Everyday Living Tips | Frugal Living

10 Mistakes Consumers Make At Second Hand Stores

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Just because you shop at second hand stores doesn’t always mean you’re getting a deal.

Today I’m going to run through my top 10 common mistakes that consumers make when thrift shopping.

second hand stores Canada

Shop For Second Hand Bargains The Right Way

Shopping at second hand stores, you either hate it or you love it and that’s because of our lifestyle, budget, and beliefs.

Personally, we love to shop at second hand stores across Ontario because it has been one of the easiest ways to save our family money.

When people ask us how we were able to pay our mortgage off in 5 years part of that success comes from second hand stores.

We were never the couple to buy brand-new items unless it was necessary because having the latest and greatest never appealed to us.

There was nothing we needed to prove to anyone especially when it came to clothing, big houses, and stuff.

All of our lives we’ve been in and out of second hand stores but it didn’t start until we were in our 20s and living on our own.

Second Hand Shops For Student Discounts

In fact, it was when we were off at University that second hand stores became the norm for us.

I’m sure many students and even parents of students can agree that school is high-priced as it is and any savings is better than none.

Our local Value Village second hand store is crawling with local students throughout the year but tapers off during the summer months.

There’s no shame in shopping in second hand stores like there used to be because people just don’t care.

When it comes to paying the bills and saving money nobody should care what anyone thinks.

If you’re lucky you may have a local second hand store that offers student discounts and even seniors discount days.

Always carry your student card on you when you shop!

Second Hand Stores For Kids

Another popular store for parents is the second hand baby store where you can find mounds of inexpensive clothing for kids.

What I love about these types of exclusive second hand stores is that they cater to kids and often buy back what you purchase for cash. 

In our area, we have Once Upon A Child where you can sell your used baby items to them instead of selling privately online.

The store will buy anything from baby clothes, furniture, baby accessories, shoes, and toys from Canadians who want fast cash.

How it works at Once Upon A Time Second Hand Stores

Bring It In

Bring in your gently used children’s clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, and baby gear.

We’ll Check It Out

A store employee will review your items and make an offer based on style, safety, and condition standards.

Get Paid Cash

If you accept the offer, you’ll get paid cash on the spot!

The Big 5 Second Hand Stores in Canada

best second hand stores Canada

Mission Thrift Store

Mission Thrift Store

Mission Thrift Store is a volunteer-driven, non-denominational Christian organization that currently operates more than 50 thrift stores across Canada.

We provide used goods in a department store-like experience for value-conscious shoppers, who can find deals they can feel good about.

Our stores convert donated goods into cash, and the net revenue is devoted to the joint ministry of BFM Foundation (Canada) and Bible League Canada to support leadership and literacy programs in over 43 countries — giving people access to the life-giving, life-changing, Word of God.



Talize is a proudly Canadian owned and operated national for-profit retailer offering quality resale apparel and housewares at unbeatable prices.

As Canada’s newest and most unique shopping experience we offer new, like-new and vintage items all under one roof. 

That means fantastic deals on brand names and designer fashions as well as accessories, leather goods, footwear, housewares, books, toys and more. 

With new stores opening and over 6,000 items arriving on the floor daily, visit often to find your #talizetreasures!

Did you know that 85% of all textiles end up in landfills despite 95% being fully recyclable? 

Each of our stores saves more than 2 million pounds of goods per year from landfills. 

Look good and feel good about making eco-conscious choices.

Talize is a proud sponsor of the Children’s Wish Foundation, having donated over $2 million since our inception in 2005.

Goodwill Industries

Goodwill Industries

Changing lives and communities through the power of WORK.

Goodwill Industries, a non-profit social enterprise, provides work opportunities, skills development and employee and family strengthening for those who face barriers such as disability or social disadvantage; with the aim of advancing individuals, families and communities toward self-sufficiency and prosperity.

The Salvation Army Thrift Store

The Salvation Army Thrift Store

National Recycling Operations’ (NRO) role, within the context of The Salvation Army, is both to generate funds to help The Salvation Army achieve its mission, and to influence positively the communities in which we operate.

The Salvation Army exists to share the love of Jesus Christ, meet human needs, and be a transforming influence in the communities of the world.

Value Village

Value Village Savers Thrift Company

Value Village, a Savers brand, is a for-profit, global thrift retailer offering great quality, gently used clothing, accessories and household goods.

Our Rethink Reuse® business model of purchasing, reselling and recycling gives communities a smart way to shop and keeps more than 700 million pounds of used goods from landfills each year.

We also help more than 100 nonprofit organizations by purchasing donated goods from them, which provides a source of revenue to help supports their vital community programs and services.

10 Mistakes Consumers Make at Second Hand Stores

Shopping at second hand stores is an opportunity to save and earn extra money provided you know what you’re looking for and avoid these 10 common mistakes.

After being a regular consumer in Canada at just about all of the popular second hand stores we’ve learned quite a bit and made mistakes of our own.

There are people who can’t believe the bargains we find and the extra money we make buying low and selling high to pad our budget.

If you really want to get in on the savings game or finding a hobby where you buy and sell we have some important tips you should read.

I didn’t list one below but making friends with the staff at your local second hand shops is always a smart move.

I’m not saying to pretend to be someone you are not but be friendly with them because it will always benefit you in the end.

On numerous occasions, we’ve been given free items, deeply discounted items or returned items past the return policy date because they knew us as regulars.

It really does pay to say hello how are you or using the name of your cashier or the person who helped you.

I know that I would appreciate that working in customer service because many employees enjoy that interaction with their customers.

1. Read The Return Policy

For many second hand stores, the return policy is simple, there are no returns but ask before you shop if you are not sure.

Value Village, for example, does offer returns within a 7-day time frame along with the receipt and tags for the product purchased.

The one mistake we made was not knowing that not all items at Value Village can be returned.

Therefore it’s important you read the price tag which is where it will tell you if the item can be returned or not.

If you’re not sure, ask before you buy.

The only thing to remember is that it’s not cash back it’s an in-store credit so you will still have to spend the money in the store that same day buying something else.

2. Inspect Everything You Buy

One of the biggest mistakes is buying something from a second hand store that can’t be returned and it’s ripped, stained, missing pieces, or not working.

We’ve learned from our error and buy nothing now unless we 100% inspect it, especially if there is no return policy.

We are a bit relaxed if we buy from Talize or Value Village because they do offer a return policy but still inspect all items we consider purchasing when we can.

Ask Before Opening Sealed Used Items

The Goodwill, for example, they have no problem with us bringing up puzzles or toys that are taped to be opened and counted.

On numerous occasions, we are glad we did since there were missing pieces and no one wants to buy something with parts missing.

At Bibles For Missions, they actually write on the price tag whether all of the items are present which we think all second hand stores should do.

Don’t believe that these stores 100% check everything because we are human and can make mistakes.

Besides that, every company has lazy employees who don’t care about quality.

Do yourself a favour and inspect it all right down to the clothing, videos, CDs, books, bedding, towels, electronics, etc.

Just do it!

Almost all second hand stores offer a plug-in station where you can test electronics and small appliances.

3. Try-On Clothing, Shoes and Accessories

Thrift Store Mistakes
Costly Mistakes Made At Thrift Stores

If there is no return on items at the second hand stores you frequent then try everything on first.

I know that the lineups can be long if it is a busy discount day but wasting money on something you can’t return is costly.

While you are trying clothing on take the time to inspect the clothing as mentioned above for rips, stains, missing buttons, snaps, and zippers.

Even if you plan on buying a pair of used shoes try them on and walk around in them first.

Make sure the treads are decent and that they have some life left in them.

4. Negotiate If You Can

When you visit second hand stores they want to get rid of stuff so if you find an item priced high and there’s a problem, negotiate the price.

On many occasions, our son wanted to buy a toy but there was a part missing so we negotiated the price down as far as we could.

Most stores will either give you a percentage discount or a new price tag offer which has always been more than reasonable for us.

The way we look at is that if our son enjoys playing with a toy that costs $50 and we can get it for $2 or $3 it’s worth it.

We’ve also negotiated prices on clothing that have a stain that may or may not come out but it’s in a hidden spot.

Almost always we’ve gotten the stain out and received a discount at the same time.

5. Don’t Remove Price Tags

You know, I’ve made this mistake before and lost price tags and money because I wasn’t able to return an item.

Now, we always keep the price tags on everything we buy until we are 100% certain we are keeping it.

Sometimes we get an item home and try it on again and change our mind. It happens.

Other times we bring an item home and find a defect that we missed at the store.

6. Keep Your Receipts

I’m a huge advocate of having a receipt bin, box or folder at home for all purchases when it comes to budgeting and returns.

I can’t think of a time when we didn’t have a receipt for a return because we hand on to them for the return policy or product guarantee period.

At least once a year we shred our receipts that we no longer need but keep in mind some bigger purchase receipts may need to be held for years.

For example, we kept the receipt for our roof just in case we needed to claim on the warranty or wanted to prove to home buyers when the roof was done if we decided to sell.

At second hand stores having a receipt is critical to getting an in-store credit if it is offered because without it you may be out of luck.

7. Donate For Discounts

We like to give stuff away for free but we also like to donate to second hand stores to get further discount opportunities.

At Talize and Value Village both offer to donate discount offers where you bring in used or new items and they give you a card for a future discount.

Also, sign up online at your favourite second hand stores to get email notifications for upcoming promotions and coupons.

At Value Village they have a Savers Club where they send online coupons and offer special discount days just for members.

8. Shop On Discount Days

I know some of you are saying, Hell No because it IS a zoo on discount days at all second hand stores no matter what the masses say.

We’ve attended discount days at major second hand stores the day before the event as a valued customer and it’s still jammed with shoppers looking for bargains.

Without pause, I can tell you that we’ve been part of the round-building line-ups on 50% off discount days and it’s a rush.

One of the biggest times of the year for 50% off days is Back To School as parents are looking for deals.

Buying clothes, shoes, and accessories for your child at second hand stores saves huge amounts of money.

When we visit second hand stores on discount days we buy ahead of time for our son for clothes, shoes, and jackets.

Instead of walking away from a deal, we buy it while we can, especially when it is a high-quality item.

Last week I purchased a bag of nearly 200 pencils that he can use for years at school for $2.99.

You can’t even buy that at the local Dollar Store.

Ask About In-Store Discounts

Other second hand stores will have color-coded discount days every day.

Bibles For Missions in our community has a color-coded display when you walk in the door. 

The display tells customers which color tags are on sale for the day and the discount attached to that tag.

It’s a great way to move products out without having a monster 50% off sale.

All second hand stores in Canada have their way of getting the product sold and out the door but if you want the best discount shop on discount days.

9. Take Your Time Shopping

Don’t procrastinate too much because once you walk away from an item the next person behind you might scoop it up.

This happened to us once at Goodwill where they have big-ticket items at the back of the shop.

On the item, you will see a tag that the customer can rip off and hold until they get to the cashier for payment.

Once you have that tag you have the right to purchase that item before anyone else.

One day we took too much time to decide whether we wanted a hockey net for our son that was priced at $10.

All it took was a walk down the next aisle and a small discussion and when we came back the tag was gone.

Sometimes it pays to hang out in front of the item before walking away because at a second hand shop items are often one-off.

It’s not like you can return the next day and there will be a display full of the item that you can purchase once you’ve had time to ponder the purchase.

The good thing return policies at certain second hand stores allow you to return the item if it doesn’t fit your space or it wasn’t what you had in mind.

That hockey net retails for nearly $200 with taxes from Canadian Tire so someone got a great bargain.

10. Missing A Bargain

If you’re not sure about an item that you can return because you’re not sure if it’s a bargain or not, buy it or Google it.

We don’t have a data plan on our phone so if we find something we think is a great deal even for resale we buy it.

Worst case, we return it but we are regulars in the store.

Knowing what items are hot for resale always helps if you’re in the market of making extra cash.

Often we buy toys and anything brand new that we know we can resell for profit to help offset the costs of what we buy for ourselves such as clothing.

It’s a business plan for our budget because there are lots of people out there that have no interest in second hand stores but like a deal. 

We kind of do the leg work and reap the extra cash at the end so it’s worth it to us.

Take Advantage Of Second Hand Store Surveys

One last thing I want to mention is that if the second hand stores you visit offer a survey after you shop, do it.

Talize offers an online survey where you can win a $50 gift card just for telling them how they did when you visited their store.

At Value Village every fifth customer gets a second receipt with their purchase with a code to complete a survey.

It only takes a couple of minutes and they give you a $2 savings when you spend $5.

I’ll take any savings I can get especially at second hand stores.

And remember, if second hand stores aren’t for you or if you don’t believe in them then you don’t have to shop at them.

The money you earn allows you the ability to spend it where you wish and that’s ok too.

Discussion: What other tips can you offer Canadian consumers when shopping at second hand stores?

What other second hand stores can you think of in Canada that are popular that I may have missed?

Leave me your comments below as I’d love to hear from you.


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