If you're not in the greater Grand Rapids area, you'll probably want to skip this post, as I'll be reviewing 3 local thrift stores.
First of all, if you think thrift stores are disgusting, you really need to reevaluate that opinion. It's true that some thrift stores are gross, and that some thrift stores that are normally nice have gross days. But there are plenty of thrift stores that are great, and there are even ones that are so nice you could forget you're at a thrift store. Almost my entire wardrobe is made up of pieces from Salvation Army, Goodwill, or garage sales. (Personal note: I always purchase undergarments and socks brand new, never at a thrift store.) So, if you've had a bad experience in the past, try again, because if you look in the right places, you can find some gems. (Not literal gems. Well, maybe at the jewelry counter, if you sift through all the costume jewelry.)
Secondly, I compare all prices to the Salvation Army and the Goodwill near where my parents live, since those are the thrift stores I've been to the most. The following statements don't apply to all Salvation Army stores or Goodwill stores nation- or worldwide, but they are the scale I use.
Salvation Army typically has the better prices, but you have to look a little harder through their stuff. They price based on type of item, brand, and quality. Examples: most sweaters are $2.99 or $3.99 based on quality, but if there's a brand new Vera Wang sweater with the tags still on, they'll charge closer to $6.99 or $7.99 for it. T-shirts are $0.99. Jeans range from $3.99 to $5.99 depending on brand and quality.
Goodwill has higher prices, but most of their stuff is nicer. They have one set price for each type of item, only raising the price if it's a super popular brand (and then they'll put it in their 'boutique' section). Examples: Sweaters are $4.99, T-shirts are $2.49, and jeans are $4.99. It's much simpler, I suppose, but also more expensive.
Salvation Army has a different color tag for each week. Every week, a new tag color will be marked down to 50% off. The Saturday of that week, all remaining items of that color are $0.69 each. You can find some really great deals this way! ($0.69 jeans!!)
Goodwill has none of which I am aware.
As I mentioned above, Salvation Army has some fantastic items, but you're going to have to sort through a lot of junk to get there.
Goodwill has fewer items, but they seem to be of higher quality. They also have really nice housewares (i.e. bowls, mugs, lamps, etc.). If I'm looking for clothes, I'll start at Salvation Army. If I'm looking for housewares, I'll start at Goodwill. Even if the housewares cost more, they're usually in better condition than at Salvation Army.
Salvation Army sorts clothes first into men's and women's, of course. From there, the clothes are split into categories like tank tops, short-sleeve pullovers, long-sleeve pullovers, etc. Finally, they're sorted by color. White, peach, yellow, orange, pink, red, purple, blue, green, brown, gray, black. (Can you tell I used to work there?) First all the plain items in that color order, then all the patterned items in that color order. A lot of people get upset by this because they only want to look at their size, but I actually like it. When I go shopping with my mom and sister, it's actually perfect, because we have three different shirt sizes among us, so if we find something cute, it'll probably fit one of us. The only place I wish they would sort by size is the jeans.
Goodwill also has men's and women's, and then different categories, but from there they are split by size. This is helpful if you are looking for jeans, or aren't looking for something specifically by color.
Thirdly, now that I have written a novel on thrift store shopping, I shall lengthen it even further to share these three new-to-us thrift stores!
I found them using this website:
You just type in your ZIP code and it lists thrift stores in the area, complete with reviews! We tried three down near Woodland Mall.
World Mission Thrift (AKA ValueLand)
This store smells of thrift store so strongly that even Chloe started to feel sneezy, and she's not the one with allergies. However, they had fantastic prices (comparable to Salvation Army) and a great selection. We didn't spend a lot of time looking at clothes, but we did notice that the pants were hung on an angle, so that you could easily read the tags. That would save so much time when jeans shopping! Also, their books were arranged by genre, meaning you might actually be able to find something!
Purchases: thyme (very random, but we were about to run out. 1.5 oz bottle for $1.29), tape measure (brand new - $0.99), 10 forks and butter knives ($1.00 total), pretty blue flowered scarf ($0.99), and a nice canvas purse ($2.99).
The staff were very nice and gave us a flyer with their sales. Every day, they have two price tag colors that are on sale, on Mondays one color tag of clothing is $1, and they have a sale on the last Tuesday of the month where almost everything is 50% off.
We'll definitely be going back there!
Bethany's Thrift Store
This store was so clean, it didn't feel like a thrift store at all. The quality of the items was like Plato's Closet, but the prices were in between our Salvation Army and Goodwill scales. They also sell new furniture, which is probably why they have a reputation for being too expensive to be a thrift store, but if you're not looking for furniture, their prices are fantastic! Clothes were sorted by size and everything was super nice!
We didn't purchase anything, but we'll definitely consider going back in the future.
New 2 You Shoppe
This store also smelled very strongly of thrift store, perhaps even more so than ValueLand. They had some sort of sale going on and the prices were kind of confusing, but they seemed to be around Goodwill prices. Clothes were sorted by size and they had a decent selection, but it is a smaller store. We also noticed that their books are not only sorted by genre, but also by author's last name! Wow!
We didn't purchase anything here, or stay very long. We were a little thrift-stored out, and the smell was getting to us, so this is not a very fair review of the store.
Well, I hope someone got something out of this lecture. :)
Love and Allergies,