How to shop in thrift stores:

These are my tried and true rules for how to never give Aryanzombie and Bitch or any of its many, many co-conspirators another dollar of your hard earned cash. I have been mall-free for five years now and I will never go back. This is what I have learned.

  1. Know what you're looking for This is a simple rule but its the most important one. When you to the mall, you look at this, you look at that, you shop. To be successful, you must not shop, you must acquire. You must say, "Today, I need pants!" and then go out and get them. If you're focused, you can find almost ANYthing you want. If you don't know what you're looking for, you won't be happy with what you find.

  2. Know the store Certain stores are good for some things but not others. For instance, when I want golf pants from the 70's, I go right to the Salvation Army, which gets most of its stock from donations. When I want to get new socks or some nice khaki pants (for work, I swear ; ) I go to Goodwill since much of their stock comes from overruns, overstocks or department store "2nd's" merchandise.

  3. Go early, go often New stuff comes in every day and you've got to be there if you want to get the best stuff. If you can't find what you want, come back in another three days, or even later that afternoon if they seem to be sorting a bunch of new things.

  4. Geography matters Stores located in major urban centers will have high traffic, meaning that they tend to get high quality items fairly often - and run out of them fairly quickly. Suburban stores, especially those that are not located near major shopping centers will have the lowest traffic; I find that it is here you will find the more unusual items, since high traffic stores are typically picked clean of them by "specialty" thrift stores (see below).

  5. Talk to the people Banana Republic doesn't give a shit about you. Thrift store owners do because you're either helping them out directly, or donating to the good cause they support. Talk to them, let them know that you like shopping there. Ask them when they get new stock or put new items on the rack. Let them know that you're looking for that killer pair of plaid and sequin glam-pants - they just might be able to help you out.

  6. Donate It's all about karma man. If you don't wear it anymore, give it a second chance.

  7. Avoid "specialty" thrift stores This is not such a hard and fast rule, and I break it now and then. There is a certainly a legitimate market for vintage clothing, but I have found that many so-called vintage clothing stores are really just thrift stores with jacked up prices. They typically operate by purchasing funky or unusual clothing items out of traditional thrift stores and then selling them at a 300% markup. (Sometimes, employees of traditional thrift stores will filter out these items and them sell them to specialty stores, which is not very cool, not to mention an act of petty theft.)

    Sometimes, you truly need not one powder blue polyester tuxedo to choose from, but a variety of them - or perhaps you find yourself the costume manager for a local production of the musical Hair. In these situations you probably need a specialty store, but if you do shop there, try to find out where they get the majority of their stock. If they are purchasing their items from other stores, (and not sly employees of other thrift locations), then they are conducting a legitimate business.