I love thrift shopping. One of my retired friends and I often have lunch and go to a thrift/consignment shop for fun. Whenever we hear of a new one or one we missed, we make a point of visiting it.
I have started an informal rating system for all of the shops I visit. During that process, I have found the negatives stick with me at least as much and sometimes more than the positives do. For instance, there is a lovely consignment shop in Kirkland that I will never return to because they organize their clothing by color. And there is one in Seattle where I go often because they have great stuff, even though they have never greeted me, been rude when I purchase my item(s), and overprice most of their inventory.
So I got to thinking about the things that I most dislike about thrifting. Here is my list of the 10 worst things about shopping at thrift/consignment shops.
1. Clothing facing different directions
I hate having to turn my head as every other hanger goes by with the clothing facing the other way. It takes so much longer to see each item.
2. Shoes not organized by size
I hate it when I see a pair of shoes that looks perfect and I am all excited, only to learn they are two sizes too small or big. Some stores organize shoes by color and type. I think size is the most important sorting category.
3. Clothes organized by color instead of size
As a plus size woman, it is extremely frustrating to have to search through dozens of smaller sizes to find the one lonely XL.
4. Dirty dressing rooms
Have you ever tried to try on pants while keeping your shoes on because you don’t want your bare or socked foot to touch the grimy carpet of the dressing room? No fun and gross!
5. No public restroom or a dirty one
I like to use the restroom before I try on clothes. That’s hard to do when there isn’t one. And every once in a while, a restroom is needed for emergencies. In some ways, a dirty restroom is worse than no restroom. A dirty bathroom has often kept me from returning to a store and certainly all restaurants.
6. Dirty or broken items for sale
Why would I (or anyone) want to buy an item that needs washing, especially linens or clothing? I don’t enjoy washing someone else’s laundry, and besides that, you never know whether the item will come clean. Broken items may never get repaired.
7. Fake designer purses or shoes priced as though they are genuine
Most of the thrift shops I visit, both large and small, do not indicate whether the designer item is real or fake. I have years of experience in detecting fake from real, but I have heard many conversations at the purse rack that tells me that many shoppers do not know the difference. Even if the price is low so one could assume it is fake, I think it is important for the tag to say so. In the first year of owning my consignment shop, I sold a fake purse, thinking it was real, and priced as though it were. Several months later, I realized it had been a fake. I still feel bad about it, and wish I could find the customer and give her the money back.
8. Unfriendly staff or no staff to be seen
Customers are the most important part of any business, but especially retail. So why do so many thrift shops act as though the customers are invisible, except when they step up to the counter to purchase items? I have been traveling through small towns on vacation recently and the difference between walking into a small art gallery or a small thrift shop is dramatic. The gallery staff greets me warmly and makes appropriate conversation. The vast majority of thrift shop staff ignore me. I spend more money when I am welcomed and treated as valued. When I get great customer service, I will actively look for something to buy because I feel so good about being there.
9. Odd pricing
Have you ever been in a thrift shop where a newish high-end designer clothes item is priced at $6.00 and a 25 year old polyester, shoulder-padded low-end item is priced at $8.00? It makes me laugh every time I see it. The good news is that a discerning shopper can get some really good deals at this type of thrift shop.
10. Underpricing when the shop is a nonprofit
I like deals, but I also want to see a fair price go toward the charitable mission.
I hope you enjoyed reading this list. Please let me know (by commenting) if I missed some things that you dislike. My next blog will be the 10 best things.
Susan is a frequent volunteer at Eastside Community Aid Thrift Shop, where she sorts, prices, and stocks merchandise to her heart's content. Before retirement, she owned and operated a consignment shop for women's plus size clothing in Seattle. Through trial and error and talking with customers, she learned a thing or two. An avid "thrift shopper," Susan loves to buy clothing, especially when she gets good quality and value for her money.
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