13 More Things Your Consignment or Thrift Shop Won’t Tell You

Consignment shop owners share their secrets, tips and best etiquette advice.

1. This usually isn’t the place to make a fast buck.
Some shops issue checks quarterly—and pay you only if your item sells.

2. Some of my merchandise is brand new.
When a boutique goes out of business, I’ll pick up the inventory and flip it to you.

3. The recession means times are changing.
And so is our inventory. Women’s suits and formal wear aren’t selling the way they used to, but smaller furniture for smaller houses is in demand.

4. We’re not testing toys for lead.
Retailers have to, but re-sellers are exempt. (It’s still not legal for us to sell this stuff.)

5. Stick to stores in the nicer neighborhoods.
People have more disposable income, and more disposable high-end merchandise.

6. Please don’t leave donations on our doorstep.
That three-piece sectional couch that’s been sitting in the rain all weekend? Now I have to pay somebody to haul it to the dump.

7. A Wedgwood urn with a little chip?
I can probably work with that. I need complete sets of buttons. I need working zippers.

8. It’s not personal, it’s business.
If I say, “That’s adorable, but I don’t have a market for it,” take the hint. I’ve probably been doing this a long time, and I know what will move. If you get belligerent with me, I will not want to build a working relationship with you.

9. Do you really want to buy someone’s used potty chair?
I can’t believe I even have to mention this—but some of my competitors do sell this stuff, so someone must be buying it.

10. Consignment shopping is probably the only consumption that’s environmentally friendly.
When you buy an item you’re keeping it out of the landfills, where an estimated 85 percent of used clothing winds up every year.

11. Sometimes it’s a fine line between ‘vintage’ and ‘hideous.’
Jodi Miller of Designer Renaissance asks herself, “First, is it icky? Some materials of old just seem flammable and you can’t see anybody ever wearing it.”

12. Ask about my markdown policy.
Designer Renaissance in Nashville puts merchandise on sale every Thursday: If an item hasn’t moved at full price after five weeks, it’s marked down 25 percent, the next week it’s reduced 50 percent, and the week after that 75 percent.

13. Sometimes it is personal.
We get to know you through what you buy and what you discard due to boredom, bad karma, or your metabolic ups and downs. “I’m growing old with some of my customers,” says Miller of Designer Renaissance. “When they’re dating they get all these hottie clothes, then they get married and you don’t see them for a while, then in their later 30s their sizes start changing every year, so I get them again. We discuss medical problems, emotional problems, who the good divorce lawyers are. This job’s a blast.”

Sources: Dolores Klein, manager, New Canaan Thrift Shop, New Canaan, Connecticut; Sherry Selmer, owner, Urban Exchange, Northampton, Massachusetts; Jodi Miller, owner, Designer Renaissance, Nashville, Tennessee; Marilyn Ross, manager, Vinson Hall Treasure Shop, McLean, Virginia; Marilyn LaShomb, manager, Home Consignment Center, Las Vegas, Nevada; Elke Prado, owner, Mommy’s Merry-Go-Round, Littleton, Colorado.

Popular Videos

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest