Seem exaggerated? You haven’t had the misfortune of hitting the thrift at peek hours, with the aisles clogged with overflowing carts and people bustling around the building like wild animals.
Sure, it helps to know the layout of the store and which colored-tag sale is the day’s special. But it also helps to get a feel for the clientele. Know your thrifty competitors. And yes, it is a competition.
Aside from the frugality of secondhand shopping, there’s something of a sport involved, a friendly competition of who can score the most swag for the smallest amount of money. This reasoning, coupled with the appeal to collectors, junkers and crafters will yield a wildly varied customer demographic. But generally speaking, there are certain group--species if you will--to which people fall in the spectrum of secondhand shoppers. Knowing who they are and what they’re about could give you the competitive edge to get what you want before they get it first.
|"What!? A sale on ceramic animals at Goodwill? I'll be there in a jiffy!"|
Mother, Grandmother. Doting Aunt. These women are the providers and caregivers for all things domestic. They have a keen eye to spot anything potentially useful for the home’s of any member of their family, their friend or their neighbor. You wouldn’t be shocked to overhear one of these women picking up a piece of kitchen decor and saying “Oh Edith, look at this ceramic rooster. You know who could use one of these? Your third cousin, Julie. She collects roosters. I think I’ll get it for her.” The matriarch can be typically seen in pastel pants, a sensible blouse and an animal embellished sweater, regardless of the season or temperature…for those “drafty” areas of the thrift.
|"Yes, Honey. I'm going to thrift that couch today for the basement....after I eat lunch."|
Mr. Fix-It is the average guy’s guy looking to build, paint, caulk, mold, screw or smash anything deemed useful for what ever “big project” is next on his busy agenda. Be wary of overly tanned, mustached 40-somethings with worn denim and flannel. This guy means business and is likely heading straight to the furniture section with measuring tape hanging from his utility belt. These men are especially prevalent in the electronics section, sorting through buckets of miscellaneous plugs and wires. If you’re looking to thrift for home repair, this illusive creature will pose a threat to your domain.
|"We're too cutting edge to pose for pictures."|
Ah, the hipster. In fashion choice, in lifestyle, the hipster poses a serious problem for avid thrifters. They’re buying up all the vinyl, they’re calling dibs on all the cool vintage clothes and they have a sixth sense when it comes to kitsch. Beware the skinny jeans and the intentionally mussed hair. And don’t let the thick lenses of the cat eye frames fool you, they have impeccable thrift vision and will be stalking the same territory. They are also known to travel in packs to spread throughout many sections of the store. This means trouble.
|"Don't ya know that's a first edition ya have there? I have three. Want to hear a funny story?"|
This is the wild card of thrift shoppers. It can come in many shapes and sizes and has no definitive age, race or gender. This person is in it for the oddities and in many ways be your most worthy adversary. A lot of the times this person, man or woman, holds some knowledge or familiarity with whatever found object they’ve acquired and will share said information with shoppers nearby. They are good for a brief history lesson. But limit your conversation, lest they spot all the coveted crazy items before you do. If you find someone who can tell you the inventor, make, model and purpose for every kitsch item in your basket…run, don’t walk toward the section you’d most like to scavenge.
Truth be told, there are many types of regular thrifters. These are not mere shoppers or casual purveyors of the secondhand. These are devotees to the thrift lifestyle. And in some cases they can put a damper on your overall thrift experience.
On the whole, I’ve had a very positive social experience while thrifting. Smiling, friendly banter at the checkout, the occasional shared laugh over some outcast item on the shelf. There are times, however, when thrift shopping is not so pleasant…when the competition gets a little ugly.
I have seen shoppers nearly come to blows over an item, arguing over “who saw it first.” I’ve seen aisles deliberately blocked with carts with a refusal to budge. I’ve seen people nearly knock others to the ground in their eager pursuit of something they spotted from across the store.
It ain’t pretty.
|"That Pyrex is mine. Back off or I'll bite."|
I had my own run-in with a fellow thrifter just the other day. After visiting the Montgomeryville Impact, I decided on the way home I’d follow a slightly scenic route so I can stop into the Hatboro Impact as well. And wouldn’t you know one of the shoppers from Montgomeryville must’ve had the same idea! I saw him immediately and was about to say hello…until I saw his reaction to recognizing me. He quickened his pace from the fiction to the vintage book section and holed himself in there for a solid 15 minutes. I guess he sized me up as a bookish girl and wanted to get to the good ones before I did. Touché, sir. Touché.
What wild thrifters have you spotted while on the hunt?