I thought it might be interesting for me to compile a list of things I have learned over this last year of thrift store shopping. I started out the year a thrift store virgin, but I have learned a couple useful tricks just by trial and error. I hope you find them useful too (even if you're not a virgin)!
Keep your mind open. If you go in the thrift store looking for a turquoise Fiestaware Disk Water Pitcher, then chances are you will be highly disappointed. Just keep your eyes peeled for vintage looking goods in general.
Go often. I have good days and I have bad days. Just because a store is a dud one day doesn't mean that a person isn't going to drop off a killer donation at that same store tomorrow.
Go early, but not necessarily when they first open. I find if I go first thing when they open that the shelves are a little bare. You've got to give the employees a chance to get the newly donated items priced and onto the shelves.
I find my best stuff on Mondays and Tuesdays. People will clean out their garages over the weekend and then drop off stuff to the thrift stores the first of the week. (Or if you are like me, keep it stored in the back of my van for a month or two and drop it off when I get tired of the crystal lamp rolling around back there).
Location, location, location. I've found the best vintage stuff in thrift stores in older neighborhoods. Older neighborhoods have older people and older people have vintage stuff (that to them is just old stuff).
I avoid the frou frou Goodwill stores that are filled with lots of new merchandise donated by stores. They have very few items donated by actual people and what they do have is very much picked over by employees. Only the highest quality stuff makes it on the shelves. I prefer the thrift stores that pretty much put out anything that gets donated.
Travel outside your normal area occasionally. Now with gas prices sky rocketing I won't be doing this too often, but I'll certainly stop by if I'm on that side of town for something else.
If you find a thrift store that you like, make nice with the workers. You would be amazed what being nice to a thrift store worker gets you. Tips on when to shop there, alerting you to future sales and maybe even dragging something out of the back room that you might like.
Once I know a thrift store, I can be in and out in 5 minutes. I know where to go to see what I am interested in. I don't dawdle. If they have nothing interesting that day I'm off to the next one down the road.
A bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse or car is a good thing. Thrift stores do not clean things up or wash them prior to putting them on the shelves. I tend to pick stuff up to examine them, so my hands get a little grimy.
Have fun and get out and enjoy some thrifting.
What about you, do you have any thrift store tips to add?
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