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18 Tips for Shopping Pay by the Pound Thrift Stores

If you’ve never been to a pay by the pound thrift store, you’re probably unsure about what to expect or how to make the most of your experience.

Here are some of my best tips for shopping about pay by the pound stores, such as Goodwill Outlet, Salvation Army, etc.

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1. Just Go…

If you’ve never been to a pay by the pound store before, you’re never really going to know what it’s like unless you just go. Don’t be afraid to just stand back when you first get their to observe what’s going on. Watch the other people who are shopping and see what everyone is doing. Also, on your first bin rotation, you might want to just watch to see what everyone is doing and how it works.

2. Ask How Things Work Before Getting Started

Every store is different and has their own rules and systems. Even within the network of Goodwill Outlet Stores, each location has their own way of doing things. Don’t be afraid to call ahead or ask and associate when you arrive how thing work. There should be signs posted on the wall that tell what the rules are and pricing information.

3. Go with an Open Mind

Shopping at pay by the pound stores is an experience like no other. Don’t assume that all they have is junk because it’s thrift store left overs that no one else wanted. That’s totally untrue and I’ve heard that some locations put stuff in the bins that were never put in the stores because the store already had an overload of items. Also, many stores price their items too high and that’s why they never get sold after a few weeks. Many many good items end up in pay by the store bins!

4. Bring Gloves and Hand Sanitizer

It can be dangerous to dig through the bins without gloves. Things get tossed, shuffled, and broken a lot of times. Also, you never know what might be in the bins that are just gross.

Some people who like to buy clothing at the pay by the pound thrift store prefer not to wear gloves. They want to be able to feel the material and quality of the items they’re picking up. This is fine, however, make sure to put your gloves back on for the other bins.

5. Wear a Cross-Body Purse (or don’t bring one at all)

Bringing a purse or handbag just complicates things even more. You risk leaving it somewhere or having it snatched by someone else. It’s better to wear a small cross-body purse or fanny pack to hold your money, keys, and phone.

6. Have Patience

Yes, there will be rude people. Yes, there will probably be a few arguments here or there. Just be patient with process… nothing is worth getting a worked up over. If you’re not comfortable putting yourself in the middle of the chaos, wait for the crowd to disperse and then go in. There are always treasures left over that no one else picked up.

7. Go Early to Get a Cart

When the store opens can be one of the busiest parts of the day. However, if you want to get a cart, you need to get there early and stand in line. They get taken up pretty quickly and some people with have more than one cart for all their finds.

8. Throw Back Parts That You Don’t Need

For example, some people like to collect scrabble pieces for craft projects, but they don’t need to board or the box. Simply dump the pieces inside a bag or one of your other finds and leave the board and box in the bins. You aren’t required to take the whole thing. Also, since you’re paying by the pound, you might as well save money by not buying something you’re going to throw away anyway.

9. Check the Cases Under the Counter

Most stores have cases under the checkout counters with special items they picked out. These are usually still available for much cheaper but a lot of people overlook them. Since everyone is focused on digging the bins, they forget that there is more merchandise in the cases. It’s a great place to find more treasures!

10. Grab and Analyze Later

Don’t stop and analyze every item you pick up. Digging the bins is much too fast paced for that. By the time you decided, the bins will be picked over much more than if you would just grab it and keep going. If something peaks your interest, throw it in your cart and keep moving. When there is a break between bin rotations or you’re ready to check out, then stop and go through everything and throw back anything you don’t want.

11. Look Inside Things

Always look inside purses, bags, and boxes. You never know what might be stashed in there. One person reported finding a whole bunch of great jewelry inside a shoe box they found at the bins.

12. Nothing is Worth Getting in a Fight Over

Some people go a little crazy when the new bins come out and it’s simply not worth the chaos. If someone else picks up the item you were going for, just forget it. It’s not worth dealing with rude people. I’m sure there is some other amazing treasure you can find that will probably be better than the one they took anyway.

13. Wear Good Shoes

You’ll probably end up being at the pay by the pound thrift store for a few hours (if not all day long) so you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes for being on your feet that long. You also risk getting stepped on in the craziness, so wearing flip-flops or sandals is not a good idea.

14. Bring Snacks and Water

Also because you’ll probably end up being at the pound store for a long time, you should prepare ahead of time with some snacks and water. You will get hungry. If you have two people with you, you can take turns going out to the car for breaks. If it’s just you, pay for one round of finds and take everything out to your car, eat, and go back in for a second round.

15. Cover Your Cart

Unfortunately, some people will think it’s okay to shop out of your cart. To prevent people from browsing your finds, bring a sheet or find a blanket in the bins that you can use to cover your cart. This will deter people from seeing what you got and digging in.

16. Bring Bags

Some stores won’t let you use bags inside the store. If they do, it’s a great idea to carry a bag with you to put your finds in instead of pushing a cart. A lot of people like using the IKEA bags because they hold a lot of items and they’re durable. Keep some in the cart to put your stuff in to make transporting your items home easier. Most stores don’t supply bags to put your purchases in so you’ll need to bring your own.

17. Dig All the Way to the Bottom

A lot of people are going so fast that they completely miss the good stuff that is at the bottom of the bins. This is why you can wait for the crazy to be over and swoop in after the fact and still find treasures. Just make sure you’re wearing gloves as most of the broken glass and other items are on the bottom.

18. Figure Out the Best Deal on Pricing

Some stores give higher discounts depending on how much you buy, so it might be better for you to add five more pounds of goods to your cart before checking out. Just make sure you understand what you have. Just ask and employee if you can roll your cart on the scale to see how much you have.

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