In many essays on this blog I’ve sung the praises of shopping at secondhand stores. Beginning with
Museum of Lost Desires, and including A Successful Bargain Hunt, we have benefitted greatly from our local private secondhand store, and the Salvation Army’s thrift store.
I’m continually amazed by how often we find precisely what we need and want, even in our small town (pop. around 2500). In this small, insular community, goods circulate from home to home, expanding the utility of each item as it gets used (or proves unnecessary) then passed on to the next owner. Garage and yard sales extend this process even further, as do the many “Free” boxes that dot our roadsides through much of the year.
Lately, I’ve had reason to appreciate this even more; it must be time to remind readers about a valuable resource that often gets overlooked in our hyper-consumptive society (see also Clothing: Essential to Survival and Self Esteem).
On my most recent visit to Talia’s Treasures, our local private thrift store, I found a brand new pair of pants, and a brand new propane tank.
The tank hadn’t even had the label removed, indicating that it had probably never been filled before. The price seemed reasonable, but I also received 10% off, because the tank had sat on the shelf for over a month (how did I miss it on previous visits?). When I filled it at our local propane supplier, they told me their normal price for a new tank of that size. The difference between what I paid “used” for a new tank, and could have paid full retail equaled roughly two fill-ups!
Obviously, someone bought the tank new at some point, then decided they didn’t need it. They consigned it at Talia’s and got some of their money back. I got a bargain on an item that will likely outlive me.
True, I hadn’t been shopping for a propane tank, so this might be considered an impulse buy. We already have 3 tanks that we rotate. However, we have run through all 3 tanks before refilling, and with winter coming on, an extra tank provides an additional element of energy security.
I also found a pair of Carhartt’s® work pants. At $20, I figured it was better than half price off of new. However, this pair turned out to have a flannel lining! I don’t know what a pair like that costs at full retail.
Again, I wasn’t looking for new pants, and I’ve found Carhartt’s® inferior to my favorite pants, as I reported in
Comparing Pants (A Pants Off?). But, the flannel lining improves an unlined pair considerably, and I’ve been wearing this new pair almost constantly as I work to bring in the last of the winter’s firewood.
To reiterate my point, here are two examples of perfectly good items that outlived their usefulness in one home, and have found their way to a new home through secondhand retail.
Each time this happens, it represents savings to the purchaser, environmental benefits through reuse, avoidance (or, at least, delay) of landfill or other disposal, and a slight but hopefully cumulative move toward less rampant consumerism.
Our strategy of shopping secondhand first whenever possible pays us big dividends. If you haven’t tried it, you’ll likely find the same true for you.