13 Things Your Thrift Store Owner Won't Tell You

Discover insider tips from consignment shop owners and become a more savvy consumer.
Interviews by Amy Maclin

1. We love an economic downturn. Some of us are seeing sales up 35 percent from last year.

2. Our margins are shrinking like everybody else's: Consigners want higher prices, and shoppers want lower ones.

3. Your items need to be in nearly new condition. Don't bring me a cookie sheet with crumb-and-grease sludge in the corners. You don't even want that thing, and they're your crumbs.

Photo: Comstock.com

4. Check out my store before you bring in your loot. If I don't take large items, your Foosball table will have to go back home with you.

5. "Trendy" and "cool" (i.e., salable) are not always one and the same. Mid-century modern furniture is still hot, but no one wants those Hopi-print cow skulls you collected during your Desert Southwest phase.

6. People shop consignment stores because they want a bargain. That Russian samovar may be worth $250 at an antiques auction, but I am not an antiques dealer. If I tell you I can get $75, take my word for it or sell it yourself.

7. If you sell it yourself, you'll probably get a better price from eBay than craigslist. But believe me, selling is labor-intensive (photographing and describing items, handling sellers' questions, dealing with the post office).

8. Do not bring us designer knockoffs. You don't want to go to jail for selling fake merchandise, and neither do we.

9. Charitable shops run by volunteers can pay consigners a higher percentage: sometimes as much as 75 percent instead of 40 to 50.

10. Clean out your closet before the season begins; that way, your fur coat or your wispy sundress gets the most time on the rack.

11. There are some things you should never buy from us: children's car seats, for instance. For all you know, that car seat's already survived a crash or fallen off the roof of the minivan two or three dozen times.

12. Bigger sizes sell faster. If it's a size 14 and classic, it'll sell. If it's a size 6 and classic, I won't have a customer.

13. If you are faint of heart, don't come on Saturday. I am getting customers by the carload and so much new merchandise that I can't see the counters.

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.

More Must-Reads from Reader's Digest:
13 Things Your Hairstylist Won't Tell You

13 Things Your Dry Cleaner Won't Tell You

30 Tips for Healthier, More Attractive Hair