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Thrift Stores and Thrift Shopping

Updated on December 4, 2011

Addicted to Thrift Stores

I don’t know about you, but I must confess that I am addicted to shopping at thrift stores. Whether it’s Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or the other privately owned thrift shops in my town, I am addicted to them all.

With the world economy in the crapper, I’m starting to see more “well off” people at thrift stores, pulling up in their BMWs and Mercedes Benzes. I’m a thrift store lifer, so I notice when new types of people start showing up. They are finely dressed with nice accessories, and they mingle amongst the smelly clothes and knick knacks with the rest of us lower class people.

If you are new to thrift shopping, you may be asking yourself a few questions. Who shops at thrift stores? Why do people like thrift stores? Is it ok to shop at thrift stores if I’m not poor?

So why Do People Like to Shop At Thrift Stores?

  • Saving Money
  • Buying Quality
  • Supporting Charity
  • Reselling for Profit

Saving Money

People shop at thrift stores for a variety of reasons, the main one being a lack of money. It used to be easy to tell which of your fellow shoppers are there because they can’t afford to buy life’s necessities at big box retail stores.

This is how I came to thrift store shopping. As a child, we didn’t have much money, and to survive on just my dad’s income so my mom could stay at home with us, we had to shop at garage sales and thrift stores. Some of my best childhood memories are of finding great toys and books, and only having to give a quarter for them.

Walking the aisles of a well stocked thrift store, you can find almost everything you would need for your life. Dishes, silverware, home décor, furniture, clothing, many of the items new or in their original boxes. It actually feels wasteful to buy new items when so many pre-owned items, in great condition, sit on thrift store shelves waiting for a new home.

Buying Quality

There aren’t many adages more true than “they don’t make things like they used to.” This is a fact. Why else would the stuff in thrift stores even exist? It’s still here and still in good shape because it was made well.

Back in the day, people and companies had pride in their workmanship, and the fact that a product was well made and built to last was a selling point. Those were the days of ceramics, enameled items, heavy metal construction. Today is the day of plastic and cheaper plastic, built solely to keep the price as low as possible. Most of our garbage is imported from China and Asia.

All you have to do is find an old Griswold cast iron skillet and feel its heft in your hands to know what I’m talking about.

Supporting Charity

In my town, most of the thrift stores are tied to a charity, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Some are operated by church ministries or crisis centers, so an added benefit of shopping at thrift stores is your contribution to charity.

Often the stores are staffed by people who are in transitional situations, moving from hard times towards a new life. It feels good to know that my purchases not only rescue amazing items from the dustbin of history, but they allow someone to receive job training or a hot meal.

Reselling for Profit

Amongst the shoppers looking for a deal and the fashionistas looking for the latest designer purse or vintage dress at a deep discount, you’ll find the flippers and the pickers. These are people who resell items on eBay, Craigslist and Etsy, or at flea markets and garage sales.

It is not hard to spot these people, as they are the ones inspecting hallmarks and makers marks, checking products for cracks and blemishes with a distinguishing eye. You see them every week, over and over. You start to know them.

If you are diligent and hit the thrift stores up multiple times per week, especially on the days when new items go out, you could corner the market in your town for nice finds. These items could then be sold for at least double what you paid. There are many people who make a living this way. Though not wildly profitable, it does allow you to earn your keep doing something you love: bargain hunting.


For me, thrift shopping is about more than money. In fact, if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d still shop at thrift stores, and would probably open my own.

Shopping at thrift stores is about finding that amazing collectible or overlooked art print. It’s about finding a special item of clothing that can last a lifetime, something that everyone will ask you about. And when you tell them you bought it at a thrift store, expect a mixed response, from impressed to horrified.

One should never feel ashamed of shopping at thrift stores. There are so many reasons we should all do it, whether it is for charity or just helping the planet by recycling old items.

Plus, I’d rather give a dollar to my local thrift store than a single penny to a Communist overlord running a factory that churns out cheap plastic crap.

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