Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thrift Store Buying Etiquette


A while back I caught up with a friend of mine to check out the some of the local yard sales and thrift stores in Hernando and Pasco County. The great thing about second hand stores, especially church oriented or ministry run industries, they recruit volunteers that have limited knowledge and at times can be completely clueless when it comes to pricing items as well as a steady stream of fresh merchandise stocked throughout the day.

It was a weekday that turned out to be one of the best days I've had in a while for the little I spent. We hit all the regular stops then went to a local charity thrift store.

At the counter was a showcase used for what they thought was the good merchandise. Things they consider high value or collectible enough to protect behind glass. In with the cheap sunglasses, old Avon perfume bottles, over priced common baseball cards and chipped plates that belong in the trash I noticed behind the counter was a bag of costume jewelry tucked in a box that had assorted gold filled or what appeared plated rings chains and rhinestone pins. I asked the clerk to see the box.

"Oh I was just getting ready to put that out"

Music to my giant floppy ears...

"Great, can I take a look?" I replied.

"I haven't had a chance to price it yet." She said.
Tip: (Here is a good time to turn on your nice guy charm that you usually waste on the hot girls at gas stations or the cute cashier at Walgreens. You know, the girls who could care less about you. Use all your powers that you've skillfully honed and developed through years of dealing with the opposite sex as a man relating to a beautiful woman...Even if she's 83 and on oxygen.

"That's ok dear, I just wanted to take a look. I like shiny objects....Maybe you can price it for me as we go if you like? I love your dress. Are those doilies on the sleeve? You smell really good. Is that maple bacon?" I said smoothly

After rolling her eyes at my cheese ball attempt at a compliment, she pulled the box out anyway.

It was a small box packed full of goodness. Now, I've been doing this long enough where I don't need a loupe to identify a gold wedding ring when it's in my hand. I can't always get the karat right, but through wear, weight, the obvious mark visible to the naked eye indicating the karat, and that distinct ringing sound a gold ring makes when it's dropped on the floor or counter gives it away 90 percent of the time. The other 10 percent I over pay for gold plate..
 If you look too hard at a piece for a long time through a loupe or showing deep interest in a item, the price can sometimes go up or  they won't even sell it to you with the excuse

"I need to look that up." It's best not to reveal your hand. You don't want to make them feel like they are making a mistake by selling it to you.

I put a brooch pin, a gold ring, some scrap bent earrings, and a bracelet that was most likely Bakelite on the counter.

"Well, what do you think for these pieces?" I asked

She shuffled them around on the counter like she was playing Checkers and said,

"Twenty five"

There was still 10 or 12 pieces of junk costume but salable.

"What about the whole box?" I said

She dumped it out on the counter, more shuffling...thinking...shuffling..."Thirty five?" she said with uncertainty.

"Ok...I'll take it." I said.

Tip: (If you find yourself in this lucky situation, don't try to negotiate it down lower for the extra 6 or 8 bucks. Asking for a lower price on something that is already dirt cheap so you can boast about it later to other dealers and friends, especially if you know you're going to make 8 or 10 times more than what you paid for it is just cheap and tacky. Pay for it and leave before some other dealer or wannabe dealer armed with Pawn Shop Reality TV or Antiques Road Show "knowledge" walks up and chimes in on how cheap it is or ask to look at it before you've even paid for it to squash the deal.)

I've had this happen. "Squashing the deal." It's frustrating and rude. Usually motivated by jealousy or complete amateur ignorance. Anyone with common courtesy understands etiquette dictates you wait your turn in silence.

I have little patience for this dirty tactic..On the very rare occasion this imposition does happen,
I will sometimes stop what I'm doing, turn and face them squarely. Stare at them directly in the eye, blank face, emotionless and silent, ignoring comments, questions, and nervous laughter until it feels so awkward and uncomfortable, they eventually drift way defeated.
(Assuming he's not 6 foot 8 with facial and neck tattoos and looks like he's out on parole...)
Or you can ignore them entirely and talk loudly over them like they aren't even there. This is equally effective.

The box yielded a few pieces of 14kt gold, and a good lot of assorted rhinestone jewelry that brought over 300 after commissions.

This is a thrift store that I donate to all the time. I give way more than I take from this store so it's nice to get it back every now and then.
To sum it up:
Keep your eyes open. Pay attention to details. Be nice. Wait your turn and respect others. If you like what they bought or have interest in it, ask in the parking lot after they leave...Even better, get there first.

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