Thursday, December 15, 2011

Encounters at the Thrift Shop

As you probably know by now, I frequently - very frequently, like three or four days out of the week - shop at my favorite area thrift/charity shops; one or two per day, depending on where I am and my work schedule.

Because of my frequent visits, I have had some interesting encounters at these shops; with the employees who have kind of gotten to know me, and with some interesting fellow customers.

There are several categories of folks I have "met" at Thrift Shops;Unwanted Shopping Buddies, Shopping Moms, Stalkers and Braggers.

First of all let me just say that I like to shop alone. I do not shop to be social, unless I am out with friends, or my Mom, or my sisters. I do not go to shops to make new friends; although I have made buddies of some shop employees. Which can help me out sometimes. (Wink, wink.) I prefer to just be alone in my own little vintage treasure hunting world as I shop in the thrift.

The Unwanted Shopping Buddy is most common thrift shop encounter, for me. It's other people - ladies, mostly - who just start talking to me as we shop near each other. And I mean talking to me like they're my sister or something; and I have never seen them before in my life. "What's the 'tag color' of the day?" one lady asked me this week. (This shop has different colored tags on everything and on any given day, they pick a color, and everything tagged in that color is only one dollar.) "I have no idea," I said to her, keeping my eyes fixed on the rack of skirts in front of me. "I will go find out, okay?" she offered. Off she goes. Then she comes back. "It's yellow. So everything with a yellow tag is a dollar! Look at this. This is gorgeous. But it's a blue tag; darn it...." and on and on and on.... I politely smiled and nodded and drifted off to the housewares dept. I have people ask me "What is that?" when I have an unusual item in my cart; especially the older stuff people don't see anymore. And I even had a woman "rent" my shopping bag for $2. One store has special fabric shopping bags printed with their logo. You buy the bag for $3 and on the special sale day, you can cram anything you want in the bag and get it all for $5. So there was this woman who was staring at the sale sign when my Mom and I walked in. "Pardon me, what is this all a bout? What red bag do I have to buy?" she asked. So we explained the concept of the "bag sale" to her. But the store was out of the red fabric bags; so she came over to Mom and me and asked to "rent" my bag. Which I let her do. her daughter filled it up, they took their stuff to their car, and then she brought my bag back to me, with $2. So with her $2 and only $3 of my own cash, I got a whopper of a bag full that day.

I've also had people admire items in my cart, and advise me as to how I can use certain items; or what would look good with this or that. That is more what I call a Shopping Mom. They're the advice givers, and seem to want to take younger shoppers under their wing and give them fashion advice.
Just yesterday I was at the Goodwill "superstore" in the city and I scored an awesome, full, wonderfully ruffled, RED, vintage petticoat. I dropped it in my cart and headed to the rack of skirts when a older lady walked right up to the front of my cart as I was pushing it along - I had to stop before I ran over her. She started fingering my petticoat and admiring it; how pretty it was. Then she advised me to get a certain kind of white blouse to wear with it; it would be gorgeous; she said. I didn't bother to try and explain that it was meant for wearing under skirts, not as a skirt. I just smiled and nodded and high-tailed it to another rack, before this Shopping Mom became my Unwanted Shopping Buddy.

Employees of the stores get used to seeing me on a regular basis now; and we greet each other like friends. Some of them have figured out my agenda. One time I was checking out with a pile of stuff... all vintage.
"This is old," the girl said, holding up a vintage, fur collared coat. She handed it to the other girl who was bagging.
"Yep, that is old, my Grandma had one like that," the other girl said, stuffing it into a plastic bad as I cringed.
"This is old," the first girl said, holding up a hat. Into the bag it went with the coat.
"And this is old!" she laughed, holding up a china platter with a floral pattern on it.
"Aaaaand these are old, too," she said as she rang up some screw-back earrings. "All them screw back things is old."
Then she looks at me and says "You like old stuff, don't you? You bought some old stuff last time you was in here."
I never tell anyone what I do with it. I feel guilty telling about how I may buy it for $10 and sell it for $50.... so when I find myself in these kinds of conversations, I just smile and say "Yes, I do love old stuff. I collect it."

I encountered a Bragger last week; in a Goodwill in a neighboring city. I was buying some hats and things. The woman in front of me was wearing a full length fur coat and fur hat. As the cashier rang up her items, she announced to the girl:
"I paid $5,000 for this coat."
The cashier made some admiring remark, with raised eyebrows of disbelief. The woman in the fur opened the coat and pointed to the inner lapel and said:
"See? That's my name right there, I had it stamped in gold right there; in case it ever got stolen."
Then it was my turn; but the fur lady just stood there, looking at all the items I pulled from my cart: black velvet flats, two vintage hats, a circle skirt, and a couple glass housewares.
"Do you wear hats?" She asked me, suspiciously. Like she didn't believe I was going to wear them.
"Yes, I wear them sometimes," I said. "But mostly, I just look at them."
"You look at them?"
"Yes - I put them around on hat stands, and hand them on the wall in my bedroom, and look at them." (Which is true.)
She thought about that for a second as I swiped my debit card. Then she rubbed her hand over her fur hat.
"I paid so much for this hat, I left the price tag in it," she said to everyone in the line.
Then she went out ahead of me. I thought to myself, "If all this is true, she has got to be driving a Jaguar; or at least a BMW...."
But she drove out of the parking lot in a 90's model van with "Val's Medical Transport" hand lettered on the side. (It didn't really say Val's; I just said that to protect their privacy.)
Hmmmmmmm. That was one of the strangest things ever.

And Stalkers - yep, the stalkers. They creep me out. Last week a guy walked by me and then turned around and said:
"I saw you here last week, didn't I? I did. And I saw you at the Goodwill, too. Yep, I see you at these places all the time. Isn't that funny?"
Well he thought it was funny but I did not. I did not remember seeing him but he remembered me and that totally gave me the heebee jeebees.
I was in a junk shop back in the summer and it was one of these dark, murky eerie places; they had a fish bait farm in the same building and so everything smelled like worms and fish and nasty slimy things.
I was being trailed by a guy who kept whistling some tune under his breath, and making lame comments to try and make conversation.
I picked up a blue glass insulator.
"A-HA!" He said. "You must be an antique insulator collector!"
"Not really," I said.
"Oh, all the little cluttery things..... all the junk you just can't live without...." and he kept going on and on.
Then I was looking at a tool box.
"Oh, look at that," he said. "You can't have too many of those, can you. You can put all kinds of goodies in there."
I decided I needed to insert the fact that I had a husband into this conversation.
"My husband likes these," I said.
"Oh, the hubbs. Does the hubbs collect too?"
"Yes, he collects things," I said. "But he collects things like guns, and tractors and things like that," I said.
"John Deere Tractors?"
"Nope, International Harvester and Farmall tractors," I said.
Then he started going on about a collectible International Harvester truck he owned.
"If your husband wants a International truck to haul around his International tractors, you tell him to give me a call," he boasted. I paid for my antique insulator and got out of there as fast as I could.

I have a category for myself, too: I call it the "Smile and Nod" shopper. Cause that's what I do; just smile and nod. Then get out as fast as you can before somebody figures out that you're buying things to sell on line. Ha, ha!

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