Follow these rules
to make the most of resale dollars
By Susan Caba
So you think shopping resale is easy–just pop into Goodwill and walk out with something worth four times what you paid.
Au contraire, mon ami! I’ve honed my skills over decades, though I admit to a certain intrinsic talent for it. So I’m going to share a few guidelines for getting the most of your resale dollars. You can thank me later, with gift certificates to Rung or Upscale Resale (kidding, just kidding).
- Develop a loop of your favorite resale shops and hit your circuit regularly. You become familiar with the inventory, you know how the pricing works and you’re tuned into the timing of sales and price reductions. New merchandise comes out on Thursday evenings at “my” Goodwill on Manchester Road in Brentwood, MO. That’s where you’ll often find me (and every other regular) on Thursdays.
- Know your style and assess your wardrobe to see what it lacks. When you know what you need, you can grab it when you see it. The same thing goes for furniture and household items. I always wanted an Oriental rug with a dark background, but never saw one. Until one day, I did, at the Miriam Hitching Post. And I bought it.
- Equip yourself for success. I carry a small tape measure in my purse. Because I’m interested in vintage jewelry–and because my eyesight is no good anymore–I have a jeweler’s loupe in my purse (cheap and available on the internet). Use your cellphone’s camera if you need to get advice about a piece. If you are looking for something with a particular space in mind, carry the measurements of the space with you. Same with fabric swatches and color chips, when necessary.
- Pounce when you see something you really, really like–and know you will wear or use. Inevitably, if you take a day to think it over, the item will be gone when you go back. I have a friend who says “The only purchases I ever regret are the ones I didn’t make.”
- Invoke the “if it’s meant to be” clause. If you find something you love but aren’t sure you will really wear, or that costs more than you want to spend, wait and watch. If you decide you want the item, it will still be there when you go back, if it’s meant to be yours. If not, it wasn’t meant to be. No tears. If you really wanted it, you should have pounced.
- Be patient. Resale stores often reduce prices if something goes unsold for 30 days. If I see something that’s so cool, but impractical or too expensive, I’ll put off buying it. I recently bought a gorgeous belt with a big turquoise buckle. It was priced at $30 and I don’t wear many belts, so I passed. But it lingered, unsold. I finally got it on clearance for $10. It was meant to be.
- Think ahead. I bought a beautiful, perfect black leather jacket at Goodwill in April for $20. Retail would have been around $300. What a Christmas gift it was for my son’s girlfriend. (See “Pounce.”)
- Know thyself, discipline thyself! I really, really wanted some never-worn bisque suede boots (how practical is that?), priced at $60. I knew the precise date and time they would be reduced to a more reasonable $40. So I avoided that store for several days around that time. When I went back, the boots–thankfully–were gone.
- Be mindful of return policies. Most resale and thrift stores don’t allow returns. You bought it, there is no going back.
- Use return policies to your advantage. On the other hand, Goodwill has a 7-day return policy. I can make a final decision on purchases at home because they can be returned (keep your receipts). Once, I bought six designer purses there–Coach, Kate Spade, MK. Some were dirty, but could be cleaned. The Coach purses were authentic (I Googled “Coach and authentic details”), so I kept and resold them. The Kate Spades were knock-offs (again, use the internet to check), and I returned them.
- Don’t be greedy. Some stores don’t bargain, including Goodwill and most boutique resale shops. (Though, if you’re a regular and you’re wavering, or a piece is close to the 30-day mark, or is taking up too much space and is unlikely to sell to anyone but you, the store manager may give you an extra discount.) Antique stores usually do allow haggling–most will give a discount of at least 10 percent above a certain price threshold. But you have to ask. The accepted phrase is, “Can you do a little better on the price?” or “If I buy these items, can I get an overall better price?” For big-ticket items, go ahead and ask if the vendor will take a particular dollar amount. But don’t offer an insultingly low price, unless you absolutely know the value of that item. Greed just ticks people off.