7/18/11

Great tips for successful op and thrift shopping


Now that July is here, chances are you’re either stuck in the middle of a freezing cold winter or  enjoying (or enduring) a sizzling summer. Op shopping (thrift shopping) is great fun whether in the dead of winter, boiling hot weather or anything in between. The tips below will help you make the most of your op and thrift shopping. Happy adventuring!

* Use the poor merchandising at some op shops to your advantage. Some stock may not be displayed prominently enough for casual shoppers to notice. When you’re in the store, don’t just keep your searching at waist level. Look up high to the goods displayed on the top shelves and the pictures hanging on the walls, and look low to the goods in boxes and bins on the ground. Search out hidden nooks and crannies and stock that has been poorly positioned and displayed.

* Bring cash when op and thrift shopping. Op shops in Australia often specify a minimum spend if you want to use a credit or debit card, which may encourage you to spend more. There may also be an extra charge for the use of the card that volunteer staff may not always remember to mention!

* Find out about op shop sales and specials, and take advantage of them. For example, Salvos stores in Australia offer a 20 per cent discount to pensioners on Tuesdays, while at least one Salvos store in Melbourne (Dandenong South ) offers a student discount on Wednesdays. Salvos stores also have daily half-price offers identifiable by a coloured sticker system – ask staff for more details. Savers stores in Melbourne have student and pensioner discount days (Sunday and Monday respectively). You can register on the Savers website for email updates on special offers; Savers also runs a loyalty program with a discount card.

* Don't use op or thrift shopping as an excuse to hoard. Because op shop finds are often so inexpensive, it can be tempting to clutter up your home with cheap rather than overpriced junk. Even if something costs only 50c, don’t buy it unless it feels right – it could be meant for someone else who will be able to make better use of it. And, unless you’re a reseller, pass up that once-in-a-lifetime bargain if you really don’t need it. On one op shop trawl, I found a whole stack of new Sass and Bide designer jeans for $35 a pair; I just didn’t need jeans and I’m not a huge eBayer, so I let them go. I knew there were other shoppers they were meant for!

* Use the resources of the internet to get the most out of op shops. I op therefore I am is a fantastic group blog detailing op shop finds in Melbourne; a similar blog operates for Canberra. There are dozens of blogs that combine op shop savvy with craft skills and repurposing; two of the best US ones are Apron Thrift Girl  and New Dress a Day. The Thrift-ola blog chronicles thrifting adventures in the UK.

* Time your visits so as to get the most bargains. These days, at the op shops I visit, goods are being put on the shop floor constantly throughout the day. This means that getting to the store early in the day doesn’t guarantee the best bargains (unless you’ve spotted something in the window while the store is closed), but it's often worthwhile simply because there are fewer shoppers and therefore less competition.

Regardless of the time of day you go, watch for volunteers putting out the stock, and check any full trolleys hanging around. At op shops you visit regularly, ask the staff if stock is put on the shop floor at particular times of the day or week.

Many people drop their goods off on weekends, so in theory Monday afternoons or Tuesday mornings, when op shop workers have had time to put new stock out after the weekend, should be good times to visit. However, some op shops are so behind in the processing of stock that the day of the week is irrelevant. Still, the same advice applies here as it does to shopping in the morning – there tend to be fewer other shoppers in the store during the week compared with weekends, and therefore less competition for the goods.

* Focus on stores most likely to have good stock. Stores in the wealthier suburbs can offer excellent goods, but also try outer suburbs that are becoming more affluent. And in my experience, it’s harder to find bargains in inner suburbs housing high numbers of students and young people in general.

* To save time, suss out all the op shops in a particular shopping strip and visit them all on the same expedition. If you plan to go early, keep a record of opening times as they won’t necessarily synchronise; one shop may open at 9 am, another nearby one not until 10. If necessary, plan an activity to fill in the time or locate another op shop to go to in between.

* Don't try to haggle with staff. In my experience haggling is a no-no at op shops, unless you think the item is absurdly overpriced. I have seen volunteers throw tantrums after dealing with customers who they felt were driving too hard a bargain. (Of course you’re entitled to complain if pricing signage is misleading.)

* Use your gut feeling to decide whether something will look right in your home and become a seamless part of your decor. Your intuition is a vital tool when buying furniture and knick-knacks at op shops, because sometimes the goods that catch your eye are surrounded by junk (and may be dirty!), and it’s hard to visualise how they’ll shape up once you’ve got them home.

* Check everything thoroughly before you buy. Remember that it’s much harder to take things back to an op shop than to a store run for profit. These shops are run for charitable purposes, and it can be embarrassing to return things, even if they are faulty. However, it’s not wholly a bad thing if you do make a shopping ‘mistake’ at an op shop – you can rest assured that you’ve made a donation to a worthwhile cause!

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