Friday, August 10, 2012

A Handy Dandy Guide to Thrift Stores and Thrifting in the Atlanta, Georgia, area - August 8, 2012

I've now been thrifting in Georgia for about eight years (yikes!) and I feel like I can now speak with a tiny bit of authority on the subject. Or not. Hey, if you know more than me, have more info than me, or can help me out, please comment and/or link me to your own blog post about thrifting in Georgia!

(Did you see what I did there? I hope you didn't, but if you did, know that it was totally shameless. OK? OK.)

So here are my thoughts on the major thrift stores in Georgia - particularly in the Atlanta-ish area, but not confined to ITP because I actually do way more thrifting OTP anyway. Again, feel free to chime in in the comments about what you think!

Let me start off by telling you what my dream thrift store would have (while being realistic - I mean, of COURSE I want it to all be free and vintage and in perfect condition, but I'm more talking about the store I'd walk into in reality and dance in). This way you'll know my biases when I get to the specific stores.

+ Fitting rooms
+ Large selection
+ No stinky smell on the clothes, either from body odor OR from some high-intensity fumigation chemical
+ No stinky smell in the store, either from babies or adults or just general unclean conditions
+ A clean atmosphere in general - not one that makes me feel like I need a bath in Purell after I'm done shopping
+ Excellent prices topping out at, let us say, $5 for an item of clothing and $2 for a book of any type
+ Clothes sorted by size! (Yes, there are stores that do this. It's awesome - although never ever trust the store's system because people move things around all the time!)
+ No counter behind which are hidden things that both have value and that don't and those things between there that appear to have value but don't (knockoff designer purses, for example - I promise you that 90% of the Dooney & Bourke purses you find in thrift stores are fakes). Ugh. Ridiculous.

Again, all commentary below is about my experience in Georgia. I have had different experiences at the very same chain stores in other states (Massachusetts and Virginia are two where I've done pretty extensive shopping as well). So take that into consideration as you read.


+ Excellent selection overall of everything under the sun
+ Often can find high-end or middle-end name brands, not just Target/Walmart/Kmart stuff.
(I'm guessing this is because Goodwill is such a known name that people are more likely to donate it there?)
+ Stores are usually clean
+ Fitting rooms
+ Weekly half-price color
+ They're everywhere and they're usually in strip malls with other stuff so that your husband and/or children can go elsewhere while you shop, if they so desire (or is that just mine?)
+/- They are *sort of* careful about their tagging with the little plastic pieces and *usually* don't make holes in important parts of the clothing
- They sort the clothes by color, not by size
- Everything in a clothing category is a single price, with no variation, so unless you hit a half-price color there isn't a chance for a super great deal (The good part of this is that there's no "this item has no price tag so you can't have it" policy - and housewares are priced by the piece)
- The prices are jacked up. I know they are a charity. I know they have overhead. I know they are often found in real shopping plazas and that they need to pay the bills. I don't care. Paying $7 for a pair of used jeans kills me! And paperback books for $1.50? They used to be 75 cents! I'm stubborn! 

Value Village

+ Very good selection - the stores I frequent have great kid clothes and great jeans almost every time
+ Very good brand availability
+ TWO weekly half price colors
+ Monthly half-price-everything day - the last Wednesday of the month (yes, it's chaos that day, but also the deals are plentiful and I haven't felt it was ever all that picked over because it's a weekday)
+ Items are priced by piece so you have a great chance to find a bargain (and I still haven't figured out how they come up with the pricing - the phase of the moon? The person on pricing duty? No clue.)
+ CDs are 80 cents, which is cheaper than a single-song download (selection is pretty bad, but I've found a few gems in there)
- Stores are often sketchy and chaotic - and a bit out-of-the-way from the main drag
- No fitting rooms (though they do have a return policy - 7 days, tags still on, receipt in hand, you get store credit that you can use at that moment - which isn't bad if you live nearby or go regularly to the VV) 
- Clothes are sorted by color rather than by size
- They staple the fucking tags to the clothes and make holes and often ruin really amazing deals. This is my number one peeve at Value Village. I have seen so many things be ruined! Ugh.
- They write on their books, and sometimes it can't be wiped off or removed

Salvation Army

+ Pretty good selection - though it always seems to me like the clothing skews older/frumpier
+ Fitting rooms
+ Items priced by piece rather than by category so you can dig out good deals
+ Prices are reasonable though housewares seem overpriced to me and the pricing on everything is random
+ Half-price color of the week
+ Weekly half-price clothing day - every Wednesday
+ Great prices/selection of DVDs (I just learned this! $3 for a new DVD works for me)
- Our politics do not mesh in some areas (ahem)
- Their prices are sometimes ridiculous
- I find a higher percentage of ripped/stained/unusable clothing on their sales floor than at any other store, and this has been the case at three different SA stores that I've visited in the area
- Books are too expensive unless you hit a sale

(I don't get to St. Vinny stores as often as I'd like - feel free to help me fill in this list!)
+ Nice selection of quality clothes (but all the stores I've been in are small, so it's limited)
+ Great prices on books (and I seem to remember they have a half-price book day every week)
- Stores are small
- I don't remember the prices being that great

+ Half-price everything every Monday (CHAOS though)
+ 75%, 50%, 25% off colors every week
- Stinky and dark
- Overpriced, even on half-price days
(I live near one of these and I rarely go unless I am in the mood for chaos. I did find an amazing vintage ashtray there once though! I also accidentally bought a glass that had a dead spider in it...)

I of course have my secret indie spots that I'm not going to tell you about right now. The thing about independent stores is that they are absolutely hit or miss and you are always taking a chance. Some indie stores are absolutely amazing, some are ridiculous. Some have pricing that makes you do twirly dances in the aisles, some make you roll your eyes. You just have to walk in and see what you see. 

What do you think? How's the thrifting where you live? If you live in Georgia, do you feel similarly or radically different? Are there chain stores I've forgotten? Do you want to tell me about your super secret shopping spots? (oooooh!) Leave a comment!

Coming soon, a post about my personal loves and hates about thrifting!

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