself. I give them a lot of great stuff, in fact!

FightAgainstRedTape said...

Our petrol is at the equivalent of $12 a gallon.

Belt tightening time for sure!