Friday, March 20, 2015

Thriftshopping in Big Stone Gap, Virginia

(Reclaimed from Bubblews, where it appeared on July 30, 2013. Image credit: Cheriedurbin at Morguefile:

Fair disclosure: I don't think anyone goes to Big Stone Gap just for the thriftshopping experience. I didn't; I actually went there in order to buy something useful that wasn't even pre-owned (a camera). In the shopping plaza where I bought the useful item was a Goodwill store. I like shopping on behalf of charities, when possible, so I went inside to check for bargains.

Of course, the way charity stores work is that you never know in advance what the store will have. Big cities have huge charity stores where it's possible to be 95% sure that, if you want something commonplace, like a pair of 32x30 blue jeans, you'll probably find it. Smaller towns and stores do not offer even this assurance to the shopper. Maybe they have a plain white medium-size T-shirt without paint stains on it, maybe they don't. If you call and ask whether they have one, someone else might buy it before you get to the store. This is actually what makes thriftshopping addictive. You go into the store with a mental list of things you'd consider buying if the store had them for a certain price. If you want to buy one specific thing and nothing else, you might have to buy it new, at the regular retail price...or not.

The Goodwill store in Big Stone Gap had several racks of clothes. I didn't take the time to look at clothes, since I own plenty. A display of unworn canvas shoes donated by a retail store caught my eye, but since (as usually happens with this kind of thing) all the shoes on the rack were size 10 or larger and I wear a size 7, I didn't spend time in that corner of the store either. I noticed that the store had racks of toys, dishes--lots of coffee mugs, in case anyone out there collects mugs--and miscellaneous household items, but didn't really shop for those either. 

What I look for in thrift stores are books and knitting yarn. The selections change from day to day. Maybe if I'd gone in last week I would have found an armload of interesting books in the Goodwill store. Today the only books that looked remotely interesting were duplicates of books I already own, and the shelves were jammed with paperback romances. For those who think a story about a red-haired girl called Suzie meeting a guy, liking him, quarrelling with him, making up with him, and smiling sweetly at him on the last page is different from a story about a blonde called Sherry meeting a guy, liking him, etc., etc., the Goodwill store in Big Stone Gap is currently the happy hunting ground, but I hunt more elusive bargains.

I did find some yarn. Some acceptable yarn. Maybe in some parts of the country a storekeeper would think there couldn't possibly be a market for twelve ounces of orange acrylic yarn, and would be right. I happen to live near the Tennessee border, where there is a market for anything in U.T. Volunteers orange. Some people in Tennessee will even wear clothes in that shade of orange.

A sign on the front door advertised that a tag sale was going on. Many charity stores use tag sales to keep merchandise moving. If the store uses up a batch of red price tags, then purple, then blue, and so on, then before breaking out another batch of red tags they can put the previous batch of red-tagged items on sale for half price, and get rid of them. The price on the bundle of yarn was acceptable, but yes, it was color-coded for the half-price sale! Hurrah! 

Just before laying the yarn on the checkout counter, I saw a display of back-to-school items. Not being in school, I left plenty of these items for students at Mountain Empire Community College to discover. (The college is across the hill, behind the shopping center.) I do use lots of folders, and what a bargain-hunting thrill to discover lots of brand-new folders spread out on the display. I bought only five dollars' worth of folders. If you use colorful cardboard folders to organize work or school papers, run don't walk.

Will I go back to this store? Not for a while. Some charity stores like to employ the unemployable. One thing that qualifies as making some people unemployable is disrespect for customers. This Goodwill store had unfortunately hired one of the cashiers who need to be told that anything that plops out of their mouths other than "The total price is..." and "Thank you, Sir/Ma'am" amounts to disrespect for customers. Maybe making friendly conversation with a store employee is an invitation, these days, for the employee to blat out rude, vulgar language, so maybe I was at fault for giving the woman an opportunity to any case, I don't feel any need to support a charity that is represented by obnoxious employees.
Too bad. Goodwill is a legitimate charity and this is, otherwise, a decent little store.