I was a teenager when I first set foot in the Village Thrift Store (at last check, it was known as Village Discount Outlet) on State Rd. in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It housed racks and racks of other people's old stuff and I was thrilled to find funky, vintage dresses that I'm sure had previously been worn by now-blue-haired ladies named Edith and Pearl. (Strangely, it also had a snack bar for some inexplicable reason.) The Village Thrift Store had a sign boasting that it was "the country's best thrift store" (no source for this was ever provided) and I'm still partial to it all these years later. While we may not have a Village here in my current town of Rochester, NY, we do have some fabulous second-hand shopping opportunities. Thrift stores (and their snooty cousin, consignment shops) are a great way to save money on many things, including clothes. Each has its own pros and cons.
- The Goodwill stores tend to be the cleanest, best organized (by size, then color) and have the most locations. Goodwill also allows you to try on clothes, allows limited returns and takes major credit cards. I'm partial to the one in Webster. The Victor store is nice, but small. Goodwill does not score high in the furniture department though. Goodwill also seems to have prices that are slightly higher overall than some of their competitors. (For example, a decent pair of jeans will run you about $6.99.) My other gripe is that they've started selling decorative stuff for your house that is new and appears to be made specifically for Goodwill stores. I go to the thrift store because one man's junk is another man's treasure. If I want to buy low-end new items, I'll go to Big Lots.
- We also have the other old stand-by: Sal's (the Salvation Army.) There are a few locations peppered throughout the area, but they are not as prevalent as Goodwill stores. Salvation Army organizes clothes only by color, not by size. The stores do have dressing rooms and they do take major credit cards. They do not allow returns. Overall, their prices seems to be a little lower than Goodwill. (A decent pair of jeans runs about $5.99.) The store in Greece is arguably the largest thrift store in the area. (It reminds me of the big Goodwill that used to be in Akron near the university. That was a great store.) That location also has a good selection of furniture.
- Volunteers of America has three stores in the city and a bunch throughout Western NY. I believe they sort clothing by size only. The stores are relatively clean, they do take credit cards and you are able to try on clothing. They also have pretty cheap prices. (A decent pair of jeans is about $4.99.)
- The Vietnam Veteran's Thrift Store is an interesting experience. It's been a few years since I've been there, but it is by far one of the dirtiest of stores. And while they have a corner with a curtain where you can try on clothes, I'm not sure you'll want to. You can find some great stuff dirt cheap though. They have a large space and will clearly take just about anything. The store includes a large housewares section and has a lot of furniture too.
- We also have Thrifty Shopper and Amvets (assuming they are still open.) I was in Thrifty Shopper once and it didn't impress me. Prices were competitive, but the store felt overly cluttered and disorganized.
Reasons to consider thrift shopping:
- Saving money. People don't just get rid of stuff because it's broken or stained. They may have decided they don't like or need an item. It may have been a gift. They may have gained or lost weight and need to get rid of clothes that no longer fit.
- Recycling. By buying second-hand, you're helping the environment.
- Helping others. Many (not all) thrift stores are associated with charities. You are purchasing items that were donated, so that the money from sales goes to support the work done by the particular charity.
- It's not for everyone. You may not have the time, patience or interest in sorting through other people's old crap.
- It takes time, patience and reasonable expectations to be a successful thrift shopper. It's not something you can really approach with a list. If you need an orange V-neck short-sleeved cotton T-shirt, you might find one. But you might be better off going to Target or Old Navy.
- People will talk to you. I don't know why, but strangers feel much more welcome to make (usually awful) wardrobe suggestions at the thrift store than they do at, say, Macy's or even Target. Expect old women to hold up hideous blouses, say they are pretty and that they think they're your size.
- Make sure you know what you're getting. If you're buying a game, furniture or small appliance, are all the parts there? Do any of the clothes have spots or rips? Are all the buttons there? Do all closures work? If it's a lamp or small appliance, did you make sure it worked? I will admit that I refuse anything that has someone's name in it. While I have no idea where any of the clothes come from, for some reason, I get the feeling that anything with a name in it is from someone who died.
- Please don't buy underwear second-hand. It seems wrong that they even sell it.
- Make sure you properly clean/wash any thrift store purchases before use. I like to throw vinegar or Lysol in with the wash water for loads with fresh-from-the-thrift clothes. Makes me feel a little better. Plus, I'm freaked out about bedbugs, so I need to make sure I take precautions.
|This is a set of enamel-covered pans|
from the Village purchased 15+ years
ago for about $2.
|A sampling of yarn from the thrift|
store. Most of it wool. All of
|My current winter coat. Purchased at|
Goodwill. Was new, originally from Target.
|Recently purchased cat hut. Was |
new in box at Goodwill for 50%
of the cost for the exact same item