Despite their recent gentrification, op shops can still be an excellent resource for the money-challenged. After last week’s discussion with I Love to Op Shop and Lisa@SimplyMe, I thought I’d expand on the topic of bargains at the op shop.
- It’s only a bargain if it gets some lovin’
Shopping around and doing the research helps, but the best bargain of all is the one that’s actually needed. My attic is stuffed with cheap but unnecessary purchases: discounted formal wear, garage sale and flea market knick-knacks, a Vinnies coffee table, etc.
Our current society gravitates towards an obscene amount of materialism. As per Michael Duffy (via The Age), ‘Once we got excited when Apple released I Am the Walrus. Now we get excited when Apple releases another way for us to listen to I Am the Walrus.’ Like other forms of shopping, op shop scavenging panders to our hunter gatherer psyches, but do we really need twelve teapots?
So before you squeal over that $25 Nally set like an animal lover who has just found a Beagle pup at the RSPCA, ask youself: ‘Will I actually play with it? Will I love it like it deserves? Do I have space for it (or will it end up in storage*)?’ If the answer is ‘no’, then it isn’t a bargain.
- Op Shops vs. op shops
Ten years ago, all op shops were equal. Then cool characters like Sex and The City’s Carrie Bradshaw started rummaging through them. Now there are two types of op shops: the Op Shop, where everything looks and is expensive, and the op shop, where the flotsam and jetsam of domesticity washes up.
While Op Shops are much more pleasant to shop at, what with their nice shopfits and higher quality stock, op shops are great for those on a budget. You have to wade through a lot of trash to find the treasure, but when you do, it’s reasonably priced and, more importantly, isn’t on hold for some Fitzroy hipster. Plus, there’s a greater variety of treasure because the hipster’s Facebook friends who volunteer at the shop haven’t selected the stock for you.
There’s an art to spotting an op shop. They’re usually in the outer ‘burbs or regional towns. They open at random hours, i.e. 10am-2pm on Tues-Thurs. Once you’re inside, you’ll think you’re on a Hoarders show, and behind the piles of junk and the cloud of dust, there will usually be one or two LOLs (Little Old Ladies), or LOLs-squared (Little Old Ladies Laughing Out Loud).
- Know when to go
Being at the mercy of volunteers, op shops can open at strange hours, so before you head out to ‘that really awesome store in Timbuktoo’, make sure that you’ve got your opening and closing hours right. There’s nothing worse than PT-ing out to Frangas only to discover that the op shop of your dreams is shut.
Syndicate/charity-run op shops (i.e. Salvos, Vinnies, Sacred Heart Mission, etc.) tend to have their opening hours on the web. Check out op-shop-ethusiasts’ blogs such as I Op Therefore I Am for locations and store opening hours of lesser known op shops.
- Discount tables, pension days, sales/specials, and loyalty cards
Like commercial shops, op shops use incentives such as discount tables, sales, etc. to encourage stock turnover, as well as help out the less fortunate. Op shops run by national charities are well-known for this as they receive a lot of donations: Salvos has a coloured-tag system, Vinnies staff will discount older items, whilst Red Threads occasionally have storewide sales. Having said that, however, smaller op shops will also discount. Some have sales racks/tables, others have loyalty cards, or occasionally have ‘half-priced books’ signs stuck on the window:
- Buyer beware
Like all second-hand goods, op shop goods are often imperfect. Sometimes this is endearing, adding character to the item, but sometimes these imperfections render the item useless.
While good op shops will usually alert you to a damaged item, always check the item carefully before purchase as most op shops do not offer exchanges or refunds. If the price is too good to be true, it usually is. If the item is damaged, but you still want to purchase it, make sure you can either fix it at a reasonable cost or repurpose it. There’s nothing worse than taking home a High Street jacket for a song, only to discover that you need to spend $100 on repairs.
*I knew a girl who spent her days hoarding op shop furniture. She had a whole room dedicated to her finds. Did she use any of it? Nope. It all got sold off when she had to move interstate.