Types of Second-hand Venues

When buying second-hand it's nice to know what you are up against so you can properly strategize your shopping attack plan, or so that you can make sure that your donations go to the right place.

It is important to note that most second-hand venues will do not have a returns policy.

Thrift stores
Thrift stores work on one basic goal of sale: move things quickly. Their main objective is to sell things as quickly as possible to make way for new inventory, which there ALWAYS is. Thrift stores get donations for free, so whatever they sell is profit. The more quickly they sell things, the more they make. That's why everything is so cheap. Because thrift stores sell donated items, there is no quality control. Admittedly, you'll find a lot of overly beaded blazers, shoulder pads, and worn out hoodies, but there are diamonds in the rough if you just know what to look for. Thrift stores are great places to snag crazy awesome deals in interesting finds. They're also great places to go if you're looking for clothes to deconstruct, and find other items like old housewares and cheap books.
If you decide to donate to a thrift store, you will generally be given a receipt you can use to get tax breaks, as the donations may sometimes count as a charitable donation.

Consignment stores
Consignment stores operate by selling something for another person. Because consignment stores give a part of the sale price to its original owner, they typically filter through clothes and have a more selective inventory process. Sale policy changes from store to store. Some stores will pay a consignor a price up front, others will wait until the sale is made. Some stores will allow a consignor to walk in with potential inventory and walk out with whatever the store offers, others require an appointment. If you are considering consigning items, make sure to check out what the store policy is ahead of time. Consignments stores typically have certain qualifications clothes must meet before they are up for sale. This generally includes state of wear, age, season, and brand or designer. The store will typically judge this for you, but you should call ahead to make sure you don't waste their time by bringing in American Eagle when they sell Coach.

As a buyer, it's much easier to find quality items at consignment stores, however since everything is typically higher-end than a thrift store, and because it's not purely profit, consignment store prices are higher. Consignment items are typically in almost new or very good condition and are generally of name brand or designer label depending on the store. Many consignment stores, particularly, the high-end ones, will have several prices on the tag with dates next to them. This is because the price of an item will go down over time. The longer an item sits, the more important it is for the store to sell it to move in newer inventory. Look for the price next to the most recently passed date, and that will be the price you pay.

Swap Parties
Swap parties are where people get together and trade their items, typically clothes or jewelry. People hold them in public spaces or in their own homes or back yards. there are also swap meets, which are pretty much the same but on a larger scale. The idea is that you lay out your swappables and barter like in the old days for new-to-you stuff. Bring items that don't fit or you're tired of wearing (since you are no longer into ironic tees or your skirt days are over) and trade with somebody else. Trade one item for another or two for one or whatever you and the other trader work out.

Some swap parties will request or require you to bring donations of either money or snacks. The money is typically used to rent the space and/or tables, and the snacks will be used for... well, what snack are always used for. Many swap events will have a limit to how many items you can bring so that your set up and clean up don't take as long. You can host your own swap party for a bunch of your friends or try to find a larger one in your area.

Yard and Garage Sales
Yard Sales and Garage Sales are pretty typical things in suburbia. They happen in the spring and summer and it's easy to happen upon one. Clearly, a garage or yard sale will have a limited selection because it all comes from one source, however community yard sales are excellent places to pick for unusual and interesting things. A great thing about yard sales it that many people will allow you to haggle and bundle things. Check your local papers, craigslist, penny saver, and main roads in residential areas, etc. to find out when yard sales are.

When having a garage sale or yard sale the biggest hassle is bring everything out. Make sure that your sale is well-publicized so that you don't risk having to bring everything back in, as well. This is why it's great to have a community sale. Always make sure people walking by know what the sale policy is. For example if you don't have set prices, make a big "make me an offer" sign. Give certain areas designated prices or tag items with a price. It also might be a good idea to state that prices are negotiable if you're after getting rid of stuff first and foremost.

Flea Markets
Flea Markets tend to be every crazy dream you've ever had come true. They have crazy stuff and tons of quirky vendors. Make sure you research ahead to see when the market is opened and for how long. Depending on what you plan to buy, bring a car that fits your need. Flea markets are places where it is easy to strike gold. You can often use online travel rating sites and forums to hear ratings of the different markets, and get a description of what is typically sold where.

Be aware that some vendors will haggle and some won't. I also recommend bringing your own reusable shopping bag-- it's earth-friendlier and more convenient. Not all vendors will have a shopping bag for you to use, or a vendor may run out. Also be wary of whatever you buy. At the less credible markets, sometimes stolen, pirated, or expired items are sold. On the other hand, Many flea markets are very secure and safe and great for buyers of antiques and curios. Carry plenty of cash, since not all vendors have converted to credit.

Auctions are tricky business. The things sold at auctions are typically high end, so unless you are looking for something old, rare, or unusual, it may not be the best idea. You're also having to compete against everyone else. Although depending on the crowd, you may get a steal, the prize only goes to the highest bidder. If you are selling at an auction, it helps to have your item well-researched. An auction house decides whether or not they want to sell your item, so be aware of scrutiny. In addition, the auction house will make money off of the sale, and it may sell for much lower than what you want. Auctions are a definite gamble on the part of the sellers.

Alright, well that's pretty much a basic low-down on different secondhand venues. This blog will focus on thrift, swapping, and a bit of consignment.

-- Harper

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