Hidden Gems

Posted September 2, 2010 in Feature Story

Thrift stores can be like thrilling treasure hunts or depressing dumpster dives, depending on the store, the day and your mood. But make no mistake, even in a recession America is awash with perfectly good “stuff” and much of it ends up at these charity operations. Yet for every vintage guitar or rare designer dress, there’s an ocean of mummified cassette decks and curiously-stained XXL gray sweatshirts. Here are 10 tips to sifting through the junk and nabbing the gems.



It stands to reason that wealthier people generally replace their possessions more frequently and that their idea of “worn out” may be good-as-new to the rest of us. So thrift stores in posher parts of town can be happy hunting grounds for newer, cleaner and perhaps more fashionable finds.



You might think that weekends would be perfect for thrift trips, as that’s when most of the good stuff gets donated. True, but donations also take a while to be processed onto the store floor, so you may just find a busier, more picked-over place with no great influx of fresh merchandise. Try Mondays instead.



If a used garment seems too good to be true, it may well be. Check and double-check for stains or damage in odd locations, stuck zippers, irreplaceable snaps, buttons, etc. There’s often a good reason why someone donated a trendy, as-new item—and you need to find it.



If you don’t have to have this week’s fashions (and if you did, you probably wouldn’t be in a thrift store in the first place), then “shopping ahead” for clothes can yield major scores. For example, right now thrift stores are full of great hoodies and sweaters which folks have cleared out of their summer wardrobes. Buy now for winter now and enjoy maximum choice.



If you find that perfect shoe but there’s only one of them, don’t despair. Some thrift stores hold back the other half of pairs costing over, say, $19.99 to deter theft (seriously). Ask at member of staff and they’ll be happy to complete your latest footwear find.



Don’t for one minute think that you’re the only thrift store fiend. There are people that seem to scour these places full-time (presumably buying for vintage boutiques or aspiring to appear on Hoarders). You’ll need to follow the tips above and visit often to snag the killer buys. 


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