The Changing Landscape Of Reselling : (Some) Thrift Shops Are Onto Us

It has become quite evident that many thrift shops are very much aware of eBay over the last couple of years with a lot of the donated stock not even making it into the actual thrift shops anymore and instead are being sold on eBay out the back. This, in my opinion, has both good and bad aspects.

Obviously, for the charity that the shop represents, it’s great, more money coming in to support a good cause reflected by selling items at closer to prevailing market prices.

On the flipside, (pun intended) for resellers, this makes finding quality items for good prices much much harder with many items now priced either just high enough to not work to resell or priced at some astronomical level based on an eBay current listing – not even a sold listing. Either one won’t work for a reseller.

It still baffles me why some of these shops are doing this. The foot traffic through each store is minuscule in comparison to eBay’s reach. Some of the items priced in this manner will sit in the shop for months wasting space and therefore providing no benefit to the charity either.

I recently came across a pair of shoes which had obviously been donated and sold for $10 previously (it was still written on the shoe). Yet for some reason, the Salvos store had slapped another $9 on top and was asking $19?!



Sometimes items end up in a glass case with a handy eBay printout with the price. Maybe at times, the items price has been discounted a little compared with the eBay listing price and other times not at all (and excludes the built-in shipping cost)!


No Money In This Glass On The Shelf At $9…

Hidden Traps

There are some advantages to having someone else do research for you. Often all of these “special” items are collected in one place for easy viewing. I now often head straight to the glass case at the front of the store to see what treasures (or supposed treasures) lie within. I have managed to collect the odd bargain (even overpriced) this way which I will cover how further down.

What is extremely important to note with the thrift shops pricing like this is although they may “research” an item, they will often get it so very very wrong when it comes to quality Vs price overlooking critical defects and faults. It is critical to:

  • Check the condition.
  • Check it again.
  • If the item is damaged does the price reflect this correctly or has it been priced like it is new or like new?

As an example, one day I came across a nice Brooklyn watch in a glass cabinet with a price tag of $50. It looked almost like new, had the plastic protector still on the front and even came with the original box (See picture below).

The Brooklyn Watch

I got excited and went through current eBay listings to find the same model, found it, and it said perhaps it might sell for $120 new. So far makes sense, even at $50 there might be some money in it. I asked if I could get it out of the box to look at. It looked legit sitting all neatly in its box but I still had to check. Once I had I flipped the watch over I was disappointed to see some gouged scratches on the back of it.

Would there be any money left in it at this price?


Brooklyn Watch Located In A Salvos

It was a Friday and I said to the cashier that I liked it but would need to think about it some more (code for: I need to research it more) and asked whether they could hold it till tomorrow morning which would have been Saturday. She said they could so no problem but only until lunchtime. Fair enough.

After I got home I did some further research and found that I could buy this exact watch delivered brand new to my house for $80. There was no margin left on the scratched watch that I was in any way comfortable with. I phoned the next morning and let them know.

A few days later, I went back to the shop and let the same lady I had originally seen know what I had found and posited what price they might realistically expect to sell it for. They said thank you for the feedback and that they would pass this information on to the manager.

Over 3 months later this watch was still in that shop and still priced at $50! Facepalm…


Another recent example, I came across a few graphing calculators all in the same shop that were complete in boxes with instructions. Someone had obviously done some “research” as they were all priced between $15-$30 far from the usual $2. Some of these graphing calculators can sell for really good money depending on the brand, TI or Texas Instruments as a great example. There was still enough of a margin to warrant further inspection so I opened them up and every single one had defects of some kind. Heavy scratching, missing cases or manuals. The $30 calculator had a broken cracked screen (though it did turn on I suppose)! A new one of the same model retailed for $80, would someone pay over $50 for this to make it viable to resell? I pictured myself as a student displaying a crapped out calculator for the world to judge me about, nope, it didn’t make sense. I sighed, wondered how long these would sit for and put them back.


Taking Advantage Of This Trend

Although on face value it might seem like there are fewer opportunities with this shift in thrift shop behaviour there are still a few ideas for you to consider.

  • Learn Where To Get What Items Where. Over time it becomes easier to identify where good deals for particular items will be and minimise wasting your time dealing with overpriced items. For example, if one store sells cheap electronics and often has games, another is expensive all round but does have cheap ties and a large selection of books at reasonable prices.
  • Take Advantage Of The Promotions When They Come Around. Keep an eye out for coloured tag discounts or other special store deals.
  • Sign Up To The Loyalty Program. It is obvious but as a reseller spending a fair amount of money in some of these places instore credit can really add up quite quickly and will decrease the overall cost of goods sold (COGs). I have a Good Sammys Card that once stamped 10 times gets me 50% off. I can even handle some of those ridiculous prices when I have this bad boy in play.
  • Ask For A Discount. The best for last. One of my favourite sayings is “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”. You will be surprised how often this will work. At the end of the day, the stores do want to sell items. Often I will find items in those glass cases that have been “researched”, I will offer a price that will work for me and if they agree, great, if not I thank them and move on. A recent example of a pricing mismatch was 2 board games. The first was a Backgammon game in a nice leather case and in really nice condition selling for $19. The second was a Mahjong game also in a leather case and very heavy. The Mahjong had tile sets that were still wrapped in plastic meaning they hadn’t been played. Inexplicably this game was only $7. Financially it only made sense to buy Mahjong which should sell for around $80 (currently priced at $99) but I wanted the Backgammon board as I play this every Christmas with the brother in law and wanted a new set to bring this year. I asked politely if I could combine the 2 board games together for $20 and success I have a brand new Backgammon game for holiday fun and will make $60 profit (and keep the Backgammon for free) after I sell the Mahjong.


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