Resale stores provide both trendy shopping and necessary discounts
A man in khaki pants and a royal blue apron guided a large cart through the store’s warehouse with gloved hands. The cart was home to an overflowing cardboard box, which weighed more than 300 pounds. He left the back room of the store and carefully steered the box towards a line of empty tables where customers crowded, waiting to see the goods for sale. Some of them had waited outside for hours, many speaking languages other than English.
Reaching the table, the man carefully tipped the box over with the help of another worker and mounds of clothing spilled out.
The shoppers surrounding him took a breath of anticipation. The worker moved away and smiled gently at the people, the sides of his white scruffy beard lifting upwards. He motioned that it was alright to look at the items, and immediately the table became swarmed by a sea of shoppers, cramming in closer to find garments they needed more than wanted.
“Three summers ago, I worked at a Goodwill station,” said middle school Bible teacher the Rev. Forrest Dahl.
“Our job was to bring huge cardboard boxes about five feet high and we’d have to dump them out,” he said, “and then we’d get out of the way and say, ‘Okay, you can look at the stuff.’ It would just be jammed [with people].”
“We would go from table to table, pouring out clothes,”
he said. “Sometimes there were fights because two people would grab the same thing, one on either side of the table. We’d have to interfere with those situations.” Today, two thirds of Americans choose to shop at thrift stores, according to a Savers Annual Shopping Survey taken in August. Shoppers choose thrift for a variety of reasons; it is cost effective and may provide opportunities to find vintage items. Many Americans are now sporting thrifty styles, and both teens and college students can be found thrifting because of its affordability.
However, not all thrifters are thrift shopping for pleasure, but out of desparate necessity. This is shown in thrift stores everyday, but can also be learned by personal experience.
“That summer I was working in the “pay by the pound” area it was quite different from the [thrift store] atmospheres that are coming up now,” said Dahl. “It’s a different environment. It’s not that it’s not safe, it’s just that the majority of shoppers usually need to buy what they’re buying.”
Dahl has been thrifting for years, and it has always been something he loves to do.
However, his experiences working at the Goodwill on University Avenue have added a unique perspective to the way he views thrift shopping and the people who do it.
“There are so many people who do need, not necessarily the best or the newest [things], but they need to survive and there’s very low prices on a lot of things [at thrift stores],” said Dahl.
Senior Marin Fredrickson (see cutouts) has also encountered the desperate atmosphere at thrift stores.
“When I went to Goodwill Outlet, I first walked in there and I was scared,” she said. “There were so many people and this woman had a cart with five feet of clothes outside of the top, stacked so high that she was just throwing stuff to get it on top. It was crazy. They’d bring out a new giant bin of clothes and you’d see everyone from the opposite side of the store sprinting [to it] and they’d just start digging.”
However, Fredrickson’s chaotic experiences have not changed her love for thrifting.
“I like it because I like trying to find cute outfits,” she said. “My biggest pride is when I wear [an outfit] to school and someone says ‘That’s cute’ and I’m like ‘Yeah, I got it for two dollars.’”
All over America, thrift shopping has become a way of life for peoples from a range of cultures, incomes and ages. Because in America today both the poor and the people who can afford new clothes shop at stores like Savers and Goodwill, the spectrum of thrifters is very broad. This is shown in individual customers’ financial income as well as in the range of ethnicities of the people who go to thrift stores.
“A young man I was working with, he was from Ethiopia,” said Dahl, thinking back on that summer. “He got a chance, I’m not sure how, but he said he won a trip to the United States so that he could get a good education and be safe. I’d never really talked to anyone who had had that kind of experience…. It really was a pretty different [social] spectrum for a kid like me who grew up in Michigan.”
Because there is such a variety in the background, ethnicity and incomes of customers at thrift stores, as well as the idea that items sold are usually already used or worn, a negative stigma is often associated with thrifting.
“I think there might be a stigma of not liking to wear someone else’s hand-me-downs,” said history teacher Jennifer Tillman.
Junior Summer Olson agrees with this idea.
“People want to buy new stuff in our society,” she said. “No one wants to buy a used pair of jeans…. I don’t mind [used things].”
While some cringe at the thought of wearing a used article of clothing, others don’t mind and view thrifting as a style opportunity.
“I was going to [start a blog] with my friend [senior] Ingrid Snook,” said Fredrickson. “Our idea behind it was to show that you don’t need to have super nice, new designer brand clothes to have an outfit that will look good. So that ‘Make it yourself, do it yourself’ [idea] that is going on right now [means that] you can make a cute outfit with what you have.”
Fredrickson believes thrifting is an excellent way to find fashionable outfits at low budget costs.
“I don’t like spending $100 on a shirt,” she said. “I can get something that is just as cute for maybe 50 cents, so mainly my budget is why I do it. You get more bang for your buck.”
Tillman agrees that thrift shopping can be an enjoyable way for young people to find clothes and be fashionable.
“I have found [thrift shopping] to be, for young people, a fun thing especially if they are looking for something retro they’ll go to thrift stores and see what they can find,” said Tillman.
Though there are many different reasons to thrift shop and many different cultures and classes that participate, one thing is held in common: thrifting evokes many different emotions in shoppers, and can sometimes be uncomfortable. But Fredrickson argues that it is worth it.
“I can sometimes feel a little bit bad when I [thrift shop] because I feel like I’m taking something that someone who needs it might want,” she said.
“I feel bad about it,” she continued, “but at the same time it’s cool to be more exposed and to see more of a different light then if you go to a mall with your friends. If you put yourself in an environment where you may not find your normal crowd, it’s interesting to see other peoples and you get a different perspective. We are in a really isolated community, and by stepping out of that it kind of takes a second to be like ‘Oh, maybe I should go home and take what clothes I do have that I don’t wear anymore and donate them,because these people need it.”