People who love thrift stores really love thrift stores. And they were gaining in popularity well before Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" made its best attempt ruin that trend. In 2012, the number of thrift stores was up 12 percent from the previous two years. Data shows that in a given year, approximately 16 to 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store.
We're not talking about those "snobby" high-end resale businesses -- we're talking about the dusty, fluorescent-lit, loosely organized aisles displaying the fruits of people's past spring cleanings. Thrifting is a unique experience -- digging through cluttered racks and shelves, the musty smell of who-knows-what permeating the air, and of course the possibility of finding something really awesome. It's the ultimate example of one person's trash being another person's treasure.
Here are all the reasons we love thrift stores and why you should definitely give them a shot if you haven't.
First, the most obvious reason we go to thrift stores: bargains. Even though a lot of thrift shops are now armed with the price-checking power of Google, you're still going to find a lot of cheap stuff. And once in a while, if you're lucky...
You might find something valuable for next to nothing.
If you haven't experienced this, it is a thrill. Whether it's designer clothing or some prized piece of unknown electronic equipment -- at first you can barely hold your excitement. "How has no one grabbed this yet?" you mutter over and over like a crazy person.
It might not even be worth a lot of money, but it has some intrinsic value to you. And you clutch that item with your life for the rest of your time in that store. Even if it's uncomfortable, it will never leave your side. Setting it down anywhere is just not an option at thrift stores. People will swoop in like vultures. And when you arrive at the checkout, you feel a small amount of guilt, because "they have no idea what they have here!" But that guilt is completely overshadowed by "HOLY SH*T! LOOK WHAT I FOUND!"
Thrift stores help the community.
Not only are many of these establishments run by charitable organizations like ARC and Housing Works, but by offering goods at a reduced price, it's an affordable option for low-income households. Plus, there are thrift shops out there pulling double duty and using their retail platform to provide other much-needed services to the community. Such is the case in Dallas, Tex., where the Out Of The Closet Thrift Store operated by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation offers free HIV tests to customers. Shopping at these stores keeps them in business and keeps these important services going. But also...
Thrift stores keep more out of landfills.
Obviously the very idea of a secondhand store is eco-friendly. Thrift stores are like humanity's hand-me-downs. That 7-Up logo tee can theoretically be worn forever, or at least until the threads are literally worn through. Someone scratches your back, you scratch someone else's back and so on and so on.
You might make some friends with similar interests.
If you like certain clothes, jewelry, records, furniture, electronics, etc., you'll likely run into people who have similar collecting hobbies and perhaps even gain a lead or two on things you're looking for. Granted, some of those people may be a little weird, but that's part of the fun and adventure of thrifting. Anyway, aren't we all a little weird?
Thrift stores transport you to another time.
Like when California still hadn't decided if it was an island or not.
They make you appreciate how far technology has come.
We're talking big, bulky CRT computer monitors, CD Walkmans, original Playstations (all possibly caked in something sticky) -- and those are all from more modern items. Be thankful you don't live in a time when calculators looked like this...
You can create your own style.
And you can do it using the past styles of so many others. We're not here to judge the bowling alley computer you have in your living room. Hey, just do you.
You never know what you'll find.
There's something about entering a thrift shop that is just packed with potential. If a great time for you is dropping into a store of once-owned goods with no idea what you're looking for, then the thrift shop is it. Endless possibilities and endless questions. Who owned this before? WHY? What the hell is this? Is this amazing or is this awful?
You'll find things you didn't know you absolutely need.
No shortage of costume fodder!
The thrift store is the place for nearly any costume party you might be attending. An old guy in a track suit? Follow us to the track suits and fake mustaches. A hobo princess? Dresses, skirts and tweed jackets are this way. Chicken suit? Too easy...
Ugly Christmas sweater party?
Welcome to the promised land.
Always good if you're running low on t-shirts.
You can't be super picky. But if a tee fits perfectly and you don't mind that it says "Bob's 1st Annual Beer Bowling and Barbecue Blast," then, my friend, you've come to the right place. Maybe you're not "On A Boat" now, but there's a good chance you will be on a boat again in the future.
They're the best place to go if you're moving into a new house or apartment.
Young people everywhere know the feeling of moving into a new place and realizing on the first night that you don't actually own a single fork or plate to eat with. Well, thrift stores are a great place to find dishes and cookware that has already withstood the test of time, but is also totally affordable. How about a 60-piece set for 10 bucks?
Thrift stores are great if you're a collector.
Books, games, records, mugs, speak 'n' spells, electronic dartboards, scarfs, rings, t-shirts, generic paintings, laserdiscs, boom boxes, VHS movies, ceramic figurines, ties. Where else could you even find these things? Again, no judgement here. Let your collector freak flag fly.
Mystery grab bags.
There's already some amount of mystery involved in thrift store shopping, but some shops take this to the next level. They're usually just a dollar or two and they can contain basically anything. Sometimes, the bags are clear and you have some idea of what's inside. But sometimes, the bags are opaque, walking you blindly into an unknown merchandise adventure. Thrift stores know how to have fun.
Also, just saying, you could get rich.
Sometimes people donate things without realizing that they are worth a lot of money. And then other people walk into thrift stores, buy those things and make a ton of money. Like this guy, Tony D'Amico of North Carolina. He bought a maritime painting for $6.99, only to find out that it was done by famous seascape artist Uwe Werner and is in fact worth about $1,600. SCORE.
Did someone say thrift store tag sale?
That's right, many thrift shops do tag sales, where they further reduce the prices of items -- designated by the color of their price tags -- that are already selling for dirt cheap. Some stores have assigned days for specific colored tags, while others choose colors at random, making trips the thrift store even more adventurous than you could have possibly imagined.
As if you possibly needed another reason to hit up a thrift store. Discounted discounts...
Hmm, seems like we're missing one important thing... oh right!
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