Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rummage-O-Rama: The Goodwill Outlet of Bellmawr, NJ

We shall pillage and we shall plunder. 

Following the complete flop that was last week's New Jersey thrift trip, I was hesitant to venture yet again to the Garden State for my secondhand fix. But I just knew it would be different this time around. So with friends in tow, we took to the Interstate and landed at the Goodwill Outlet. Each grabbing our own over-sized cart, we breathed in that familiar musky aroma of old and readied ourselves for some rummaging. 

Now, if you've never been to a Goodwill Outlet, there are a few things to know from the very beginning. 

  1. Short of a few pieces of furniture and individually priced books, this is a by-the-pound operation. 99 cents a pound, that is!
  2. Nothing is organized. It's just rows and rows of rolling totes filled with unsorted donations. 
  3. Stock is replenished either as-needed or on an hourly basis.
  4. When that stock is replenished, shit gets crazy. 
I find it's best knowing these key pieces of information beforehand, as to not be knocked flat on your ass by the thought of being elbow-deep in a pile of unsorted miscellany, or to not be LITERALLY knocked flat on your ass when the crowd of thrift shoppers pounces on the new merchandise being rolled onto the sales floor. 

Of course I warned my friends of this, especially since they had children with them. I mean, there's nothing worse than losing a kid in a pile of donations, or in a stampede of secondhand shoppers---Am I right? 

After fair warning, we began the rummage. At first tackling the same bins, then spreading out to divide and conquer, anything and everything we thought one of us would be remotely interested in went in someone's cart, to claim them as our own for now... and to better examine later for the final verdict of pass or purchase. 

Swarm! Swarm! 

Of course, putting an item in your cart should be enough to claim it. But as we all witnessed in the melee of merchandise being brought to the sales floor, things got ruthless. I'm quite sure that I saw items being moved from cart to cart, with the item's original finder oblivious in the confusion. And I'm sure glad no one was interested in my treasures. Because somebody would've been slapped.

MINE. Stay outta my cart. 

And what treasures did I unearth? A paisley and polka dot print tunic for fall, a gold and beige belt, a London tin for my assortment of tea bags, a book on antiques, The Dialect of Sex, a vintage telephone directory chock full of old timey advertisements that I'll be using for upcoming craft projects, a brand new laptop case for blogging on the go. Oh! And a Paris themed mug that was nestled under the paisley and polka dot tunic...for protection from the hustle and bustle of the crowd. 

So I made out pretty good. And my friends? They pillaged and they plundered. Toys, children's clothing, records, books, household goods, and more. It was a plentiful trip indeed. 


So...how did this Goodwill Outlet of Bellmawr, NJ compare to the faux-thrifting of Burlington County? No contest. I mean, look at that haul! However, Goodwill Outlet thrifting is not your typical thrift experience. And I can't stress that enough. In fact, I'll be doing a follow-up post to give you first time outlet shoppers some added advice.

Until then...happy thrifting. And guard those shopping carts with your life.

Have you survived a Goodwill Outlet?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Prices, Products & Proof: Thrifting Ain't What It Used To Be


In numerous visits to my boyfriend's apartment in Edgewater Park, NJ, I've come to realize just how many thrift stores are scattered along Route 130. So one scorching hot day, I cautiously ventured through the townships of Burlington, Delran, and Willingboro to explore the secondhand surroundings. It all had so much potential, so much promise. This particular area of Jersey is aesthetically trapped in its own little time capsule, where store signage and architecture is reminiscent of small-town 1950s America. Nothing but thrift stores, diners, and liquor stores as far as the eye can see. (Oh and more than a few topless bars). 

Initially I had an idea to make a day of it with a few friends---to hit up as many thrift stores as we could find and then lounge at one of the numerous neon and aluminum diners. But I thought better of making the journey sight unseen and without a proper game plan. So I made it a solo venture to map out a thrift route for later use.

And though it's sad to say, the first stop should've sent off alarms on just how liberally the word "thrift" is thrown around in this strange land of yesteryear New Jersey. Forgotten Treasures, while curated for the upscale secondhand shopper, was hardly a thrift store. Since I admittedly didn't do my homework in checking out their website prior to my visit, I was having some major sticker shock. $30 for troll dolls? Nahhhh, I'm good.

The Grand Market Place

Now... I should mention that James did warn me about this place...that it was populated with unsavory characters...and junk. But still, I remained hopeful. Because my idea of 'junk' is something sought after. Vintage wares, upcyclable goods, oddities, etc. But I found absolutely none of that. The few open booths within this expansive indoor farmer's market and flea consisted of either cheaply made, mass produced import designer knockoffs or pickers' booths so inaccessibly packed with overpriced curbside finds that venturing inside would inevitably cause an avalanche of...well, junk.  

And not the good kind of junk.  Again... I WAS warned. 

On my last stop of this sad little thrift tour, I made my way through a rather stuffy  and nondescript Goodwill on Rt 130. But it was just far too hot to make a solid effort of sorting through the clothing racks. I settled on one flowy striped tunic for $3 and was thrilled to call it a day at nearby Panera Bread for a well-deserved ice coffee.

So what did I learn from this experience? Is it as James has said, that the quantity of thrift stores in the area has negatively affected the quality of the merchandise? I don't think it's quite as simple as that. I think it comes down to businesses hijacking the word "thrift" to mislead the secondhand buyer's market into thinking they're getting a good deal. And why not? Of course co-opting the idea of "thrift" makes good business sense. Buying secondhand has its merits. As for me? I love the history of certain items, the idea that everything old is new, that one-of-a-kind special find; that I'm doing my part to lessen the landfills. 

But let's face it. I want bargains not bullshit. 

If I ever come to need a "Prado" scarf or a hideously overpriced piece of nostalgia from my childhood, I know where to go. But thrifting? No. There's no thrifting here.

Have you been lured into a faux thrift shop with the promise of bargains, but found none? 

In the next Let's Go Thrifting post...yet another Jersey thrift adventure. 
Can the Garden State redeem itself after this thrift fail? Stay tuned and stay thrifty. 

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