I love a good thrift store sale. If done at the right time, in the right way, it’s possible to really score some nice furniture, décor, or even a well-worn pair of jeans for a fraction of buying it new. I have seen too many people toss money away at many of these shops, however, assuming that because something is sold there, it must be a good deal. Take a look at these four traps that thrift stores are catching buyers in, before you take out your wallet.
Mistaking Designer for “In-Demand”
The people that price items at thrift stores may have a good idea of the value of an item most of the time. Other times, however, they just have a bad case of wishful thinking. Yes, a pair of Diesel jeans in great condition from last year’s line may be worth buying for $20-30 from a thrift store, but a pair from five years ago that fits poorly and looks like a mouse lived in them most definitely aren’t. Beware of clothes that have been pulled aside, prominently-displayed, and marked 4-5 times higher than the rest of the wares. Unless you know quite a bit about fashion, you may be taken for a ride.
Selling to a National Market
I fondly remember the days I could scout my local thrift store and pick up a toy from my childhood for a few dollars. The store was happy to sell me the junk, and I was ecstatic to add another piece to my collection. Now that many stores have taken their wares online, however, I’m competing with a much larger market. Now the “good” items are culled for sale to the highest bidder, and competition sends the prices beyond what I consider reasonable. Not all stores have participated in this tactic, but many stores have teamed up to sell the more unique items to buyers all over the country, leaving me to fight against 20-30 interested bidders. If you want to invest heavily in nostalgia, you may be better off with a reputable dealer or eBay.
Refusing to Make Deals
If I drop $100 or more at my local store, I would expect that there would be some room to haggle. While I wouldn’t ask for anything outrageous, I would imagine that I could get away with making an offer on a piece that was unmarked or perhaps be able to get a discount for something broken or incomplete. Lately, however, many of the stores I’ve visited have had a no-tolerance policy for haggling, leaving me to wonder how badly they need my business. The inability to knock 25 cents off a shirt with no button or requiring full price for something with a stain is baffling. If new stores can meet in the middle, why can thrift shops?
Being Excessive with Exceptions
I’m giddy when my local hospital auxiliary store has their large closeout sale. In an effort to get rid of inventory, they have bag sales, where buyers can shove all they can into a garbage bag and pay anywhere from $5-8. You would imagine that this would help them move some merchandise and raise some much-needed funds, but their process of explaining all the items that don’t qualify for the sale can be frustrating. “No plus-size clothing, no socks, no shoes, no accessories, no denim, no brand name, etc.” By the time they tell you what all you can’t buy, it leaves you without much desire to buy anything, at all. This same practice can happen with tag sales or days when they mark down certain departments by 50%. Be careful of sales that are too good to be true, and always read the fine print!
While I still like to frequent my local stores and pick up a few things every now and again, the overall pricing on most items is getting closer to what I can buy things for new. Unless you are looking for a unique vintage item that you can’t get anywhere else, or you just really dig the idea of sending money to the charities supported by the stores, you might find better deals elsewhere. (Try Craigslist or garage sales, for example.)
What has your experience been with thrift stores, lately?
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