Thrift Etiquette: What Not to Do While Thrifting

Posted On Monday, July 22nd, 2013
Filed Under: How To, shopping, Thrift Stores

looking fly on a dime thrift shopping

I’ve done quite a few posts on the do’s and don’ts of thrifting {check out thrift shopping 101 and 10 Thrift Commandments}, but I’ve never really done anything on thrift etiquette. Well, after this weekend, I had to change that.

For the past decade, I’ve been a serious secondhand shopper and I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’m noticing people are becoming increasingly aggressive and some are just jerks.

Last weekend was my thrift shopping tour at the Goodwill Outlet. And when clothes are $1.69/pound, it can bring out some serious, hmm, how should I say this…animals. The Goodwill Outlet has been a favorite of mine for about four years, but I stopped going. Nothing against the store, but with an increasingly busy schedule, I couldn’t always make it out to Long Island City. But in my absence, the store is now run over with people who behave in a way they wouldn’t in a “regular” store.

In light of these events, here’s what you absolutely, positively should not do at the thrift store:

Don’t Attack:
There’s something interesting that happens when employees place bins with new merchandise on the floor. Here’s how it goes at the Outlet: everyone lines up at the front of the store, sales associates wheel about six or seven bins out and then everyone attacks. The ladies who were on my thrift tour were baffled at what was going on and one even jokingly asked, “should I be afraid?” I told the ladies they can get in the middle of the action to see what it’s like or they can just hang in the back and keep thrifting where the store wasn’t so crazed. But either way, I assured them they would find amazing pieces, and they did. The shoppers who chose to engage in the chaos were running, in a state of chaos and grabbing everything. Whether you go in to attack mode or not, there’s more than enough to go around and I really don’t think the people who got first dibs on the bins lucked out any better than anyone else.

how to thrift shop, where to thrift shop

Take What You Need and Leave the Rest:
For the people who chose to push, shove and attack the bins, they all seemed to have one general strategy: grab everything in sight. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a thrifting strategy that goes grab-things-that-catch-your-eye-and-edit-down-later. That’s a bit different than grabbing any and everything. These folks were scooping up random items by the handful and throwing them in their carts {after amassing multiple carts, they finally narrowed down their selection}. The general idea behind that strategy is take everything, in case something valuable or cute is in the pile, and leave others with nothing. As I mentioned before, there’s enough to go around for everyone. Taking a second or two to pause, see what you’re picking up and deciding if it’s remotely of interest to you is much better than operating from a place of, “I want it all, even if I don’t need it!!!

If It’s Not Your Cart, Don’t Touch It:
I always advise shoppers to keep their carts nearby because an unattended cart can be a treasure trove for a fellow shopper. At the Outlet, the aisles are kinda narrow, so shoppers aren’t always close to their carts. During Saturday’s tour, I noticed a woman holding up a skirt that looked eerily similar to a skirt one my thrift tour ladies had in her cart. I walked closer to the woman with the skirt and she put it back in our cart. She clearly knew the skirt and cart didn’t belong to her. And later in the afternoon, the same woman tried to swipe another item from our cart. By this point she clearly knew the cart had an owner and she had no qualms about attempting to take the contents inside of it. When you’re at the grocery store, you wouldn’t take food out of someone else’s cart, correct? It’s the same principle while thrift shopping.

Thrifting can be competitive, but it doesn’t have to be. And no matter what, don’t lose your manners just to score an amazing item.

These are just a few etiquette pointers. Have you seen anything really crazy while thrift shopping? What are your personal etiquette tips? Have you ever got caught up in the moment and done something questionable in the quest to find a cheap chic item?

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10 thoughts on “Thrift Etiquette: What Not to Do While Thrifting

  1. Great post and WOW!!! I noticed more and more people have been shopping at thrift stores. I try to pick the days I feel will have less traffic but even then it seems to get packed.

  2. I’ve noticed that a lot of people who shop at the Goodwill outlet are in the Import/Export business so they grab a bunch a clothes and shoes without looking at the size because they ship it over in bulk. Its really annoying to see grown adults elbowing and fighting over clothes.

  3. I just had my first experience at Goodwill Outlet. At first, I didn’t understand why the man who brought out the bin said “now people, there is enough for everyone, please no fighting” until I saw the frenzy that ensued afterwards. It was quite comical. I am quite intimidated by the whole thing and so far, have only purchased books there.

  4. There’s a lot of pushy people at these outlets! Kids are recommended to not go here either bc the adults go crazy. LOL. Also, I notice to protect their carts, people would over it with BLANKETS. Than again, anyone can come and scoop stuffs up when no one is looking.

  5. That is one of the reasons why I only go there once in a while. The people go crazy when they know the bins are coming out, it is just too much. I have tried to stay in the back when that time comes only to have the men say you have to go to the front. I psych myself up before I go there.

  6. Awesome post!!! I find that although there are folks that are going crazy at these stores, people that are experienced at thrifting are not trying to grab sooooo much “stuff”. We are always looking for a few unique pieces that we can add to our wardrobe. However, if you are just starting out this experience may be irritating but “patience is the key”. Thanks!

  7. I’m an avid thrifter myself and go quite often to see what unique treasures I can find. While reading your post I thought of a recent, “Don’t do” while thrifting. Don’t follow people around asking them over and over if they plan to purchase something that they have clearly picked up and placed in their basket .” This to me seems very rude, because it’s clear you want it if its in your cart. Unfortunately this may have been something you missed out on. That is unless you wait around and discretely follow that person to see if they actually bought what you wanted!:) then and maybe only then might this be the time to ask for it.

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