Sunday, May 26, 2024

Thrift Shops

by Harvey L. Bilker
Harvey L. Bilker Harvey L. Bilker has written numerous articles, and taken scores of photographs, for The New York Times and many other publications.

What are thrift shops? Where do you find them? What are they all about? How can they  help you cut down on your debts?

What are Thrift Shops?

Hospitals, churches, and other charitable organizations establish thrift shops to raise money for their causes. Items from clothes through appliances to devices to aid the elderly, such as wheelchairs and walkers, are donated to them.

The cost of running a thrift shop is nil, especially if the rental is donated. Volunteers spend a few hours a day there in shifts and help patrons of all ages.

Certain thrift shops specialize in specific items. Those could be books, maternity clothes, sweaters, shoes, and other articles. Many carry children’s clothes and toys.

Thrift shops can help immensely with family budgets, especially these days when it’s raining pink slips.

This article and its continuation in  future issues will give you specific details on thrift shops.

You can actually save, or, if you’re lucky, make a fortune! Read on!

A personal experience.

I once bought a black, heavy, herring-bone winter coat in mint condition at a thrift-shop sale. The regular price was $5.00. All coats were half-price that day, so I paid $2.50 for it. It received many compliments from my friends and some strangers. One day someone asked what I paid for it. I told them, honestly, that it was five, but I got it for half price: two-fifty. The response: “Even five hundred dollars is a good deal for that coat.”

Yes, at thrift shops you can move decimal points around like that!

What items do thrift shops sell?

Thrift shops have a wide variety of articles, ranging from clothes through appliances, such as computers, to books and antiques. (Some people search through them to find items to sell on eBay for prices many times what they paid for them. Occasionally someone will “hit the jackpot.”)

Items are donated by people who have no use for them anymore, or who are moving and know that they will never use them again. Others have replaced these articles with more updated ones. Many people whose relatives have died donate what was left behind in lieu of having an estate sale.

Are all goods perfect?

Caveat Emptor, which means: “Let the buyer beware.”

It’s up to you to check the goods carefully. The shops never want to stick anyone with imperfect goods. They check everything to make sure that it is clean and in good condition. People who donate to thrift shops often have used clothes cleaned and you may find the cleaning tag still there. But look the goods over carefully; they are not usually returnable. However, most thrift shops, if they feel that you are honest, or if it is their policy, will give you credit to use for other items.

Sometimes you can bargain for slightly damaged items. For instance, if you point out a missing button on a shirt, they might discount it slightly, or if it is torn, they may just give it to you for free.

You also have to be aware of outdated items. For example you may hurriedly buy an electric razor that you think is cordless, then, when you get home, you realize that it is not battery powered, but rather must be plugged into a socket.

Examples of savings


White dress shirts which sell in the department stores for $25, and in the malls for $50 and $60, can cost you as little as $1.00 or $2.00. Sometimes they’ll be on sale for 50 cents. (It would cost you more than that to have a shirt cleaned.)

Silk ties. What a bargain!

These are quality goods which sell at the mall for $35 or more. Are you ready for the news? Okay, now hold your breath and sit down.

They are 25 to 50 cents! No, I’m not kidding. And if there’s a bag sale, you can fill an entire bag with ties. But why do that when you can, along with a pile of ties, stuff in a suit and jacket, belts, and probably more, for the ridiculous sum of about $5?

How do you locate thrift shops in your area?

As I mentioned before, thrift shops are associated with hospitals, churches, etc. They use the income to buy the newest in medical instrumentation and drugs, for building additional pavilions, and to serve those in need, young and old.

One good way to locate a thrift shop is to call a local hospital and inquire; they will be glad to help you. It is for their benefit.

You can also look under Thrift Shops in the yellow pages of your phone directory, or call information with regard to that category.