Although shopping at the annual sale can be a great way to save money on important purchases, thrift stores offer access to great deals throughout the year. In many cases, discount stores have become the go-to place for anyone looking for a bargain on everything from clothing to kitchenware. But while the idea of paying less for things may be appealing, there are still a few things you may not know about the experience that can make you a better customer. Read on for seven secrets you need to know before shopping thrift stores, according to experts.
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You should choose your shopping days carefully.
If you are selling, the desire to go down to the shops can always be there. After all, with deals built in, it can seem like there’s never a wrong time for your shopping. But experts warn that you can get more out of your experience if you’re strategic about your shopping spree.
“Big shopping trips are reserved for weekend trips, but if you have the ability to shop during the week—usually on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday—you’ll be able to avoid the crowds and have a smoother shopping experience,” Julie Ramholdconsumer analyst for DealNews.com, says A Very Good Life.
And it’s not just what day of the week is important. “You will have better luck if you try to buy in the off season,” he explained. “This goes beyond buying seasonal items outside of when you need them, such as summer clothes in cooler weather. Summer, in general, tends to be more popular for malls because places like Tanger malls tend to be in high-traffic areas. Big malls during busy holiday periods. If you can’t shop there everywhere is in the off-season, you might have the smoothest experience.”
Make sure you pay the right price.
The price tags on items in stores can cause many double takes because of the unbelievable savings available. But before swiping your card at the register, be sure to double-check what you’re being charged. Otherwise, you could end up paying the wrong price and accidentally miss out on a lot of money. On the other hand, you may be passing on something cheaper than what you see.
“[Prices] they may not have been updated, and items may cost less than the sticker says!” consumer expert Andrea Woroch he tells A Very Good Life. “Read the fine print of sales signs and ask store associates to confirm prices before checking out.”
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You may not find high quality items.
For many shoppers, outlet stores can make it feel like you’re getting access to your favorite products at a significant discount. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as experts warn that some items may be “selling points” rather than the high-quality goods you expect.
“You should not assume that the products sold in stores are those that did not sell well in a regular store, because in some cases the items are made for the store and this may mean that they are of lower quality overall,” warns Ramhold. “Many consumers think that thrift stores are where they can find last season’s leftovers or products that are great but may have a little imperfection. But that’s not the case: When you shop at thrift stores, there’s a good chance the items you’re looking at are made to be sold there. This doesn’t mean they’re bad quality, really—they just might not be. the best.”
However, this does not mean that you should eliminate store shopping altogether. “I speak from experience that winning items can be found entirely at thrift stores: We bought our Corelle dinnerware at a thrift store in 2010. It’s a 16-piece set and it was $35, but it’s still going strong almost 13 years later,” Ramhold said. “All that to say quality goods can be found at very good prices in shops – you have to be careful before buying blindly.”
You may not be able to return items very easily.
Whether you changed your mind after trying on that new shirt at home or just realized you went a little overboard with your purchase, we’ve all been in a situation where a trip to the return counter has been necessary. But if you buy from stores with the same “return” strategy, you may be out of luck.
“Before loading your cart, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the refund policy,” said Ramhold. “Not every item sold at a supermarket will be on sale last time—although some will be—but just because you can return it doesn’t mean you can return it anywhere. Basically, that means you may not be able to return items you bought at a brick-and-mortar store.”
“If you’re at a grocery store, be aware that cash back may need to be returned to the store, which can be a hassle if you don’t live nearby,” he adds. “Make sure you check it out before you buy something you’re not sure about.”
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You can save on travel by shopping online.
Whatever one’s personal shopping preferences are, there is no denying that e-commerce has changed the way we shop today. And while it may sound like shopping malls are a different experience than brick-and-mortar, experts say that’s no longer the case.
“You can access some of the same deals you get in person at malls online these days,” Woroch said. “Stores like GAP factory and JCrew Factory have online storefronts! Plus, you can find online coupon codes to save even more on your discounted merchandise.”
“Be sure to check out deal aggregator sites like CouponFollow.com if you want to get quick coupon codes, which can be 40 to 60 percent off sitewide at other stores,” she adds.
Don’t put your hopes too high on getting a good profit.
For many shoppers, the very concept of a thrift store is associated with huge savings on what’s wanted—especially because these thrift stores are marketed that way. But while the prices on many products are low, the discounts may not be as good as you expect when you check the price tags.
“Many shoppers expect bargain prices at stores, but the best savings may be on items that haven’t sold well yet,” says Ramhold. “Just like any other store, department stores will want to get rid of merchandise that isn’t selling well, and that can mean deep discounts. While that’s great if it’s something you’re looking for, if you’re hoping for those deep discounts to do it. Use the board, you might be out of luck.”
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You can request coupons when you check in.
Many people go into stores knowing that they are shopping for deeply discounted products. Because of this, it may seem counterintuitive to think that you can get an even better deal with a coupon than you can at a regular store. But experts say true shopping pros know you can save more money if you do a little digging after you get to the stores.
“Go to the customer service center and ask for a coupon book,” suggested Woroch. “There, you can get deals like 20 percent off your first purchase at select stores.”