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Monday, June 28, 2010

Thrift Store Culture Part II

I was out last week, making the rounds, shopping the racks at the thrift stores I love. I always see a familiar face; wave hello to my favorite cashier and look forward to finding a new piece of trash.

The store is full of excited shoppers like me, pushing through garbage hoping to find the good stuff.

Thrift store culture is an interesting group of people, many unforgettable characters who as a whole make an unbelievable shopping experience. Today its 110 degrees and I’m in a store with questionable air-conditioning. On the overhead radio a catchy 1980's tune called 867-5309 is playing.

Great, I’ll be singing this song all day.

Next to me, a middle-aged woman shops in her swimsuit. In her defense, I must say it is the type of swimsuit that has the little skirt around the midriff so it works in a cheerleader skirt sort-of-way, but still we are no wear close to a beach and she is no where close to looking like a cheerleader.

The next isle over a mother hushes her crying baby by singing him a Spanish lullaby. In the meantime, her other young children hide in the clothing rack with the full-length prom dresses. Peach and teal green taffeta is flying off the racks and being used as the perfect hiding place. The children bury their faces into the sheer fabric, then giggle and run down the aisle. It only takes a minute before I hear the politically correct PSA announcement read off by the cashier

“For the safety our customers, please keep your children with you at all times while in the store at all times.”

I don’t know about you, but I just don’t buy this. I think what the cashier really wants to say is:

“For the millionth time, will you get your wild kids and tie them to your shopping cart. If you don’t do this now, I’m going to scream! They take all the toys off the racks, ride the bikes with flat tires down the aisles and try on women’s shoes. I don’t want to clean up after them, and by the way, they might crash into a customer while on that bike.”

In the back of the store are the traditional bookies, many of which are wearing reading glasses perched on the tip of their noses (reading glasses most likely purchased at this very thrift store), reading a back jacket of a New York Times best seller. These are the people who come in day after day and buy book after book. In the mean time, their carts fill with random items like old record albums, a toilet sit lid and a worn-out welcome mat.

A few aisles over is a grandma in a florescent pink shirt and a wide brim straw hat. I think she thinks I’m a threat. By the way she looks at me I can tell I’m on her turf. Her cart is full of several items I’ve passed on: a pair of high-waist Wrangler jeans, a two-piece brown wool skirt/vest outfit and a windbreaker jacket that has the logo “Super 8 Hotel” stitched into the upper breast pocket. I get the impression she buys all these clothes for herself, not to sell on EBay. I don’t want to step on her toes so I walk over to the children’s section.

So what about me? I myself might stand out to these other shoppers; the woman with unkept hair rushing through the aisles, examining each piece of clothing like I’m some sort of inspector.

By the time I get to check out, I know I stand out too. I’ve got 50 things to purchase, 50 empty hangers and I’m looking for a place to hang them all.

I walk out the door and there’s a man sitting on the hot cement ground surrounded with palm tree prongs. His fingers work fast as he weaves the leaves together, in and out. Next to him are several palm tree leaves formed into Christian crosses. One or all are available for purchase, if I so desire.

Oh, beloved thrift store, you are my home away from home. Thank you for gracing me with your influence. You know I’ll be back next week.

To read Thrift Store Culture Part I, click here.


  1. Yes the people you see can make your time entertaining. I was with my 15 year old daughter last week (which is rare to be able to get her into a thrift store.) A man came out of the dressing room in a too small sequenced green jacket with a cami under and a gray haired wig. I thought he was entertaining his grand daughter until we got in line and he got behind us with those items to purchase. Does it help to say we were in Vegas at the time.

  2. Dang it now I want to go thrifting and I gotta pack instead....or I should pack instead....If I go I'm blaming you and I'm turning my husband loose on your blog.:)

  3. I was dying reading this!!! You should have saw me today with a manquin(sp?) up under my stroller at Goodwill. I'm sure I was being looked at as crazy!!!

  4. I was dying laughing too especially at the part about the kids and the public service announcement because this very week I was trying to corral my 3 kiddos when one of them screamed out in alarm when my baby who is a potty-training pull-up wearer had an explosion out his shorts all down the aisle (where luckily there were no other shoppers) more about it on my blog: ...your post has led me to believe I really should blog about the experience that only ow I can laugh out loud about!


  5. One of my favorite parts of thrift store shopping is watching the other characters. Perfect description of some of them we even see in Indiana!

  6. I too love thrift stores. I have been known to visit thrift stores while on vacation!

    Please visit my blog for more money saving ideas!

  7. I literally DO tie my 2 year old to the shopping carst at Goodwill here in Chandler and Gilbert. None have a buckle! I go straight to the belt rack and get a belt to use for the duration of my shopping. :)