Are you familiar with the thrift effect? No? Spend about two to three months in a regular thrifting routine, visiting two to three stores for a quick 15 minute recon mission a piece, and you’ll understand the thrift effect and the incredible value it adds to your life. It stems from a rich and seasoned knowledge of what one can find in the store and for about how much money.
After years of shopping thrift, I have a $5 flinch point. That’s the thrift effect. Setting reasonable limits. Anything over $5 requires my thoughtful consideration. I don’t care if it’s a bed frame or a dresser. If I can purchase a Limoges porcelain covered dish, a Wedgwood cake stand, 100 year-old rare books, a new sweater from Sundance, a Jos. A. Bank suit, sterling rings, vintage Emile Henry bake ware, bamboo chairs, and much more for under $5 - I better give serious thought to anything over. Sometimes it’s an easy choice like the Flexible Flyer sled for $6. Other times it requires more thought like the J.Crew tweed jacket with the cute grosgrain ribbon tie for $7 or the heavy copper oval au gratin that’s never been under for $9. Many of my $5 thrifted items would retail at the mall for hundreds of dollars more.
What is fascinating about this economic phenomenon is that it doesn’t happen in the new goods market. My $5 flinch point won’t buy me much, maybe some mascara or lip-gloss. It’s really weird to think about a new Banana Republic Jacket with its $99 tag still dangling purchased for $5 at Goodwill versus a tube of mascara purchased for more. Clearly, America’s retail priorities are whacked.
I do set a percentage limit on sales in the new product market; it has to be at least 50% off. But even with that, I end up spending way more than my $5 flinch point.
Last week I went to Anthropologie to check out the heavy sales. I stood in line holding my treasured box of perfume, 70% original retail. I paid $15 for it. The woman in front of me purchased a pair of jeans and white cotton (looked like poplin) blouse for $278! Wow. She clearly doesn’t have a flinch pont on items. There was absolutely nothing unique about the shirt or the jeans, which is weird because one has too look pretty hard at Anthropologie to find something that's not unique.
Now comes the blessed irony, after visiting Anthropologie, I went to The ARC Thrift Store and bought a darling Anthropolgie brand cardigan sweater for $4. It is like new or new. Poe, my oldest daughter, and I will have to flip a coin to see who wins it.
I pass up cashmere sweaters for $3-$5 almost every week because I don’t like the color or style. One could probably tailor the ugliest cashmere sweater in the world, stamp a sale price of $8 on it, hang it on the racks at a department store, and there would be a brawl over it – that Bargain Rage I’ve written about. Perhaps the pianist that sometimes plays Nordstrom could launch into some western bar fighting music! And, customers could throw pies!
Do you have a flinch point on items in the thrift market? In the new goods market? Or do you just spend with no inhibition? If so, the retail market flings an invisible pie in your face every time you make a purchase and you aren’t even aware enough to see what flavor it is. I prefer Banana, but not in my face.