Monday, January 18, 2010


Catherine over at The Vegan Good Life passed over a piece from ABC’s "Good Morning America", How Clean Are Your New Clothes?. I knew this phenomenon was true from my experiences, once described in the post What’s the bait and where’s the switch. But I didn’t have scientific evidence. This bit of news offers up the possibility of that new blouse, sitting in that shopping bag with fluffed tissue paper and tags still dangling might not be the clean item you think you paid for.

Readers know I’ve been steadily poking holes in the conventional retail notion, “If it’s not new, it’s eww!” This GMA article is but another piece debunking this conventional retail-based (not fact-based) notion that ill-informed consumers are literally buying into.

If this GMA post doesn’t gross you out. I defer to another post, Perhaps new is eww. Human teeth found in “new” products? This stuff sounds more like an archeological dig than a conventional retail store. Or, maybe a TV crime scene.

I’ve been noticing more written articles delicately addressing thrift store aversions. To think some people would consider it a mark of shame to bump into an acquaintance in a thrift store. Good grief! Do we really need to be delicate and soothing about this matter? Are Americans that snobby? All I can offer is my personal experience followed up with a loud “Get over yourself!” I run into my friends at the local thrift like it’s the neighborhood coffee shop. Then again, most of us don’t have cable TV and we do things together like camping. Our children’s clothes are lovingly passed on to friends with younger siblings who proudly wear them. Some of these garments are on their third generation. I guess some Americans would call my daughters deprived considering what I’ve just written combined with the fact that we don’t have a “Wii” to go for a run or hike “we” actually get out side and do it.

As usual, I apologize for being so snarky and, uh, painfully direct. Like I always say, in the words of my family’s matriarch, “Someone’s gotta!”

If you are a new visitor to this blog, be certain to scroll back up and pull up the Thrift Catalog slide show featuring over 240 items. This could give you an idea of what could be waiting for you. Also check to the Table of Blog Contents to read on how to incorporate thrift into your life in Thrift Store Conventions.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Why are two major retailers torturing their own trash?

I couldn't believe it and double-checked it to be true. This Tuesday Jim Dwyer from The New York Times gave us A Clothing Clearance Where More Than Just the Prices Have Been Slashed. Consider Dwyer's short article mandatory reading and please pass it on.

We are aware that retailers, especially giants like WalMart, have stacked decks and play consumers to up purchases (often with items no one needs) and up profit margins for Wall Street. It's sneaky, it's dirty and it sinks consumers into debt so deep they need pressurized submarines for the commute home.

But, this is all front end activity. Who could ever think that retailers would slaughter perfectly fine goods to make them trash? Why not donate them? Could they truly be so childish and think, "If no one will buy this coat, I'll be damned that no one will ever wear this coat and rip it to shreds!"

In the words of Little Pie, "I think that's like torture to the people who need clothes. Winter is a dangerous time for homeless people, they can get hypothermia. They deserve warm clothes." Good grief! My eight year old daughter has more compassion than the lot of companies taking such selfish, ridiculous measures.

Is there retail redemption for such a wasteful act in a time of such pressing need?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thrift Store Resolution Revolution II

My grandfather asked me if I had a New Year’s resolution.

I always find it odd to plan resolutions in the dead of winter, when most life is asleep or temporarily closed for business.

It seems more symbolic to make resolutions in the spring when the wilderness is awakening, babies of the wild are being born, some seeing the outside world for the first time. It only makes sense to ride this great wave of awakening and catch the energy to activate healthy resolutions as your biological clock awakens too. To be honest, it’s hard to make a resolution to exercise when the days are short, cold and there’s snow and ice on the park paths. I think we’d all prefer to settle down for a long winter’s nap instead. But spring? Who doesn’t want to be outside then?

However, if you desire to retool your spending habits so that your holiday financial hangover doesn’t interfere with paying heating bill for the first quarter of the new year, now is time be resolute to take up thrift shopping.

Charitable thrift stores can move inventory with hurricane force winds and inventory for 2009 tax write offs is flying through stores as I write. And then there are the procrastinators, those who will take the 2010 write off after the New Year because they didn’t quite make the deadline. Best to thrift when the inventory is high and the price is low! Us Golightlys? We take items to the thrift store on an as-needed basis, usually with seasonal changes.

Among the current items thrift store shoppers will find are items given as gifts but not wanted, which may be for the simple case they already have that item. Me? I’m hoping for a Kitchen Aid Mixer - red. If I've bought Tiffany's, Hermes, Limoges, Wedgwood, appearal from Barneys and Nordstrom (sometimes new), I think I have a shot at Kitchen Aide. My little mixer works okay, but there are times when it chugs through cookie dough and I swear it’s screaming, “Not sure I can! Not sure I can!” I’m usually screaming back, “Someone’s gotta! Someone’s gotta you damn little mixer that better!” So I talk to my kitchen appliances. Big deal. Who doesn’t?

I hear the term re-gifting bandied about less and less these days. I always hated the notion. Why would someone buy a present that would be so blah, or otherwise completely in the opposite taste of the recipient that it would be laughable or -even worse- painful? Why would the news world consistently run stories about the possibilities of re-gifting? Why not run a story on how not to buy a bogus gift - and not be the butt of jokes for years to come? I wrote a post nearly a year ago, “Wow! This is so… You! What’s happened to the art of giving?” It’s a rollicking read and hit home with many readers.

Notice that the news now focuses less about re-gifting and more about hoarders. Are those unwanted new gifts shoved somewhere under piles of stuff in the homes of hoarders? Probably. And this is weird. January is typically the month for storage item sales. Are hoarders hoarding storage items that are supposed to make them more organized? Probably. We'll have to wait come February to see what's making the rounds in thrift stores.

Thrift opens new shopping venues, saves you money, supports charity and helps you be a bit kinder by lowering your carbon footprint when shopping. Here’s a brief how-to:
  1. Plan ahead. Shop for gifts year round. We all know that we’ll buy holiday gifts. Is there a law that says we must buy them between Black Friday and Christmas Eve? When you plan ahead you have a greater chance that: a.) you might buy the person something they actually need or like because you are not in a time crunch and have the flexibility to think more about them; b.) you will save money, lots of it.

  2. If you’re new to thrift, read the section on How to thrift, in the left column. Conventional retail and thrift are in different ballparks. Learn how to develop a thrift mindset and detailed tips on how to find items you need while in the store in this section. This just might help you earn yourself a pair of Snake Eyes.

  3. If you don’t have any big storage bins, pick some up (perhaps at the thrift store) to hold items in the gift queue. Don’t just toss them about the house thinking you’ll remember where you put them. You won't remember and -warning- this is how hoarders typically start. I have bins for: a.) children's birthday gifts, b.) grown-up birthday gifts (if I write “adult” that sounds like something I picked up at some dirty NC-17 store off I-70 in the Midwest - along with cheap fireworks); c.) holiday gifts; and d.) small gifts for the hostess or thank-yous. When you find one of these gifts at the thrift store, put it in the appropriate bin for safekeeping.

  4. When I’m in good form, I have a small inventory of boxes or decorative tea tins to put these gifts in so that when this gift’s time for giving is on hand, all I need to do is put a ribbon in it (usually bought from thrift) and a personal note. This takes a lot of stress out of giving and actually makes it fun. My basement is a small store of lovely goods where I know I can find something worthy of giving. I’m freed from long register lines and a commissioned sales staff.

  5. Keep an open mind while in the store, and you just might find things you need, and make up for all those years of receiving gifts that made you sigh as you tossed them over your shoulder. You might just find yourself clutching a new Anthropologie dress for $7.99 while joyfully declaring, “Thank you thrift store! It’s so me! It’s exactly what I wanted but never knew!”
For example I bought this lovely Innova enameled cast iron heart casserole today at Goodwill for $7. It retails $60 (shipping not included). I assure you this casserole has never seen the inside of an oven, it is just missing it's original box. Think that box is worth the $53 difference? Do you know how wonderful a dutch oven is? You can toss just about anything in it meat or vegetable or combination of both and the results are magnificent. The covered casserole lets little vapor escape so the contents bake in their natural juices.

Today, I also bought a new or ever so gently used Coach handbag No G06S-10284 for $11. I found a lovely Sleeping on Snow sweater, sold at Anthropologie. The sweater cost $5 and appears to be new. Who knows what price Anthropologie had on it. All this along with a lovely collection of children's books for my library. I think the favorite is The Low-Down Laundry Line Blues by C.M. Millen followed by Why Kings and Queens Don't Where Crowns by Princess Martha Louise. This includes a CD read by Princess Martha Louise of Norway. The items I just listed, including the casserole, set me back $25. They probably retailed well over $275. But for me, the value is the happiness they bring or the need they fill and not the price. Well, there's no way I would have paid for those items full price, I'd rather pay my heating bill, but it's wonderful to have quality gifts to give to people I love.

Well, I'm probably preaching to the choir. So, if you know someone who needs to retool their shopping behavior and is currently in the doldrums of post holiday debt, send this along to them and call it a gift or consider it a consumer's intervention. Since the retail I write of is not illegal, health issues are not in play and the FDA has no jurisdiction over a chocolate fountain (only the chocolate) you have the charge with helping your friends who have a "retail problem." Retail Mania, it's one of the problems we don't speak of, the type of ailment so horrific the aunts from Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs can only whisper them.

If you are a new visitor to The Thrifty Chicks, be certain to scroll back up and open the Thrift Catalog slide show, featuring over 250 photographs of thrifted items. This gives you an inkling of what could be waiting for you. Also, check The Thrifty Chicks’ Table of Contents (prior posts) and read about other Thrift Store Conventions. We’ll get back to posting more on this. We just took a break from photos during the holidays.