Getting Thrifty With It; Tiger Lily

I’ve always loved thrift store shopping. When I was younger, it was the only place to find the vintage clothing that my friends and I, 1980s club kids, favoured. When I got older and money got tighter, it was a cheap way to look nice. And now that Ken and I have re-instated the antiques business and I’ve opened a second booth at the antique market, thrift stores are a wonderful place to find trinkets, odds and ends and whatnot that I can resell. The other day in fact, I was at a local thrift store, Goodwill, and found some good deals–a vintage action figure for a buck, a few pieces of ironstone and a depression glass rooster candy dish for 4.50. It’s from the 1930s, in excellent condition, and worth a heck of a lot more. So imagine my excitement when one of my co-workers at the antique market mentioned that there was a Goodwill ‘outlet store’ not too far away.

Me: OUTLET, you say? A place where things are even cheaper than at the regular Goodwill?
Co-worker: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. You pay by the pound. We’ve gotten some good stuff there.
Me: Where is this mecca of good deals?! I must know!
Co-worker: Just up the highway. Here are the directions.

I was super-excited, imagining a store lined with shelves of beautiful china, glassware, and other assorted sundries, and me with a shopping cart, just filling it up with things that didn’t weigh too much. Finally, last week, after days of anticipation, I was able to go there.


I arrived shortly after 10:30 in the morning, having followed my GPS instructions like a pirate with a treasure map. I pulled into the parking lot and the red flag should have gone up right there. It was PACKED. People were double-parked and cars were squeezed together, but luckily my car is quite tiny, and I managed to find a spot partly on the grass. I grabbed a couple of reusable shopping bags and walked through the door…into a giant open room. It was full of large, wheeled bins surrounded by people, who were going through them, tossing things up in the air, digging through to the bottom, and pulling things out. I was hesitant, and took a tentative step forward to peek into one of the bins, which was full of what looked like broken CDs. Then I noticed in the far corner, there was a line of tape on the floor, and behind the line of tape, there was a line of men, standing shoulder to shoulder, fidgeting, rocking back and forth on their heels and looking desperate and hungry. A store worker went by:

Me: Excuse me. That line-up over there—is that where I’m supposed to wait my turn or something?
Worker: Oh no. You can look in all the bins over here. Those guys are waiting for the new bins to come out. You have to stay behind the line until the new bins come to a complete stop and the back-room workers have had time to step away. Then we give a signal and you can dive right in.
Me: Maybe I’ll just watch for a bit.

After a minute, the doors to the warehouse suddenly flew open. The air bristled with anticipation and the men in line started cracking their knuckles and bouncing up and down on their toes. The bins were wheeled over to the corner and parked. A man began to move and a woman shrieked, “NOT YET!! STAY BACK!! The men muttered in frustration while the carts were positioned, and then the workers let go and backed away quickly as a whistle sounded. The line surged forward and everything became pure chaos. Arms disappeared into the bins, then reappeared holding perceived treasures. A cry went up as one man triumphantly brandished a coil of copper tubing. Two other men tussled over loose hockey cards, and another ran back to his shopping cart (I realized they all had carts lined up against the back wall) with a Coleman cooler. It was like feeding frenzy time at the shark tank, with vintage radios and glass vases as chum. Then, as quickly as it had begun, the men tossed their finds into their respective carts and ran, as a unit, to the opposite corner, where ANOTHER LINE FORMED. Apparently, the new bins were placed in alternating corners, and sure enough, a minute later, a set of full bins arrived, and a fresh round of shrieking and digging commenced.

So what did I do? What do you think? I tucked my reusable shopping bags under my arm, got the hell out of there, and drove like the wind to the calm oasis of Value Village.

In other news, I had the tremendous honour recently of being asked to write the foreword to my good friend and brilliant poet Susan Richardson’s latest compilation titled Tiger Lily, to be released on August 19. The collection is an ekphrastic collaboration between Susan and artist Jane Cornwell, and it’s just brilliant. You can pre-order it here. And here’s a sneak preview of one of my favourites, Mermaids Are Real:

43 thoughts on “Getting Thrifty With It; Tiger Lily

  1. First, thank you so much, Suzanne! For Everything!!! I am so grateful for your beautiful contribution to “Tiger Lily”, and for your support of my work all of these years!

    Second, I am so relieved you made it out of that goodwill hell, unscathed and hopefully, not too traumatised. It sounds like a total nightmare. Give me the tranquility of a quiet thrift shop any day!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I knew a guy who’d go to the Goodwill outlet here and he described it as being like a Chinese buffet where you just grab some of everything and you don’t know until you get back to your table that there are ribs on your plate. I never knew it was that nightmarish. It sounds worse than half-price Wednesdays at Goodwill which I braved once. Once.
    Susan’s book, on the other hand, sounds like the exact opposite of a nightmare and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Scenes from MadMax: A Canadian Calamity, no doubt.
    I can’t help but think you made this up. Human vermin scavenging refuse from the rich as it tumbles down the mountain of rejects and discards, the New York fashion industry its model. Were they selling dark green gloop in handy squeeze packets, too?
    Did you ever see the movie Alita: Battle Angel?

    Richardson’s poem are quite touching.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Holy crowd control Batman!! That sounds like complete discount chaos. I loved the Goodwill, but it’s become almost as pricy as gas these days. I mean I understand why, but cone on $12 for a table cloth I could get new at Walmart for the same price? You did the right thing by getting out of there, why would you want to fight the Goodwill bargain ninjas? 😝

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Gabi Coatsworth says:

    The Goodwill store sounds as though it’s a little short of actual goodwill. And your description reminded me of the first day of the Harrods sale in London, where the TV cameras would always be on hand to film elegant matrons fighting over sheets and dresses… what comes over people? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ha! Goodwill discount exists here, as well. A circle of hell as yet uncatalogued by some writer or poet. heh heh hehMuahaha. [Creepy organ music plays.] I too had the same reaction when I went there. Same repulsion. Same line-up waiting for the next carts. Yes, I left. But….some time later out of moron curiosity or boredom. I went back only once.
    Thought I found a shiny black purse. It looked expensive. I bought it and left. Horror of horrors! I eventually looked inside the soft and supple purse. It was Genuine Snake! I ditched it….and have never gone back.
    A story would be good!
    I liked the visual for the book of poems by your friend and the mermaid poem very much!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. a friend had a used clothes store here in Los Angeles – she’d go to swap meets, but said the ‘rag pickers’ had a whole network thing going on that kept serious buyers out…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This outlet store almost sounds like a portal to an alternate universe. I’d be getting the heck out of there too.

    I’ve been visiting a lot of thrift stores this summer, and found some wonderful items. One of the strangest, though, was a beaver pelt mounted on a bamboo circle – the pelt was cut to match the size of the circle – and someone has pasted googly eyes on it. It was funny, but also sad to see a beautiful beaver end up in such a bizarre way.

    Liked by 1 person

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