Shop Well: Tips for Shopping at Thrift Shops

A lot of brands that I review, mainly Everlane and Cuyana, are what I consider ethical brands.  They are trying to stop the tide of fast fashion by producing clothes in a responsible manner (mostly in a socially responsible way).  But I just read that ethical shoppers bug most everyone else. Well if topics about ethical shopping aren't your thing then you might want to skip this series I'm calling "Shop Well" since it'll be all about shopping responsibly and not at fast fashion retailers (and most other places).  I started the series by talking about my TOMS obsession, which was the first brand that I loved that produced something for reasons other than the bottom line.  Well today I'm going to mention my second most favorite place to get clothes (other than online): thrift shops!  (cue that song)

Okay so when I say thrift shopping, I don't mean Salvation Army or Goodwill (though don't get me wrong, they sometimes have gems there too and I've been known to shop there once in awhile).  But the problem with regular thrift stores is now they're filled with items from Forever21 or H&M or other fast fashion places, and those clothes just don't hold up too well the first time around and nevermind the second time around.  When I mean thrift shopping I mean at places like Crossroads Trading Co or Buffalo Exchange, where people go to sell back their clothes.  If you're lucky enough to live in a city with these kind of consignment/trading stores, take advantage!  Not only are they a good way to get rid of clothes for cash, but depending on the store, they're filled with great second-hand clothing.  Just take a look at my recent Crossroads haul:

Top picture: Bridge & Burn coat, Madewell peplum top, James Perse tee

Bottom picture (clockwise): Madewell striped button down, Poppy floral top, James Perse long-sleeve, T by Alexander Wang black maxi dress

These 7 items for a grand total of $168!  But the best part is, I traded-in about 7 bags of clothes (back when we bought the business and downsized by moving into our Airstream) and so I paid $0 for all of this and instead got an additional check for $201 (for the remaining balance of the trade-in). I have to let you know that this is pretty uncommon for me, but for the most part whenever I go to Crossroads I never end up paying for anything.  

If you're interested here are some tips about places like Crossroads:

First if you're selling clothes:

-Make sure all your clothes are cleanly washed and folded nicely (kind of a 'no duh' thing but first impressions of your clothes really count).  And for that same reason, only sell clothes that don't have any major stains or holes.  

-Only bring items that are in season.  They're not going to buy your Marc Jacobs coat in the summer, even if it's brand new with tags (also take a look at their selling guide to see what these shops are looking for).

-You can bring some on-trend Forever 21 or H&M stuff there but if that's the bulk of your clothing, you probably won't sell much or for good prices.  And this is why it can pay to buy brand-name clothes even if it doesn't always mean a high-priced brand means better quality.  At least when you sell it, you are more likely to get something back (and this works even better if you buy from places like Nordstrom Rack or Off Fifth since you're not buying it at full price to begin with).

-Not all Crossroads are the same.  If there are several stores within a drivable distance to you I would go and check out each one.  I find that the one that works best for me (for both selling and buying) is one in San Francisco.  So even though it's now an hour drive to get there, if I'm already running errands in the city, I try to squeeze a visit to the Crossroads there to sell/buy some stuff.  I feel like each branch differs due to the taste (and niceness) of the staff.  Also I know this is the Crossroads for me because not only do I sell back a lot of items, but I find some good stuff to buy too.

-When you go up to the counter to sell, if its your first time, go ahead and standby and ask questions.  But I find that if you do some small talk in the beginning and then go off to shop within the store (effectively leaving the store buyer to do their thing on their own), I feel like they're more open to buying more things (maybe they feel less pressure?).  Plus they know that you're wiling to give them business as well, not just there to squeeze some cash out of them.  

-Don't go in expecting items to sell for a certain price.  Just bring all the clothes that you're willing to donate.

-And last but not least, do not feel bummed if they don't buy much.  I've definitely had experiences where I only sold $20 worth.  It just depends on who the buyer is and what you have.

If you're buying clothes from Crossroads:

-#1 thing is to check for stains and smells (yea go ahead and sniff the thing, better safe than sorry).

-Again, I go for brand names most of the time here since I know if I don't wear it, I can always resell it back to Crossroads.

-The return policy isn't that great (I think you might have a week?) so be sure of the items you buy.

-And most Crossroads will hang their nicest items at the top on the walls above the racks, so don't forget to look up and try these items too (my T by Alexander Wang dress was hanging up there).

Does anyone else have tips about shopping at places like Crossroads?  I would love to hear about other people's experiences with thrift shopping!