Op shops, charity shops, thrift shops - whatever you call them, almost every town has at least one. Times have certainly changed the way op shops work. We now have the option to sell our unwanted stuff online rather than giving it away for free, and similarly we can find second hand items to on sell if that's something we want to do. This all means that theoretically there is less at the op shops, and understandably the prices are higher and better researched.
I hear a lot of people lamenting this change, and feeling like pre-2000 charity shops were veritable Aladdin's caves compared to what remains nowadays. I won't deny that things have changed, but I also don't believe it's as drastic as many think it is. There have always been ways of selling your own second hand goods - the trade and exchange, classifieds, recycle boutiques, pawn shops, garage sales and markets - and while online selling is somewhat simpler in my experience it still requires effort and isn't for everyone. There are plenty of people still donating perfectly awesome stuff to charity, I know this as both a donator and a shopper.
Are prices higher? Sometimes, for sure. Lot's of managers of charity shops are clued up to researching the online pricing of special items, and we have to accept this is a GOOD THING. This is money that is going to charity. I still see charity shops as mostly providing a service for being able to buy items affordably for those that need it, but if they spot that the mid-century sideboard that got dropped off on Saturday is worth a few hundred bucks then fair enough. It's about balancing the needs of both the charity the shop serves, as well as the community that might depend on it.
Basically, we both feel there is still plenty of treasure to be found at your local op shop, and at low prices too. Here are a few of our 'tips' though generally we agree it's a game of both perseverance and chance!
• Actually do it. If you make a point of going 'Op shopping' once in a blue moon, you probably won't find anything. Pop in to local shops whenever they're on your path - I have one by my supermarket, and one by the GP/pharmacy. Somehow it's most often the random little visits that deliver the goods.
• There isn't actually a good time of day. At most op shops volunteers are continually pricing and bringing out items so don't worry about getting there early in most cases. Saturdays are usually the busiest though so weekdays are best.
• Be prepared to look - HARD. There is SO much stuff in even the smallest op shop and most of it is junk. You've got to be prepared to really look at everything rather than a quick scan like what you'd do in a nice curated shop!
• Exercise your imagination. Amongst a pile of grungy mugs, that little vase might look equally rubbish but practice imagining stuff in a different context (ie. in your home, with your styling!).
• Never just buy on price alone. Always stop and think "if this was $20/$50/$400 new, would I still covet it?" if you're buying it because it seems like a steal for $2 - that's probably not a good enough reason. If you're like "OMG I love this AND I can't believe it's $2!" then yay!
• Trust your instincts. If you're carrying something round the shop umming and ahhing about it, then just face facts that you probably don't want it that much and can leave it for someone who will!
• Practice good karma! Always be generous in what you donate to charity and it will come back to you. Remember that those awesome things you found and now love, were donated by someone else who chose to donate rather than sell.
• Consider the possibilities. You can give old stuff a new life, sometimes it's as simple as taking off an ugly bow or taking something out of a frame, other times it might be a full reupholster job but even then often the cost of refurbishing something to be really special will still be less than the price for a mass-produced piece from a chain store.
• Don't get your hopes up. Going with high expectations is a sure way of making sure you don't find anything somehow. It's a lot more fun and relaxing if you take your time and don't put pressure on yourself to come home with an original Bitossi vase for $5 (because that doesn't actually happen).
• But also don't think you have bad luck! So often I hear people say "Oh you have the best luck, I NEVER find anything!". 100% of the time, I've just gone to 10x as many op shops as them and spend twice as long looking in each. The more time you spend doing it, the 'luckier' you get!
• Have fun. Worst case scenario you don't find anything but even then you'll undoubtedly have seen some weird stuff, exchanged some banter with some sweet old op shop ladies, and spent sometime away from a screen. There are worse ways to spend an hour or so!
We'd love to hear about your op/thrift shopping stories and any tips you have! Tag us on instagram @thepinkroomnz or use the hashtag #thepinkroomthrifts!