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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

True Confessions: I Was a Picker

PICKER: An earlybird who hunt swap meets, estate sales, thrift stores, etc and scoops up the good deals - often for resale in antique shops or on ebay. (Urban Dictionary)

Recently, a commenter on my blog asked if I noticed pickers in my area thrift stores. The answer is YES. In fact, I have seen pickers in every thrift store I have ever been lucky enough to enter. And, as a further in fact, I myself was a picker (and may still be one, though I try to resist.) Based on my expert observations, I would say that at least 75% of the people you see at thrifts and the like are pickers. No kidding.

Perhaps this will be the start of a series of posts. I find the phenomenon interesting, because you see people who live--sometimes very well--by their wits. I find that admirable, even though they often get stuff I covet.

Let me start with a trip to my impoverished grad school past. Because of funding issues, my program cut the years one could have a TA (a form of indentured servitude imo). Opportunities for employment in college towns are extremely limited.

One day, my French friend Michelle had a yard sale on my well-situated porch. She was preparing to move to the former Yugoslavia with her fiance Mauricio (sadly the marriage failed). She sold Mauricio's Tito-era wool overcoat for a dollar to a nice young woman.

 A few days later, I was lamenting my incipient unemployment to a woman I knew. She said, "Since you go to thrift stores anyway, why don't you buy things to consign at the Eye of Osiris." So the next week I bought a vintage jacket for a quarter at the giant yard sale held in graduate student housing. That was my first investment.

I took it to the Eye of Osiris. There was the woman who bought the coat! She remembered me. I asked her if she had sold the coat and she said yes. It had sold for $25.00! Then I showed her my jacket. She liked and said she would buy it on the spot. She gave me $12.00.

So I went back to the thrift store and discovered that I was good at finding things, which has been both a blessing and a curse. I ended up working one day a week at the Eye of Osiris and made many dear friends and enjoyed working with the eccentric customers who frequented the place. It was probably too much fun because I became a terrible procrastinator on my dissertation. The original owner Pat sold the store to Nora, who turned it from a vintage store to a head shop. But by then, I was pretty much done.

I got a teaching job.


The Frugal Shrink said...

Love this story!! As you know, I also did some reselling in grad school, primarily via Ebay. It was so helpful to have something I could do to earn money that worked with my busy and sometimes unpredictable schedule. Good memories!

The Frugal Shrink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dotsybabe said...

I bought a vintage woman's Burberry trench coat fr $16 at a thrift shop, wore it a few times (it was too large and too short for me), and then consigned it. It sold for $125, of which I got a share. I used to be a TA too and understand the indentured servitude concept.

Duchesse said...

I've posted on my mixed feelings about pickers, and my experience seeing clothes donated to Goodwill show up in a trendy vintage boutique with a price tag higher than what I originally paid. And that takes nothing away from my admiration for your eye¡

Frugal Scholar said...

@FS--Too bad we can't go shopping together!
@Dotsy--Wow! that's incredible. TAs seem to be better compensated these days--now the most underpaid/exploited are the adjuncts.
@Duchesse--Once more, you have inspired a post. Thanks as always.

Shelley said...

I was just at a community centre book sale yesterday where hard back books were £1 and paper backs 50p. There was a lady who picked up a very rudely titled book and couldn't resist sharing it with us around her. I moved away but later Bill caught up and said she was buying books to resell. I don't think I'll be looking for her shop, but I'm not surprised many people do this. I've collected sewing books over the years and from what I see on Amazon/eBay my books are worth a lot more than I paid for most of them.