McGregor Says: Shopping in the bargain basement

There you are in a thrift store, looking through the clothing racks for the expensive labels, when you spot someone you know across the way.

Your first thought is, “Why are they in here?”

Then your second thought is, “Did they see me, and if they come over to talk, why am I in here?”

We tend to get defensive about why we are shopping in a second-hand store and our excuses range from, “I’m looking for a costume” to “I’m going camping,” or “I’m doing some painting.”

Very few of us blurt out, “I shop here a lot.

I find some great deals on some quality items.”

I’m reminded of the old Vaudeville routine where she says, “Every time I’m down in the dumps, I get a new dress.”

He replies, “So, that’s where you find all your clothes!”

But, as our economy wobbles and falters, statistics show that more and more people are shopping at thrift stores.

A recent survey reveals that 85 per cent of Canadians bought, sold or exchanged used items in the past year creating an estimated $36 billion in economic activity.

According to the nearly 6,000 people surveyed, they saved an average of $500 and earned an average of $900 buying or selling used items.

In Langley, new thrift stores have popped up all over town in the last couple of years.

Some are large, main street department store operations while others are tucked away in side streets or malls.

Most of them support a non-profit charity — either locally or overseas — and all of them are always busy places as the treasure hunters dig through boxes and scour shelves like urban archeologists.

Some shoppers are inspired by environmental concerns supporting the process of recycle, re-use rather than just throw stuff away.

For other second-hand aficionados, it can be a social outing, a chance to meet other ‘thrifters’ and compare bargains and brag about the ‘steal’ they found.

Some shoppers are on the hunt for a specific item, a piece of furniture or a lamp shade or maybe a jacket to complete an outfit.

Even if they don’t find it, the hunt can be as exciting as the find.

But you have to know what you’re doing.

When you’re looking through the clothing racks, be aware of the labels. Finding a shirt that is $70 retail and getting it for $7.99 with another 30 per cent off on seniors’ day, is truly a great score.

Even if it’s not the right colour for you, a deal like that is pretty hard to pass up.

Buying electrical items can be tricky.

Most places have someone checking the items before they put them out on the shelf.

But remember, somebody got rid of it for a reason.

Maybe only one side of the toaster heats up. Maybe the alarm works but doesn’t shut off unless you pull the plug.

I have a secret place where I buy my books.

Hard cover books for 50 cents will provide you a summer of reading for $5.

Unless of course I am selling my books — then I expect you to pay full price, but I will sign it for you.

Most folks don’t leave empty handed.

Even if they don’t find what they went in for, they might see a purse, a painting, a trinket of some sort.

It’s sort of like walking through your Grandma’s house, and the memories are free.

At least that’s what McGregor says.