What to Do If You Strike Out at a Thrift Store

Posted On Thursday, May 31st, 2012
Filed Under: shopping, Thrift Stores

You’ve been there before. You check out a thrift store you’ve heard about or maybe you just randomly stumbled upon it. But after a few minutes, you walk out empty handed. Your thrifty little heart is crushed and you leave discouraged.

Though I’ve been thrifting for about 10 years now, this still happens to me. Last year I checked out the Salvation Army on East 23rd St and walked away feeling it was the Worst. Thrift. Store. Ever. I couldn’t find anything and the racks were half empty. I vowed to never go back to this whack location, but after a few months, I went back and I’m so glad I did.

On my next visit I found great pieces, including a vintage silk blouse and a pair of Theory shorts with the original price tag still attached.

Here’s what you should do if you strike out at a thrift store:

  • Go Back: This sounds like a no brainer, but all too often shoppers are too quick to write a store off if it didn’t prove successful the first time. Don’t do this! For whatever reason the store’s inventory may not be at it’s peak. Maybe they had a massive sale or donations have been slow. When you go back on a different day and/or time, you may have some serious luck. Also, don’t be afraid to ask a sales associate what the best days are to visit.
  • Give Yourself More Time: People assume they can go in to a thrift store and find a cart full of goodies after just 20 minutes. When you’re going rapid pace through a store, you’re most likely missing a ton of thrift store scores. Take your time. Slow down. Check out as many racks of clothing as your time will permit. I generally say an hour is a good amount of time to give yourself.
  • Bring a Friend: Everything’s always better when you thrift shop with friends, as you have an extra set of hands and eyes. He or she may find things you would have normally overlooked. Also, if you’re in a time crush, you can essentially cover the store in half the time.

What are your tips for dealing with a disappointing thrift shopping trip? Have you ever had success after initially striking out at a store?

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  • http://www.trashfashion.nl/ Sabine

    Haha I know the feeling. Nice article! Such a feeling of dissatisfaction walking out a thrift store empty handed. I cannot add any more tips on what to do, but I can add one tip on what not to do. Don’t buy something you’re not really loving just to have the satisfaction of buying something. This is something I find my self doing ever so often and it always turn out to be the worst buys! I now try to look at it it on the positive side: my closet is already flowing over.. the less I buy the better!

    • LookingFlyonaDime

      Great tip about not buying something just to buy it. I’ve actually done a post on this. You should always ask yourself: do I really want this and would I pay for it if it was full price or do I just want it because it’s cheap?

  • http://profiles.google.com/themissiah Melissa Sanders

    Ugh. Yes. There is nothing more annoying than wasting time and finding nothing. I’ve been thrifting since I was 14 (I’m 35), so I’ve been down this road plenty of times. I always give them a second or third chance. Being plus size, it now happens all of the time. Either there aren’t many plus size clothes or they are outdated and not flattering. It gets frustrating.

  • Cdpdee

    I would love to see posts from thrifters outside of the NY area…

  • http://www.iwannbefierce.blogspot.com/ Iwannabefierce

    Great tips!  I definitely believe in the “go back” rule.  

  • Miss J

    I did the same thing. A good friend of mine always comes out with SOOOOO many goodies and me, I find nothing. I just thought maybe I’m not the thrifting kinda gyal. But can’t help but want to find those great pieces for low price. So I try and try again. I guess it’s like anything else, gotta keep at it until you get in a groove and learn the patterns of the store and the inventory or even the demographic of where the thrift store is as well. That can reflect what type of finds you’re in for. 

  • Ablake48

    I don’t think I could ever leave a thrift store without something and I hope I never will – lol!

  • Tam_Bo

    YES, I have struck out before at several thrift stores. But I chalked it up to the location of the store. 

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  • http://chetopianfamily.blogspot.com/ Adin B

    I must admit I have never been to a like real thrift store, but I shop at a church rummage sale here in our small town where everything’s cheap. :) I bought clothes that are 50cents, a dollar or a dollar a bag and I always end up buying tons of things. I am hoping to hit a Goodwill store or a thrift store next week though on our travel and see what treasures I can find. :)