I am thinking I am going to brave my local thrift shops and I've noticed there are a few gals on this site that are wanting to do the same with their local ones.
So I am hoping that some of you seasoned thrift shoppers would share your hints and tips with us :)
At the very least will get some discussion going :)
If the shop is a small business owner (SBO), they have the control over making prices, so negotiate. It doesn't hurt, and if they don't want to negotiate, then better asked than never tried!
"Chain" stores like the Goodwill usually have set prices that cannot be altered or negotiated. That being said, they also usually have discount days set into a schedule (Goodwill does "Green tags today are 1/2 price; Short sleeve tops are 1/2 price, etc). Find out what the special is on the day you go in and then keep it in the back of your mind as you shop. Also keep in mind that these stores are giving job skills, rehab and other very important social services to the community at large, so what you're buying supports that!
Older, more established neighborhoods will have exactly that - older, vintage, more sophisticated clothes. This also seems to hold true for older people communities as well. Younger, artsier neighborhoods yield younger, more bohemian or artsy type of finds. The neighborhood the store is in is really reflected in the items you will see at the store.
It doesn't hurt to make friends with the SBO or the manager of the store you seem to like alot... leaving them with your name and number to give you a call when they get in something(s) you're looking for can help you in your search.
Don't be afraid of alterations and tailoring. Try it on there if you can (there are usually no returns or exchanges), and if the fit is pretty good, or the sleeves can be altered, a hem raised (or lowered, if there's enough material), then you can truly personalize the item to you. Try to see past the store silhouette into the one you want and go from there. You are spending so little (usually) on the item that the alterations are still not going to raise the price to something off-the-rack.
Take someone you trust with you if you can... for that second look, to give good advice, to have fun.
Hope these help! Jenn =)