“I’m cutting you a deal,” she said. “Those books are really old. I should be charging you more for them.”
With twenty dollar bill in clenched fist, I steady myself and prepare to wage war.
“You always do this to me!” I reply. “You can’t change the prices once I come to the counter.”
It’s an ongoing ordeal–the battle between me and the Salvation Army lady. She thinks I’m some snot-nosed kid, I think she’s Lucifer’s spawn. She fights dirty. She refuses to thank me for shopping in her store and mutters under her breath when I leave. I call her obscenities behind her back and threaten to get her fired. It’s like a double edged sword. I must be masochistic. I come back once a week for another round. I enjoy finding items she thinks are “collectible”. I take them up to the counter and watch in dismay as looks at each items and separates them according to their supposed worth.
Today’s purchases included three Little Big Books from the 1930s in terrible condition. To be quite honest, I’d be lucky to sell them for a dollar a piece at the flea market. I’m actually doing HER a favor by taking them off her hands! She’d probably mark them up and have them sit on a shelf for years collecting dust. No one who shops thrift stores is willing to pay $10 for a used book! She knows this and must enjoy harvesting dust bunnies the size of elephants.
“I’m cutting you a deal,” she says.
I enjoy the sarcasm. I want to ask her if she gets charged more because she’s really old. I’m afraid the joke would be lost on her so I half-heartedly say, “Have a nice day,” and leave before she changes her mind.
It is an unspoken rule between thrift store employees and their clientele. Every customer is a potential reseller. Every cast away object is a treasure waiting to yield profits on eBay. Items with the least amount of wear and tear are scrutinized, marked up in price and forgotten about. It isn’t until a person shows interest in a certain piece that it becomes worth something.
Acquiring the item without a fight can be costly. If you’re in the market for a vintage cookie jar and the price is less than retail, do as you’d like. If, however, you’re like me and hate to pay more than you would at a yard sale, a few simple tips will keep you from getting charged double for thing you never knew you needed in the first place.
- First and most importantly, remember your manners. Build rapport with the cashier. Look at their nametag and then call them by their first name. Smile politely throughout your visit. Engage in conversation. Make it a point to greet them every time that you’re in the store. Ask how their day has been. Even the most hardnosed employee will begin to soften up if you feign genuine interest in their well-being.
- Never show too much enthusiasm for the things that you’re buying. Only you and you alone should know what kind of steal that you’re getting. If a clerk detects any excitement on your face, you are subject to immediate disapproval and higher prices.
- Ask the salespeople to watch for certain items. If you need a winter coat in a size large, let them know right away. Give them your phone number and ask them to call you when one comes in. This works well if you and the staff have a “relationship”.
- Always ask for a bargain. If an item is priced higher than what you want to pay for it, ask if they will take less. Remember, the items in question were donated with the intention of doing good for someone. Items sitting on a shelf help no one!
- Only select merchandise that is in good condition or need minor repair. Don’t bring home junk with the intention of fixing it. You won’t and it will wind up directly where you bought it in the first place.
- Donate your unwanted items from time to time. Thrift stores love new merchandise. Why not clean out your garage or attic before bringing more stuff into your house?
Not all thrift stores are created equal so use caution when spending your hard earned cash. Not all thrift store staff treat you equally as I already mentioned. It took me awhile to crack the hard exterior of one such employee. After about three months of shopping in her store, the Salvation Army lady and I became fast friends. She held brand new shoes, books and clothing in the back for me on a regular basis. In fact, many times I was the first one to look through new merchandise before it was put on the shelves.
When I informed her of my decision to move out of state, she offered me well wishes and a mammoth sized hug. I thanked her for kindness before walking out the door with a brand new pair of Doc Martens on my feet. The cost of my trip was worth nothing more than 99 cents and a smile. Now, that’s what I call value!
Charissa is into frugal living and saving money.