Thrift stores and I used to have a wonderful relationship. Back when they all smelled like moldy cheese under your 400lb Uncle Lou's fat rolls and I was too young to understand the value of a dollar, everything was great! Thrift stores personified the old saying "One man's trash is another man's treasure!", but over time they've lost touch with reality and think they're bigger than they truly are.
Now, I'm sure we all know how a thrift store operates, but let me quickly refresh your memory. All items within the stores are donated at no cost to the desired thrift store and priced to sell to help keep the store afloat and help a worthy cause. Goodwill used to boast they were helping the mentally challenged and these days the only mentally challenged people I see in Goodwill are the ones who are mentally challenged through faults of their own. Throughout the course of this entry you will need to constantly bear in mind, no thrift store ever pays a cent for the items they sell, this is resale and not retail.
Locally, there are three main choices of thrift stores, I assume only two of which are big names throughout the rest of the United States; D.A.V., Goodwill and Salvation Army. As often as possible Goodwill and Salvation Army will use their causes to get you to donate, and as long as these causes are in fact being aided I see no problem with helping them help the cause, as long as prices are fair. Oh, but fair pricing shouldn't be a problem, after all every single sale is 100% profit, so why wouldn't pricing be fair?
Goodwill is seemingly everywhere! I frequent about 5 or 6 Goodwill stores locally and on occasion possibly up to 7 or 8. Goodwill offers a weekly 50% discount on all items with a certain tag color, as well as every first Saturday of the month everything is 50% off, this is a great idea to help clear the shelves to make room for new items. Now, Goodwill has a complete and utter lack of knowledge of what they sell and nothing is tested, it simply gets priced and tossed out on the shelves. This can play into and out of some people's favor, as you might find a great deal on something that was way under priced, yet you're most likely to find items are extremely over priced.
With Goodwill, there is absolutely NO bartering, they will simply refuse to sell you the item, so you either pay the price or take the chance on waiting for it's discount time to come around. I've personally found quite a few great deals in Goodwill, but there have been times I have just flat out refused to pay their prices for some beaten down, broken, over priced junk. The tag it and shelf it policy really annoys me, because it shows they take money more importantly than they do trying to help the consumer and give them the best value possible.
Goodwill also offers their own version of online auctions. Most of the time these auctions are packed with really great items, yet everything starts at $5 and there is also a handling fee tacked on for them simply touching the item, the most literal sense of handling. If your local Goodwill's auctions are different, that is because I only check my local Goodwill's auctions because shipping is always twice as much as it should be, plus the handling fees, causing most auctions to exceed, beyond a reasonable amount, what those items should be worth.
Through my frequent trips to Goodwill I would say they're hit or miss with their value, but I can't say it has been all bad because I have gotten quite a few good deals there. Goodwill is trying to become the Macy's of thrift stores and it may be only a matter of time until their prices reflect just that. Goodwill does offer a return policy, but it is so stringent that its almost not even worth the effort to get a Goodwill gift card with your money on it (no cash back FTW)! The careless attitude and letting uninformed employees go wild with a pricing gun really brings down my respect for Goodwill, nothing in Goodwill is the holy grail, no matter how much they wish it were.
It seems Salvation Army does do a lot of good for communities and that is something I can respect. Sure the stores aren't as brightly colored and tidy as Goodwill, but that means lower overhead and more reasonable pricing. Much like Goodwill, Salvation Army also offers a weekly colored tag discount as well as miscellaneous holiday discounts on certain types of items. Overall, Salvation Army is my favorite thrift store, even so that isn't to say they're not without their own set of problems.
There are only a handful of Salvation Army thrift stores that I frequent, and they all vary wildly from store to store. Generally there is a religious undertone, different to my own, that gives you the sense of a friendly, painless thrift store experience. Most of the time I find my trips to Salvation Army to be a very good experience and everything is quite hassle-free, but at one particular Salvation Army it has been nothing but a waste of time. This store refuses to offer much leeway in their prices, even though any profit is 100% profit (did you remember?)!
Salvation Army doesn't check their donations, so they too have the price it and shelf it policy I hate so much. But sadly, Salvation Army goes one step further and doesn't offer any guarantee on their items, nor will they allow you to return the items! Once you've finished paying for your items, they're your's and your's for good! No backsies!
I can't let just one store ruin my whole view on the company, and I don't! Salvation Army has been fair to me and offers extremely good prices on most items, as well as friendly staff (all but that one store!). I highly recommend Salvation Army out of all of the thrift stores around here, obviously with the exception of the one store every visit has been fun, even if I didn't buy anything.
DAV is a tiny thrift store (only 1 left open locally) but they still offer great deals. DAV offers 2 discount colors per week, one is 50% and the other is 30%, so you have an even better chance of finding a good deal. There isn't much bad I can say about DAV, they've always treated me well and I've never seen anything in their store that made me want to shout "WOW! THATS A HIGH PRICE!". Although I did hear directly from one employee they rent the name, which probably means they're not so much associated with the Disabled American Veteran organization.
DAV offers a lot of holiday discounts like Salvation Army and with each trip it is either hit or miss in the manner of finding anything worth buying. Sometimes I wait for things to go on discount and end up losing them, but that doesn't mean they were overly priced. To be quite honest, DAV has some things that are over priced, but it is a rare occasion that I am shocked at how much they want for something.
I'm not aware if DAV offers a return policy, so I assume that once again your purchases are now your's. Even so, the pricing tends to be fair enough that you don't sweat the whole way home hoping you're not stuck with a broken pile of junk.
In conclusion, I love shopping at thrift stores. Most of the time thrift stores are my only outlet to finding the vintage gaming items I really want to own, or else I could just pay an arm and a leg to find them online. I've found great deals, I've found ok deals and I've found total and complete rip offs, but usually I find things that I want to own and that is why I still search thrift stores. The thrill of the hunt!