I have been thrifting for a while now.  I have almost three years of dedicated second-hand shopping under my (thrifted) belt.  I have shopped at small thrift stores, big thrift stores, consignment and even Kijiji.  The price of thrifted items varies, but in my experience, smaller community or non-profit thrift stores tend to have the lowest prices – though often the smallest selection.  Some stores like Goodwill have set prices for standard pieces and if you hit a colour tag sale, you can get amazing deals like Miz Mooz boots for $7.50 or an awesome black dress for $3.50.  I firmly believe that you can find great thrift scores no matter where you shop second-hand and that is part of the allure of thrifting!  The chance to get a great deal on a great piece is fun and motivating!

One of my recent amazing deals - new with tags silk Isabel Marant dress for
One of my recent amazing deals – new with tags silk Isabel Marant dress for $9.10!
And another amazing score - Salvatore Ferragamo shoes for
And another amazing score – Salvatore Ferragamo shoes for $13.30!

In the past several months, I have noticed a trend towards higher prices in my grassroots thrift store, Value Village.  That was where I started my thrifting journey and I will no doubt continue to shop there, but after my stop in the Red Deer Value Village today, I must admit I am disappointed.  I tend to be easy-going in the controversy about thrift pricing; I know that shopping second-hand benefits Value Village’s non-profit partners in addition to all the other great reasons to thrift, so I don’t mind paying a little higher price for good pieces.  It’s not only about the bottom line.  Today, though, I found several pieces that were overpriced and I did something I’ve never done before – I asked for the price to be reconsidered on a Fossil bag… and I was shut down.  It was a nice black cross-body leather bag in great condition priced at $40… I was carrying a nice pink cross-body leather Fossil bag that I got from the Fossil outlet store on sale for $40.  PLUS I had photo evidence of a friend who scored a Fossil cross-body leather bag in great condition from Value Village TODAY for $10.  Still nothing.  I was so disappointed I neglected to get a photo of the bag in question, but here are some other pricey examples from my road-thrift-stop today:

This swimsuit was new with tags but still.  That's too much for a second-hand bathing suit.
This swimsuit was new with tags but still. That’s too much for a bathing suit in a second-hand store.
Nice dress, good condition but still.  That's too much for a second-hand dress.
Nice dress, good condition but still. That’s too much for a second-hand designer dress when I know I can get something similar for around $10.
$17??  For Old Navy shoes.  No.
$17?? For Old Navy shoes??? No.
$28 for Aldo shoes??  No again.
$28 for Aldo shoes?? No again even if they were in like-new-condition which they were not.
Another nice bag with a ridiculous price tag.
Another nice bag with a ridiculous price tag.

There was more but it was just getting too depressing.  I put back some running shoes for my son because they were priced at $20 – they were Skechers but in poor shape AND SECOND-HAND CHILDREN’S FOOTWEAR.  C’mon.  I get that well-known labels might be priced a bit higher, and like I said, I’m okay with that but IMHO, these examples are not reasonably priced.  Having said that, I don’t exactly know what to do about it aside from saying no to overpriced thrifting.  I will purchase what is reasonably priced and still regale in my great finds, and I will never go back to regular retail, BUT I hope that these high prices are mere blips on the thrifting radar.  To comfort myself, I did snag a few things at fair prices using a filled 30% off sticker card!

J Crew blazer for $5.60
J Crew blazer for $5.60
Banana Republic elephant-print tee for $4.90
Banana Republic elephant-print tee for $4.90
Rohde leather sandals unworn for $8.40
Rohde leather sandals unworn for $8.40
Leather mocassins for my daughter
Leather moccasins for my daughter for $5.60.  I will just throw these in the washer and air dry.
The last two hardcover Harry Potter books to read aloud with my boys!
The last two hardcover Harry Potter books to read aloud with my boys!

There were also some reasonably priced pieces that I left behind…

Vintage skirt with my favourite colours...too big.  So I cried.
Vintage skirt with my favourite colours…too big. So I cried.
Another vintage skirt with pockets... WHY DIDN'T I GET THIS?!!  Thrifting regret.
Another vintage skirt with pockets… WHY DIDN’T I GET THIS?!! #ThriftingRegret.
What can I say, the girl likes red shoes like her momma.
She walked in these better than me.  
This dress had an amazingly flattering fit but was so dang short.  Sigh.
This dress had an amazingly flattering fit but was so dang short. Sigh.

Ultimately, my thrift stop was successful and I left happy with my purchases.  Still.  Overpriced thrifting sours the experience and I hope that thrift shops will pay attention to the concerns of loyal customers and consistently price items reasonably.  The end.

37 Comments

  1. Tabatha Lynn Smith Reply

    I have noticed these trends at my local goodwill also. If they find something designer they overprice it and stick it in their glass case. In a place where most everything is priced the same it’s pretty irritating that they take the few great find and make them so not everyone can afford them.

  2. Pipp McCowan Reply

    I agree wholeheartedly! In Michigan, Goodwill and Value World can be pricey. Salvation Army Thrift stores are still a pretty good deal. I need someone on the ‘inside’ to explain the pricing process.

  3. Peni Christopher Reply

    Overpriced items go against the spirit of thrifting, I agree. But I am also in awe of your pink Fossil bag purchase from the outlet store

  4. Tammy Meyer Reply

    That last striped dress would have been really cute with leggins! I have taught all three of my girls the value of thrifting! They get a budget for clothes shopping and always want to shop second hand first.

  5. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    That is awesome! It just makes sense! Re: the dress, I always hesitate on buying dresses that require leggings bc it limits the ways I can wear it, but you’re right!!

  6. Suzanne Dennis Reply

    i KNOW! just last week i was ‘complaining’ that i can’t ‘afford’ VV anymore!
    i dont know who decides what premium pieces are, but their style and/or label recognition is completely different from mine!
    i haven’t been to VV in months…i prefer the smaller charity shops – now there is some primo thrifting!
    thanks for this post – maybe someone at VV head office will read and heed!
    happy thrifting!

  7. Jean Bloski MacDougall Reply

    What makes me sad is I don’t know brand names. So when I’m buying something it’s because it’s pretty and I like it and it fits. Always disappointing to find out it happened to have some name on it that makes no difference to me and that it’s too much money!

  8. Jessica McMinn Reply

    I once found two identical items (different colors) with two different price tags. I called them on and got both items for the same price as the lower one. Which was a considerable amount cheaper. I asked them why one would have been priced so high, and she said it depends on who is pricing that day. Some know the value of items (hence being priced higher) and some do not (being priced lower)

  9. Pam Mikolayenko Reply

    The higher prices.. may be associated with the 30% card.. that way they really are not discounting.. as the 30% takes you to the true price.

  10. Kim Christopher Reply

    Completely agree. Prices has been increasing at thrift stores the past few months. $18 for Old Navy — crazy!!

  11. Penny Mahan Reply

    I agree completely with this post. Those prices were ridiculous.
    Our budget only allows for thrift shopping on discount days or with a discount card anyway, but I would not pay $30-40 on a thrift store clothing item.

  12. Lindsay Drennan Reply

    Oh man! Totally agree… Had to put back a dress about a month ago that fit perfectly but VV wanted 45 bucks for it. Not worth it.

  13. Vicki Hackl Reply

    Agree, agree! However, I have generally found VV to be higher priced than the other thrift stores. Surprised at the prices in Red Deer, I stop there every year when I work at a conference and thought they were much lower than the Edmonton stores. I now expand my thrifting into rural Alberta and don’t much bother with those in Edmonton.

  14. Laurie Wispinski Reply

    Their furniture is over priced too. It should be a great place to find pieces to fix up….but it’s not.

  15. Nadine Riopel Reply

    I have many thoughts. First: I love getting low prices when second hand shopping as much as anyone. But I wonder: to what degree should we expect them? VV and other shops are businesses, they will charge a balance between what they need to pay their own bills and what they think they can get. That’s not evil, that’s economics. It has a few implications. Implication #1: maybe thrifting is getting more popular, driving up the amount they can get. That would be a good thing, especially if it’s taking a bite out of the amount of fast fashion people are participating in. Implication #2: I wonder what it realistically costs to run a thrift shop, especially when you have to pay your workers. I wonder what their margins are, and if they are pricing as high as they can for certain items because other items barely bring in what it costs to move them through the system. Implication # 3: Is it possible that the charity shops can afford to price things lower in part because they have volunteers staffing the stores? Is it possible that when you get a lower price in a charity shop, it’s not because that’s the real value, but because your purchase is really being subsidised by the free labour and by a lower return to the charity itself?

  16. Crystal Brown Reply

    I work at a local,goodwill store in Canada Alberta…. The high prices she posted in vv whould be at least 50% of at goodwill, the most we whould charge for the blue purse whould be 25-30… VV really bugs me

  17. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    agreed! I’m going to do a mini tour of some of the smaller thrift stores in YEG this week!

  18. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    yes, that was a great deal! I still think thrifted should be less than outlet!

  19. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    Indeed, budget is an important consideration. You just have to leave the pricey items behind but it’s too bad because thrifting “should” put them on a level playing ground, ya know.

  20. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    I was surprised too. I stop in at every VV that I can, and have noticed increasing prices at all of them…

  21. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    It does seem to depend on the pricers. I think it’s wise to research and know the brands, and I am willing to pay more for higher quality pieces, but there’s a line.

  22. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I don’t think charging higher prices is “evil” and I am willing to pay more for higher quality thrifted items, considering the economics, the workers, etc. but when prices compete with outlet and retail sale prices, they will turn away potential secondhand shoppers. I accept the increased price point on dresses for example (most are marked around $17) thinking they need a higher base price to do business but I can’t see how having a huge mark up on certain brands would make a significant difference on their bottom line so it ends up turning people off (as evidenced by all the comments). Certainly your points about charity shops are valid but what do we do about that? I would be willing to pay higher prices there as well, but within reason just like everywhere else. I would love to see pricing and the whole experience work towards preserving the “spirit” of thrifting which I think/hope will outweigh the allure of fast fashion.

  23. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    yes, I wonder about that and I guess that’s how stores work generally…

  24. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    I think your approach is best – buy what fits and what you like regardless of the label! And as for overpriced items, just leave them behind!

  25. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    I find furniture pricing too is inconsistent. My friend got a great solid wood chair for $4 at VV! Just have to hunt harder I guess.

  26. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    No, I agree. I wouldn’t pay that for a thrifted garment regardless of the label.

  27. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    Though some have commented that Goodwill prices can be pricey too, my experience with Goodwill AB is that their prices are reasonable. Maybe some higher, but like I said, I am willing to pay more for high quality pieces… to a point.

  28. Nadine Riopel Reply

    Great points, Nicole. I made my arguments in the spirit of discourse but truth is, I also do expect thrift prices to be lower than retail! Except maybe for in the case of retail that is insanely cheap to begin with and that just ain’t right (I’m under the impression you can get garments at places like Walmart and Joe Fresh that are priced in the single digits?) Anyway, you’re right. As for the charity shop thing, I’m not sure if there’s much we as thrift shoppers can do. It’s more about the overall problems we as a society have around charity. Things like: they should always operate on a shoe string, volunteer labour is the best labour, etc. Charity shops should be keeping pace with the pricing and other business practices in private shops, if only because low balling undercuts the funding that ends up being generated for the charity work. But I suspect that, at least partly due to the mindset of low overhead that prevails in the sector, they may not have sophisticated enough operational infrastructure to keep tabs on market rates, do the PR and customer relations stuff that help the private stores sell at higher prices, etc.

  29. The Spirited Thrifter Reply

    I love discoursing with you, you Savvy Do Gooder you! It makes me think! I have a great idea!!!! Let’s you and me open a thrift shop!! 😀 Then you can do all that stuff and I will play with clothes. Ha. I am going to do a few posts on smaller thrift shops this week and I asked if the workers are volunteers… stay tuned! (But even that has some merit for the individual when you consider meaningful roles for people – ask your hubby about MOHO!)

  30. Nicole-Levi Thievin Reply

    I was just at the reddeer store the other day as we were camping at gull and I thought the exact same thing! Left there with 2 Lego t shirts for my boys and that was it! So disappointed ! I also seem that fossil bag in the showcase! Unreal hey!

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  32. Alex Montalvo Reply

    I’ve noticed this same trend in my town. I’m ok paying more for something that is in good condition, but a lot of times stuff doesn’t work or is literally trash, and they want to charge you an arm and a leg.

    • I think you just exercise your consumer power and don’t buy it. There are still great deals to be had through thrifting and more importantly, it is a sustainable fashion option. I would rather pay more at a thrift store than a cheap price for fast fashion made by slaves in unethical circumstances.

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