Monday, October 27, 2014

How thrift shopping was a humbling experience.

Talk about first world problems! Last week was a pretty tense week. My car got a flat and it was a real pain getting it to the dealership for a tire change. I had gotten used to having my own car and having my husband playing chauffeur for two days was a change in routine. I had to leave earlier in the morning and it sucked. If I took the bus, it would take me an hour and a half to get to work vs a twenty minute car ride. I guess I take it for granted that we are now a two car family who live in a nice apartment, in a nice neighborhood.

This was also a busy week at work and the husband forced me to have a "Sylvie day" last Saturday afternoon to unwind. That meant he made lunch, took care of the kid while I go do something on my own.  Thanks to this blog, I got inspired and I decided to go thrift shopping all by myself. To me, this is a good thing, I like being alone!

I admit, I have not thrift shopped since I was younger but was looking forward to the experience.I like digging through racks of mix-matched clothing and missed the experience. This time I picked a thrift store closer to my house where I was told they had tons of really cool Halloween stuff. The neighborhood is kind of sketchy and I always got a weird vibe whenever in that area. I have thrift shopped in other places but this particular store was in a low income area.

As soon as I walked in, like magnets, I recognised some little gothlings shopping, which is nice. One thing I like about Montreal, unless you are an elitist, fellow alternatives give each other a smile and that "knowing nod".  It was a nice welcome! They had tons of Halloween costumes (a lot of them were the unslutty kind which was a breath of fresh air. It seems that costumes are no longer of the spooky kind but a little too revealing and slutty for my liking)  which was fun to look at. They even played some spooky themed music which got me in the mood for Halloween! The Addams Family theme song was one of them!

Once the initial excitement of seeing fellow Darklings (I don't get out much due to my health being poor and having a kid) and hearing The Monster Mash playing,  I got to take a look at the people around me. I am a people watcher and I took a few moments to view my surroundings. Some were wearing torn or very worn out clothing but it was not done in an alternative way, it was because you could tell, they were in need. They were buying clothes for themselves and their children. I overheard a child get excited because he found a shirt with a cartoon character on it. Never mind that the shirt has obviously seen better days, with a visible stain on it but the mom still bought it for him. The child was so happy to get something with a cartoon character on it that it made me re-evaluate my own way of life. For myself, personally, I do put hand me downs on my son but 95% of his clothing were bought new. He even picked them out. Some items, he only wore a few times before he outgrew them.

I walk in the toy section and I see a huge stuffed animal. It was dirty. You could tell that the child who used to own it played with it a lot. I see another parent put that same stuffed animal in her cart  for her son, who squealed with delight over getting a "new" toy. My son never squealed like that whenever I bought him something new. Personally, I would of never bought that stuffed animal for my kid. Even if I washed it afterwards, it was dumpy looking but to this kid, it was like gold. Again, I re-evaluated myself.

I looked at the clothing in my cart and asked one of the attendants where the money goes once I purchase these items. The way I was starting to see it,  is that I could perhaps buy these items brand new and allow some other woman who needs these items more than I do, enjoy them. The attendant told me that the money does help pay for the store's rent, the salaries of the employees. I remember someone telling me that they hire people with difficulties to help get them back into the workforce. Knowing my money is going to good use, I decided to make my purchases with a clear conscience.

I shop at many different stores but the experience I get watching people are usually always the same: Most people I see are unhappy.  I also see children (sometimes even my own) taking tantrums because the parents are refusing to buy them something they want. You know what I saw there? Smiling, happy people. It was a welcoming change! One child was so happy to get a brand new Halloween costume this year (they had new stuff, probably overstock from a store) that it made me sad. I never seen anyone that happy to be getting something brand spanking new!

I have two big bags of clothing that no longer fit my son. I have a bag of old toys he outgrew. While I do donate my used items, I think I am going to drop them off at that particular thrift store.

I never realized how much my family and I had until I went there. Suddenly, the stress over my flat tire seemed irrelevant. I am going to appreciate what I have more and am going to start to teach my son the same. It was a positive experience, despite coming home in tears.

You can expect a haul post or several outfit posts soon showing off my finds from that store but right now, I want this post to be about the people I saw and the experience I had that afternoon, not the purchases I made.

22 comments:

  1. Now that I think about it, I don't recall ever hearing a child having a tantrum at a thrift store. At Target, however... ugh. Every time I'm in Target, there is a kid shrieking because Mommy won't buy him/her something. Every. Single. Time. :P

    As to your clear conscience... you don't need to feel guilty for taking things that someone else might need more than you. There is plenty to go around! :) Thrift stores like Goodwill and Savers (Value Village in Canada, I think) have so much stuff left over that they ship TONS (and I mean that literally, as in weight) of unsold items to third-world countries. So really, the more you buy, the more you help whatever local charities are associated with the thrift store.

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    1. Thank you. It is funny you named Value Village because that is where I went! I am glad to hear about the unsold items. So much better than putting in a landfill and it helps people who are really in need. There is so much you get out of thrift shopping, I plan on going more often!

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  2. However sad it's also refreshing to see or hear about kids just being so happy to have something new, and just seeing pure gratitude other than tantrums and ungratefulness. I love charity shopping, people should do more of it, it makes the world go round :)

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    1. Very true and think about all that stuff that isn't being put in a landfill somewhere!

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  3. A lovely thoughtful post. I thrift a lot, but also donate quite a bit back. Here in the UK you can sign up for something called gift aid. The charity can claim 25% tax relief on donations so long as you agree. This works very well and i get regular updates telling me what amount my donation has made. And I have never seen children acting out in a charity shop.

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    1. Oh that sounds nice. Here in Canada, you get a tax refund for donating to charities. All you need to do is keep the receipt and declare it on your income taxes at the end of the year. I think at that Thrift shop they give you store credit or something when you make a donation.

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  4. I try to tell my kids about the lives my husband and I had growing up versus the lives they live as a learning experience. I wish they could see how good they have it. Hell, I wish I could see how good I have it. I complain about things people would kill to have.... Definitely something to think on. Thank you.

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    1. You're welcome. I am better off than I was 5 years ago and even better off than I was 10 years ago. I tend to lose sight of that and it was very refreshing to have my eyes opened to it.

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  5. What a lovely post! ^^ I thrift a lot too, but frankly, thrift stores in Hungary are way too expensive for the needy, so I've never seen anything like this, but I agree, it's really sad. On the other hand, people who can afford more, tend appreciate it less - myself included. :/

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    1. Thank you. It sure was an eye opener this weekend.

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  6. It's a mish mash here in Southern Ontario. Value Village is just plain awful, they over price the crap out of their items, for example, used fabric (lord knows how it's been cared for) is sold for three times the price of it's retail value. I was considering buying a pair of shoes there until I saw they wanted $20 for them. I can get brand new shoes from Offtherack.com for around that price... I remember when I was in high school things were more affordable in thrift stores. Value Village didn't just accept any old thing (now they accept broken/stained garbage) and prices were reasonable. The only places you get reasonable prices and quality now are the independently owned church thrift stores, and at least their money goes to charity, apparently Value Village just pays for itself! I saw that they installed this very expensive new LED sign in front of their store, all I could think is "how many families could have *needed* that money?"

    My fiance and I have been struggling with the grim reality that we're poor. We have no disposable income and are scraping by.We also don't qualify for any kind of government assistance. We aren't buying anything, but if we were it likely wouldn't be from a thrift store, seeing as how Walmart sells things cheaper. Instead I just make do with what we have, like in the 1940's, I make things and mend things. Just because I am poor doesn't mean I have to look that way! :)

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    1. Wow, here in Quebec, Value village (or should I write Village des Valeurs LOL) is pretty good. There are some items that were overpriced and there are no LED signs. My husband and I struggled for a long time too and it was pretty bad while I was on matt leave. It is only now, thanks to my job we are doing much, much better. Hope things work out for you!

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  7. I love thrifting, and while I HAVE seen some children acting out in thrift stores, it's usually more on the side of toddlers being hungry or tired and screaming for food or a nap! The older ones tend to run around or occasionally try to ride the bikes in the store, but it's honestly not that often.

    I'm really glad you stuck to your experience rather than just talking about your purchases, it made this a truly excellent post! It's good to be reminded every so often that, in spite of our money problems, I really DO have it better than a lot of people. Thank you. :-)

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  8. That was a lovely post Sylvie. We should all be mindful about how good we have it compared to some. I will remember your words next time I am at Value Village. I shop there and the Goodwill all the time. Not only is it good to reuse and recycle items but it is also good for the pocketbook. I also donate to the goodwill on a regular basis. If an item goes in then something else must go out. Over the years my son has outgrown so many clothes and I always donated everything I could. If it made another little boy happy than he was happy to donate it.

    But the best part of thrift shopping is the variety. I can choose from multiple decades of clothing, not just what the current trend is. My wardrobe is much more interesting that way. I even find vintage items occasionally. But my preferred decade of choice is the 90s. All that velvet and lace! I am looking forward to seeing what you picked up in your future posts. :)

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    1. Thank you! My favourite decade was the 90's as well! I am not the type to keep up with the latest trends and thrift shopping is a nice experience. Just like you said, it is also good for the pocket book!

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    2. I miss the cute semi-gothy clothes of the 90s too! I shop mainly in op shops, everything is too short for me in stores and I am short! Dresses these days barely cover my butt!

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    3. I know slutty is now trendy now and it sucks. I wear those dresses with leggings.

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  9. I am very disappointed with a lot of local stores that are becoming more trendy and corporate and getting rid of items with small damage.Especially as most Vintage clothes have some damage. It is terrible to think of all these things just being chucked out! I know a lot of the clothes I have got in the past have had small flaws, and there are people who would love them and the money would all go to help the poor anyway!

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    1. I can proudly say, not all stores are like that. I work in fashion and when our retailers return items with small flaws, we have a warranty sale. People will buy these items at a cheaper cost. Much more sustainable that way. The company doesn't make a profit either, the proceeds are donated to charity and it pays for our Corporate Christmas party. The charities are announced at the christmas party. We also donate all footwear to a local organisation that repairs when necessary and gives to children in need. I bought a $300 designer coat from my company's warranty sale and paid $75 for it because the pocket inside was unsewn! I love that coat. Its super warm!

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  10. This was quite a stressful and busy week for you, the part about the car problem. It was a good thing that your husband’s car was available while your car was at the dealership. At least you can still go to places comfortably. How’s your car now, btw?

    Lance Gross @ Royal on the East Side

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    1. Thank you! It was an eye opener though because here I am complaining about my car not working when there are others out there who are not as fortunate as I am. It was frustrating though because I rely on that car to get home at a reasonable hour. It means more time with my son! The car is working great now! They patched my tire up so it didn't cost me an arm and a leg. I also got my winter tires on at the same time. it was a good thing I did, we got hit with snow early this year.

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