You've been in a thrift store for forty-five minutes. Your shopping cart has a wobbly wheel and the overhead stereo is playing Christian rock at a decibel so grating you're certain only dogs can hear. It's hot. There are no open windows nor functioning air conditioner. A tired overhead fan circulates air so stale you can practically see through it. A older gentleman with the aroma of urine lurks in the back. You came in search of a cream cardigan, but your nerves are so frayed every cardigan looks reasonable. So you plunk down $9 for a burgundy wool version and leave.
You begin to drive home, thrilled to leave the stuffy confines of the store. But on close inspection, you notice there's a missing button on your cardigan. And a fraying hem. And a certain unidentifiable mustiness that's polluting your car. And, come to think of it, the cardigan isn't even in your size. Not only are you out nine bucks, but you now believe that thrifting is a useless endeavor best left to someone else. Thrifting sucks.
For me, Sundays are about thrifting. Well, Sunday nights are, anyway. On Sunday nights I bid adieu to my husband and children, slip on comfortable shoes, and excitedly jaunt over to one of my favorite thrift shops. While the store teems with customers during the week, it's blessedly quiet on Sunday evenings. There are no screaming infants, no slowpokes clogging up the narrow aisles, no preschoolers running in between the racks, no customers plowing through with overloaded carts. On Sundays it's just me, a few lonely cashiers, and racks and racks of clothes.
Some Sunday night thrifting excursions don't work out so well. Sometimes I roam the aisles and don't find anything interesting at all. Sometimes the store is a disorganized and disheveled mess. Sometimes it's too hot, or too cold, or downright smelly. And those are the nights I return home empty handed and a little heartbroken with my misfortune.
Thrifting is a game of patience and chance. The unpredictable nature of thrift stores, with their revolving merchandise, eclectic customer base and somewhat chaotic environment make it much more likely that you'll leave empty handed than with an enticing new purchase. And it is this very unpredictable nature, and unknown possibilities that thrift stores offer, that makes thrifting such a challenge.
I believe that the only way to find real thrifting success is to embrace the process. That means we accept the possibility that we might find failure. We welcome the notion that we could be in a store for an hour (or more.) We face the likelihood of long lines, of sneezing fits, of indecipherable stains on clothing we may come in contact with, of close quarters with people we might be uncomfortable with.
We accept it, and come back for more.
So allow yourself to walk away empty handed. Ending a long thrifting excursion without a purchase smacks of defeat. But it's important to keep in mind that this is not an indicator of overall success. The store that leaves you high and dry one week might provide an epic score the following week. Furthermore, even a nine dollar purchase is wasted money if the item wasn't what you were looking for in the first place.
And be patient: Yes, today's effort might have been for naught. The store may have been crowded and hot, items scattered and disorganized. But this is not a sign that you should stop thrifting. Take a break, but come back.
Have you ever gotten discouraged while thrifting? Has this prevented you from coming back? What are the worst challenges you've faced while thrifting?