A Conversation Between Two Professional Thrift Shoppers
"Let It Come to Me"
“Let us leave off of your own thrift shopper history for a moment and move into exploring our tactical advantage. Otherwise these readers will get bored by thinking this something they can do... and be just like us.”
“I’ve never followed the flow (process) in the thrift stores the way you do. I do like the way you’ve figured it all out. I do, NOW, know you are right. When I first heard your observations they went by me. I, now, also know those observation mean even more with the current number yahoo dealers in thrift shops.”
“Right. So... first we’ll explain that I... or we... you want to be included on these?”
“Well... first WE... don’t go in cowboy down grabbing good stuff and pushing people around. In fact, we let the other people do the pushing. This because our antiques hunting is based on ‘let it come to me’ and NOT on making a splashy show off of being a big time antiques dealer trouncing all before one. Well managed, most of the best antiques are bought with very little notice.”
“Now this how... brown cow. Ha, ha. That; what you just said is what gets you to the good antique just sitting there. Remind; we already know what the antique is WHEN we see it so it just has to somehow get to the us THERE undiscovered; just be sitting there with its sticky price tag waiting for US to discern it in ITS patient waiting. So HOW... brown cow... does it get there? YOU’VE got this figured out!”
“FIRST someone has to HAVE an old and real antique, preferably a rare one. First. Again: Some THEY has to have one... before they can act WITH IT to get it to the thrift store. Once they have it... then they have to CONTINUE to have it; a not throw it out or give it to a grandchild. It has to BE THERE in their stuff... what ever THAT (their stuff) is. Then... either they or someone else... ‘cleans’ their ‘stuff’ ‘out’ passing through, again, the what ever THAT is... flaming hoop. That’s flaming hoop number THREE. We’re already on a trail of flaming-hoops-gone-through to ‘let it (an antique) come to me’ at the thrift store. Numbers one and two are ‘have’ an antique and ‘keep’ an antique. Then... when the stuff is cleaned out... WHERE does WHAT go and HOW. Is it removed, packed up, loaded and hauled away by a big truck with hired boys and men to the local Sal (Salvation army). Or is it boxed into the back of a hatchback and ‘donated to the church’ by a well meaning relative or neighbor. OR ‘donated’ by the actual original owner. Or; you get the point of flaming hoop number four? After being ‘cleaned out’ it ‘gets there’; to the ‘a’ thrift store. Once there (once donated and at the thrift store) it (the antique) COULD be identified and ‘spirited away’(a... someone ‘in house’ ‘gets it’) so to speak. Flaming hoop five is what happens to the antique AT a thrift store. Is it ‘sorted, studied, priced and put out’ for sale... in that thrift store? Right there these can all be one faming hoop to pass through or, more often these days, several flaming hoops especially around the ‘studied’ and ‘price’ quandaries. WHO IS ‘working in the back’ at the thrift store and WHAT do they know about ‘ANTIQUES’?”
“And just what does that last mean anyway. I’ll tell ‘em one”.
“You tell’em one.”
“I go into a thrift shop, in the door, in a church basement. Right inside the door is a (1760-1780) Boston or Salem Chippendale dish top snake footed mahogany tilt top candle stand in PERFECT condition. It is price marked boldly $125.00. I stop right there, pick it up, walk to the checkout counter, pay for it, leave, take it to the car and then... return and continue shopping. HOW did that happen. Well... at the fifth flaming hoop one of the volunteers (note that word) doing the pricing DID feel it was antique and did decide to ‘research it’ and did ‘go around’ to ‘antiques shops’ and DID price candle stands and DID find out that most of them are priced about $250.00 and DID decide that being so to ‘so there’ put the $125.00 on the ‘old table’ because ‘that seems fair’ and never once realized that the candle stands they priced were not even vaguely the same ‘antique quality’ as the ‘antique’ one they were researching. That is: They ‘didn’t know’ (think there could be) a ‘difference’. The sixteen hundred dollar classic New England Chippendale candle stand made it through ALL FIVE flaming hoops to be ‘just sitting there waiting’ to ‘let it come to me’.”
“Ok... so: The OPPOSITE of that is that there is nothing there; no candle stand. No nothing. There. Zero. No antique. That happens most of the time. It is NOT ‘bad’. It is the way it is. We have just listed the five flaming hoops that MUST transpire for a rare antique to be sold absurdly cheap at a thrift store. Those (flaming hoops) MUST happen. Otherwise... there is nothing there to ‘come to me’. So what: Go look around. Maybe next time. Ans... what could be worse? It is worse... when one goes to a thrift store and the candle stand is there and one does look at it and prices it and does not buy it because ‘I don’t like it’ because one DOES NOT KNOW WHAT IT IS. If one does not know what something is one is not going to find much at thrift stores especially if one is only looking for what ‘THEY’ ‘LIKE’. We look for what museums like.
“HEY, hey; don’t sass the readers.”
“But it’s true: It’s a flaming hoop too, flaming hoop number six; what YOU ‘LIKE’. No one cares what YOU LIKE. Actually I DO care because that can totally get rid of you in a thrift store. YOU LIKE THAT? GOOD BYE (BUY). Get it?”
“Ok... so... we just piled on a lot here. And there are small points in there and those, too, are our tactics. For example. When you... THIS is a tactic too... ‘get it out of there’ (the actual tactic) right away... instantly... with no hesitation... you paid exactly the charged amount in cash. EXACTLY to the PENNY in cash. Right?
“That’s what we always do. Right?”
“Right; exact change always. It moves things along smoothly. Even if it is six hundred, eighty-three dollars and sixty-seven cents we pay CASH TO THE PENNY. And are gone. The thrift store volunteers LOVE exact change. They HATE making change. They hate credit (debit) cards too and using ‘the (swipe) machine’. We pay exact cash. GOT IT?”
“This prompt acquisition and correct change payment is done with a very, very, very pleasant, patient, calm, reserved, polite, friendly and subdued, quiet, no commentary and no physical posturing attitude that never, never, never ever changes no matter what happens including someone from the world’s largest museum coming through the door and instantly talking to you about how you are ‘buying’ ‘a’ ‘very rare’ what ever. That does happen... usually in the form of a busybody blow heart yabbering at you ALL THE WAY TO YOUR CAR OUTSIDE THE BUILDING. Practice saying ‘isn’t that nice thank you’ as the only mantra you say besides ‘no’ to ‘do you want to sell it’. If you are asked if you are a dealer you say NO.”
“Right: You are not a dealer. You pay the sales tax. Shut-up about YOU being a DEALER. I am not a dealer. I have ‘giving it to my daughter for her apartment’ soooo much stuff that a whole block of Back Bay Boston has been furnished by that utterance’.
“Are we getting these all jumbled up? Who cares. It (buying in thrift stores) IS all jumbled up anyway meaning it’s US that makes sense of the chaos. What is sense of the chaos? It is us buying fine quality antiques from thrift stores very inexpensively.”
“I am cowboy down. That’s where that expression comes from; I’m driving the taxi. I know I am doing this.”
“So... ON THAT... let us touch on wardrobe; costuming I call it. You’re a real stickler on this so let’s do ‘WHY’ a stickler.”
“Well it’s not just me; how I dress but, better up, how THEY (the rest of the people and, often, their pets) dress. It’s ‘orange cones’ all over the place for that (the other people).”
“Ok so YOU dress what I’d call ‘middle perfect’ meaning crisp, clean, new, better label, natural fibers quality in earth tones with ‘no clink’.”
“No bangle ear bobs. Ha, ha.”
“Right; no dit-ball from you ever.”
“No big purse. Only sensible shoes. No makeup. No fashion forward.”
“I avoid preppy. Especially ‘too young’ clothes and L.L. Bean. No Bean, Eddie and n-face stuff. I’m wool, cotton, leather, brass. No sandals with chipped toe paint. No wrist bangles. No pushy stuff. Pushy colors. I want ‘I’m not there’ clean quality.
“So reverse that. Your just nuts about that.”
“Well they give themselves away. I mean... what’s more NUTS then Ms. Super Preppy looking at a tea service she thinks is ‘good’ when it isn’t even English, has a barcode on its bottom for age and is made in China FOR a company in someplace like West Virginia. Ms. Pee likes the decoration because it matches her toenail polish? She’s holding a pair of sneakers in her other hand? LIKE: PANIC ATTACK. Actually... I don’t care. They’re idiots. And I can tell that by how they’re dressed. They know nothing about art or decorative arts. Except, of course, what THEY LIKE. Don’t we LOVE going to homes filled with art that is what THEY LIKE.”
“It matches the shoes.”
“You always say that. Now fair; the men are your special target?”
“Well the women are fun to watch but the men are over the top for me. I just... It’s just too much.”
“Well, now... you know... more and more MEN are in there (the thrift stores) looking to ‘buy art’ to ‘SELL’ (on the internets). I mean... there’s some tattooed PANT LOAD butt-blocking the bric-brac shelf wearing camo cargo shorts, a worn out ball cap, sneakers and an “I’M STUPID” BLACK tee shirt and, I mean... he’s.... ‘BUYING ART’. I mean... I gotta watch this. It’s, like, CLASSIC STUPID buys art.”
“So you, like, PROFILE them based on what they’re wearing?”
“OF COURSE. Why not? THEY dressed themselves. NOT ME. SO... they’re buying ART TOO. It’s like... too much.”
“What’s too much?”
“Well they stand there looking at, like, a vase. That sucks. And... I can see that they are looking at it to see if it’s ART and if they can SELL it. I mean... they are throwing every brain cell they have at the piece of crap vase trying to make what for them is a major cash and go ART decision. I mean for real. THEY REALLY are TRYING to buy art. It’s a HOOT. The women are good too but men are totally ‘watch this guy’.”
“And how they’re dress is, to you, part of it.”
“Sometimes it IS it. Again: THEY dressed themselves. EVEN THE UNDERWEAR. Like; God forbid.”
“And: They come to you (speak to you) too.”
“Yes. I admit it. They come to me. I let ‘em.”
“And your pretty nice to ‘em. Sort of. I mean, in context.”
“Yeah. The stuff they want to know about is always crap.”
“And you tell ‘em that?”
“No. I just SUGGEST that.”
“Well some of them you tell ‘em it’s crap. Like SF.
“Tell us about SF.”
 : Oddly, giving an antique to a grandchild is often the quickest and most direct route for that antique to be ‘donated’ to a ‘thrift store’ for it is a convenient and low profile way for the grandchild to ‘get rid of that’. Extending this antiquarian ratio of grand P to grand C, there is no larger body of antiquarian negligence in play than the ‘giving’ of antiques across this three generational gap. The grand C does not know... or care to know... “WHAT” a “THAT”... is. They will eventually ‘care’ (become interested by themselves)... beginning of... late thirties with good fortune but more probably mid forties to mid fifties. I have often had to remind a cynical grand P as to “WHEN” “DID YOU” “SPEND” your first ‘real money’ on an antique? No, darling, it was not in your twenties.