Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Thrift Shop - we really don't need your sympathy

When I was a kid, I had no idea what a thrift shop was. There was no Goodwill or Salvation Army or Savers. At least, not that I was aware of. Wearing used clothing was not a thing we did.

Sure, there would be a few forays into Grandmother's vintage, but shopping happened at small boutiques or T.J. Maxx. Everything we wore as kids was new. Everything.

My kids, on the other hand, are dressed almost exclusively at Savers.

I buy them new shoes, and they get new lunchboxes and backpacks, and my mother sends them brand new gorgeous clothes (thanks, Mom)  but aside from an occasional foray into Old Navy, we shop at Savers and Goodwill. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that we live on an island with pretty limited options in terms of shopping - which means 3-4 kids might show up in the same t-shirt on any given day. Savers has - if nothing else - plenty of variety.  The second reason is that kids grow fast, and what they don't grow out of they destroy in short order. This phenomenon makes thrift stores a double bonus: stuff is cheaper so I don't freak out if they tear it to shreds or stain it after one wearing. And some of it is still brand new because someone else's kids outgrew it before they could wear it.
Gotta love a cart full of New-With-Tags at the thrift store.

There's the thrill of the hunt, the fist pump of victory, and the 25% off on Monday sales to keep things interesting. Nothing is more than $10, so almost every purchase is satisfying. I just don't get that thrill at Macy's.

I went over to Savers recently because we are heading off to the mainland this fall, and it will be cold by the time we get there. Living in paradise means that kids don't have a whole lot in the way of winter clothes, so I needed to get the kids coats and a few long-sleeve shirts that would actually cover their wrists. I found all that I was looking for, plus a few bonus items that I was about to go buy new at the mall. I was flying pretty high on my bargains. When I got in line, a woman walked up behind me and I glanced over at her. I knew her. She knew me. I smiled, said hi, and was just about to strike up a conversation when I caught her glancing at my cart. Her mouth opened, then closed. She was holding a Halloween costume. And as I watched her look away, I realized something: she was embarrassed. Not embarrassed to be seen in Savers, hell everyone gets their Halloween costumes there. No, she was embarrassed because I had a cart full of clothes. Clothes that I was planning to wear, and dress my children in.

And not just for Halloween.

The Horror.

The flush began to creep over my ears. This was very similar to the feeling I get when I am standing in line to redeem my WIC checks for Ella's formula. I felt judged. I was embarrassed at her embarrassment. I was embarrassed to have an incredibly ugly blanket right on top of my cart, which I was going to use for the dog house because my damn dog keeps destroying the beds I buy him. I wanted to say "No, wait, the blanket is for the dog!" so she would at least know that I wasn't planning to use it for my own bed.

I mean, can you imagine.

And as the embarrassment grew to mild panic and I started making up excuses in my head, I remembered something:

I fucking love Savers.

Underneath that gross blanket, was at least $300 worth of clothes if I had been buying them new.

My total was $28. Including the disgusting blanket. I had three brand new items with the tags still attached, 2 winter coats that might have been worn once or twice, jeans for Max that were perfectly broken in already, a bag of bibs, a hat and 2 sweaters for Ella, a killer puffy vest with a detachable furry-lined hood for Lucy, 8 baby toys that were in pristine condition, and a like-new cat carrier because our cat ate the cardboard one we got at the shelter when we adopted him. And I had the suspenders and top hat for Max's costume.

It was an epic haul, even for Savers.

As I paid the bill, I stood a little taller. I smiled at the vest that I knew Lucy would love. I folded the jeans and the winter jackets that would keep my kids warm in the unfamiliar cold. Then I jammed the nasty blanket into the cat carrier, and I walked out with my head held high.


Smug, even.

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