The local thrift store is a strange animal. In it exists such an all encompassing cross-section of life. At any given moment and in any part of the city you can find pretty much every class of society all slidin’ hangers in the same slashed price marts. This level of interaction, albeit brief, rarely exists anywhere else in our daily lives. Over the years of scouring the likes of McCart Thrift, River Oaks Salvation Army, and Thrifttown on Henderson, I’ve compiled quite a bit of anthropologic data. Allow me to provide you a small digest of the three main genres of thrift store patron.
The Practical Patron is usually a mother of two or more whose kids are anywhere from pre-school to middle school age. You know this because she is there during the day while her kids are in school or, in many cases, toting a toddler along. She usually stops by once every month or so for your basics (i.e., school clothes, socks, streak-less bvds for her working man, etc.). She rarely makes personal purchases. These shoppers will usually be pushing a cart when available. They have kind eyes and speak softly.
Next we have The Theme Party Scavengers. They are there solely for ‘hilarious’ finds to satisfy the 70s or ‘hippy’ motif of an upcoming shin dig. They are usually college kids. This particular shopper can get real offensive real quick. It all depends on his or her level of sensitivity to their surroundings. Maybe holding up a pair of sansabelt slacks (similar to the ones our Practical Patron has just carted for her husband) and shouting to your partner-in-finds “These are hysterical!” isn’t such a good idea. They are loud and move whole sections of shirts while people are still looking through them.
Finally we have our third party: The True Fan. These are generally guys and gals in their late twenty’s and on up who are genuinely fans of the clothes one would find at these bargain barns. They tend bar, serve food, go see live music, and like old t-shirts and Wrangler rancher pants. They remove the hangers from their selections before they check out. They shudder when they see Scavengers parade their affluence in front of the Practical Patron who’s at the counter deciding which items she needs to put back. They bring cash and say thank you.
Now before we tar and feather The Scavenger, let’s all remember how well-behaved we all were at that age. Youth has never been synonymous with tact. Please don’t pity The Practical Patron either. She doesn’t need it. She’s got three kids to care for and she can do it just fine without you feeling sorry for her. And The True Fan is by no means a gallant knight riding to the rescue of the socially trod upon. He just doesn’t want to spend forty bucks on a v-neck from American Apparel. No, like any good study of human beings this data proves absolutely nothing. Nothing except that it takes all kinds, Sam. Takes all kinds.