Originally Posted by Randy
Holy cow, right on page two of this... More than 7 years ago, this thread's starter (and SF admin) "j" created an epic post that: a) pretty much sums up our collective thrifting approach for beginners, and b) affords a few valuable pointers for the experienced among us as well. I think this is great advice, well worth repeating for newbies once every so often. I've noticed several newcomers recently, so maybe one or more of them will come across this repost, j's answer to someone asking how anybody could ever possibly find good stuff so routinely the way he did:
j: "— Like I have said, it's pretty much random. Aside from a couple of shops that only get/sell local donations and are in affluent neighborhoods with no collection service (and the best one of these stores is gone), I find good stuff at all of them, occasionally.
j: "— There are some ways to up your ratio:
j: "— Go during weekdays. The less serious people go on weekends, crowding it up and taking a lot of the good stuff. Luckily, most of them don't know the really good stuff when they see it.
j: "— Find out when they put stuff out. Some of them only put out new stuff on certain days or at certain times. Be there at these times.
j: "— Find out if they have central distribution or local only, and where they get their stuff from. If it is a chain with central distro, some of them still seem to sort it regionally, while others truly randomize the items. For example, I found bespoke jackets made in Japan that were obviously from the same donation at three different stores in the same chain. So on these ones, concentrate on the ones with lower traffic. If it's random, you want to go to the one that gets picked over the least. If it's local donations only, and in a crappy part of town, don't bother unless it's on your way to something else.
j: "— Get into the groove of it. I can't explain this really, but once you get into it seriously, you'll be able to tell whether something is worth looking more closely at within milliseconds. For suits, obviously, you want to flip and open the lapel to check the label. But going one direction down the rack is much faster than the other way. Same with shirts. I can flip through shirts probably 5 per second or something. I recognize almost every label I see now, and only stop when I either see a good one, see none or see a new one. Once filed in my mind, I know that label and don't stop for it again. The best example is sweaters. I just run my fingers through the whole rack and can tell by feel which are wool, cotton, linen, lambswool, alpaca, angora, cashmere (feels almost exactly the same as acrylic, but I'm getting better). Then it is easy to tell which to look at more closely. Shoes, very simple - look at the exterior to see the condition, then the insole for the label. I don't spend a ton of time in any store unless I'm finding great stuff. If I get the feeling that I will find nothing, I speed through it and plan to move on to another one rather than waste my time.
j: "— Typically I will go directly to the 'my size' sections and see if there is anything I might want for myself, not to sell. If I find great stuff there, I might stick around, or I might end on a high note and head off to the next one. I will always check back, though - I've found great stuff from time to time in stores I felt like I was ready to write off completely. A couple examples from one of those stores - the alligator/croc/? shoes from Alan McAfee ($5), and a Yamaha keytar in the toy section for $17 that I ended up selling on Craigslist for $200. These two finds alone make up for the 12 or so times I've walked out with nothing.
j: "— Also, and I know this is kind of anal retentive, I optimize my trip through the store to head off someone snatching up something great while I'm busy elsewhere. Shoes first, then coats, suits, shirts, ties, sweaters, electronics, toys (for stuff like the keytar) etc, then finally the case (for cufflinks and such). I have no idea whether this has ever helped me, and probably never will. But if I saw a guy walking off with some perfect RLPL croc loafers right as I got to the end of a long suit rack, I wouldn't be able to forgive myself.
j: "— Edit: if you are considering buying things not for yourself but to sell, always bring a tailor's tape measure with you. This will prevent the dreaded 43 XL suit syndrome, where you get stuck with something in a weird size that you won't be able to make anything off of, or possibly won't even be able to sell. Also, since tags are so inconsistent, even if you're buying for yourself, get an idea of your size in "hands" in various dimensions on various garments. This is faster than a tape. My hand is 9" almost exactly from thumb to end of pinky. So I can tell almost instantly by measuring from one armpit toward the center what size a jacket really is, or how big a sweater would be on me. This saves a lot of time and grief."