Every once in a while, we hear shoppers complain about high prices at thrift shops. One of our favorite shops, Central Thrift in south Los Angeles, has this motto printed on its business cards: “Don’t pay those high Goodwill and Salvation Army prices.”
While it’s true that we sometimes run across an overpriced item at a thrift store, it is far more common to find ridiculously-priced, dirt cheap items. At the Valley Thrift Store in the Evendale neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio, the change of seasons brings startling markdowns on clothing from the previous season. We found a rack of nice wool blazers tagged at either 69 cents or 29 cents each. And these were not fast fashion labels. The labels included Pendleton, Liz Claiborne and Sag Harbor. Sweaters, including a Gap sweater that looked unworn, were tagged at a surprising 9 cents each.
Another cause of rock-bottom prices is mislabeling. Thrift stores frequently rely on inexperienced staff or volunteers to do pricing, and adult garments can get tagged as cheaper children’s clothing, or men’s tailored items can show up in a rack of less-expensive women’s clothing. A few cases in point: at a Salvation Army store in California’s Inland Empire, we ran across this Christian Dior blazer mislabeled as a boy’s sweater and tagged at $3.99.
At the aforementioned Valley Thrift Store in Cincinnati, a Gianfranco Ruffini cashmere blend full-length coat was tagged as an XXL ladies coat at $6.99 — several dollars less than the full-length men’s coats hanging nearby. (The fabric hails from Italy, but Gianfranco Ruffini is a New York-based brand.) We found the identical secondhand coat on Poshmark today selling for $79.
Thrift stores generally don’t like to retag items – even when mistakes are pointed out. It’s usually too much hassle to find an employee in the back who handles pricing. (For similar reasons, they often won’t sell you something if the tag is missing.)
The takeaway is that shoppers always should be open to finding the unexpected at thrift stores: never-worn items with the original tags, mis-identified garments, men’s clothing in the women’s sections and vice versa, and true clearance prices for inventory that has overstayed its welcome.
Valley Thrift Store, 9840 Reading Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45241. 513/657-4887. www.valleythriftstores.com Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Sunday noon to 6 p.m. (Two other area locations at 4301 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, OH 45014 and 1717 Woodman Dr., Kettering, OH 45420.)