Broke off Macy’s? Visit the Land of Secondhand

As the holidays approach, it’s hard not to worry how you’ll be able to afford everyone on your list. If you’re anything like How-to Guru, you’re also probably wondering how to pick up some stuff for yourself in the meantime.

Two words: thrift store.

Here’s how you’ll know you’ve found one. It must carry the faint smell of a flatulent grandma and constantly play a CD full of ’80s power ballads on low volume. Thrift stores are full of ugly shit — dresses covered in mysterious stains, porcelain clown lamps and Bill Cosby sweaters. But every once in a while — when the stars align mid-Toni Braxton howl — you will stumble upon the most awesome $5 cocktail dress of all time.

Buffalo Exchange, on the other hand, is not a thrift store. It’s full of barely worn, mildly priced merchandise. The difference between the two is a girl in trendy glasses who’s already picked out the hip stuff for you.

You must be hip girl — sort through the shit yourself. And doing so, young thriftshopper, requires strict adherence to the following rules.

Be patient. When you step into secondhand world, the rules of consumerism change. That sweater doesn’t come in a small, customer service means a creepy grin from the guy at the register and all dressing-room surfaces are questionably sticky. If you want to find that vibrant sequined frock, you must flip through every piece of pukey clothing in the store. Don’t think of it as a chore — it’s an expedition into a world of society’s most deject objects.

Make quick judgements. If you think that windbreaker might have potential, it probably doesn’t. You don’t have time to meditate on it anyway — there are six more aisles of crap you still have to comb through before you find your glory item: the worn-in shirt with the nonsensical saying that you love at first glance.

Beware of thrift eye (a less serious strain of Triton eye). When surrounded by mediocrity, your attractiveness standards plunge. But much unlike your drunken one-night stand with a crusty-faced slob, your decision to bring home that damp shoulder-padded blazer may have long-term effects.

Never buy purely out of nostalgia. If it reminds you of Grandma, it will make you look like Grandma. If it’s a pair of high-waisted jeans you’ve seen on Full House, slowly back away. If it’s something from a Richard Simmons work-out video, save it for Halloween.

Always do a stain inspection on potential purchases. You’d be surprised at how many people suffer from chronic perspiration nowadays.

Avoid conversation with thrift-store staff. They’re all freaks. OK, some of them are cool. But most have minor drooling problems.

Finally, never purchase used socks, underwear or bedsheets. It’s just gross.

Now that you’re armed with all the skills of an eBay entrepreneur, try your hand at a scrounge — just watch out for those creepy clown lamps.

Special how-to requests? Contact the guru at [email protected].

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