This week I decided we needed some pasta specific dishes. You know, those things that are not really plates and not really bowls. I also decided I would go back to an old pastime from my college days – hitting the thrift store. Was I in for a surprise!
I haven’t been to a thrift store in a long time. Since we won’t be using these pasta dishes on a daily basis, I thought it would be fun to hit some thrift stores or antique shops. My experience was both a bit startling and educational.
My first stop was at a local thrift shop that is a really large, well-known national chain. I understand that they are not really a charity, but since there is one a few blocks from my house, I hit it first. My first surprise was just how busy the store was for a weekday. I didn’t expect the crowds for a Wednesday. My next surprise was when I actually found something that was pretty much exactly what I wanted, but not at all in a pattern or color that I could live with. Just that the bowls were available and so easily located was a surprise. My surprise turned to shock when I looked at the stamp on the bottom of the dish and discovered it was from a famous cookware store, and that the thrift store had each unit priced higher (at $8.99) than what the dish was selling for online at the cookware store! Who’s running this place? was my first thought. In the age of Smartphones and instant connectivity I could easily look up the current price online and see that the thrift store was, in this instance, no bargain.
I left the thrift store and stopped by my friend Erin’s house. She’s on maternity leave and her newest was down for his nap. This gave mommy a much-needed break and some time to chat without the little guy in her lap. We were talking about the kids (she has four now), their school, Erin’s work, her and her husband’s recent home renovations, and just the things friends chat about. I mentioned I had dropped in to that national chain thrift store and was shocked that the prices were not what I had expected and even more shocked the staff didn’t seem to take the time to search the web to price items more accordingly. This, is when I got a better tip on discount shopping!
Erin told me about the large, national chain’s competition! Yes, competition amongst the discounters. This had never really occurred to me. It’s a local place but part of a family company that operates in California, New Mexico, and Texas and partners with charities and community groups to give back. Being that it was close, and highly recommended by Erin, I stopped by just for a look around. Surprise! It really was different. They, too, were busy for a weekday, but the store was cleaner, larger and much more organized. It did have similarities to the national chain with old furniture and outdated appliances lining several aisles, but there was a buzz about the place and the colorful red, white, and blue circus-theme branding livened up the store.
I made my way to the housewares section and discovered that this must be the place where folks are actually making donations. This thrift store had a huge selection of items in every category and true thrift store pricing. I soon located a few pasta dishes in a style and pattern I could live with – white with a wheat pattern. Unfortunately, I also spotted two grape-themed serving dishes and five grape-themed napkin rings. Given that grape growing and wine is a big part of our family, of course I couldn’t pass these up!
I decided that was it and I needed to make my way to the register before I got caught-up in buying a silver-plated cigar server or 1970s Jell-O mold. I mean seriously, when would I ever use those? At the register I discovered that today was a yellow tag sale day. What that meant for me was that each pasta dish I found was going to be 0.55¢. Yep, a whopping fifty-five cents! A far cry from the $8.99 each at the first shop.
Overall, it was a good afternoon outing. I might add visiting these places and those that call themselves antique shops to my list of businesses to patronize from time to time. The thing is, know what you need, keep your impulse buying under control to avoid frivolous spending, and just have a sense of adventure and openness because you don’t know what awaits. You may not find the exact item you need, but that’s what a mainline retailer is for. If you are flexible, these shops can save you a lot of money and they can be fun. And who knows, I may just go back and get that Haggar dinner jacket I saw for $7.99….and that silver-plated cigar server!
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