If you find a great deal, look inside really well to examine the lining, look outside for any stains that have been ruined by someone trying to remove something, leaving the item not worth paying for just a name. That's where you get to point it out and bargain.
If they are willing (not all are) to lower the price, knowing how to bring the item back to its almost new condition for pennies of what it cost, for me is exciting. I don't resell items but many do. So be careful these are some of what is on eBay. Always ask, if you are one who buys used leather, expensive jeans, hand bags, etc. online, if it has been restored.
My friend had been looking for a Levi jacket for so long, but was unable (or unwilling) to pay store cost. On one of our trips, there was a perfect condition jean jacket in her size for $12.00. This isn't what I usually look for or does she, but once in awhile, we all have that special something we are hoping for.
Leather jackets, if they haven't been worn in awhile, have a couple things to look for; make sure the zipper slides easily, it isn't off track anywhere, and look at the leather. Check the lining - I have found it has been taken out; which means sometimes it had been worn hard, or could be there just was a rip or stain so it has been removed. If you sew, this may be an easy fix, if inexpensive, to get done. I have only redone the "vest" part of a leather jacket which was easy, not expensive for that style of jacket, and worked fine. Look at the cuffs - if it hasn't been taken care of, that is one place you can really see tatter. If the jacket has room to shorten the sleeves, is quality may still be worth the investment. Elbows on the sleeves and the collar is where I also look for the hidden wear, not just a stain popping out or a tear that is in plain sight. I take very good care of my leather, therefore I have a motorcycle jacket still in style that is a couple decades old. Where I live, I have found usually not the case, some donate great quality leather jackets with names I could never think about buying so its worth looking. Sometimes anyone can get lucky.
For hand bags, it's the same thing really. Look at them. Just because they are under lock and key doesn't always mean it's a treasure. It is always the name, that's why they keep them locked up. If it's in good condition on the bottom of the bag and the lining is intact, check out the straps to see if they look worn (I don't mean not new, but really used). Make sure you look where your hand bag get worn out the most. I have found it's usually the same 2 or 3 places.
Always check zippers on both leather jackets, skirts, jeans, and handbags. Make sure they are in working order, on track or if it's something easy like just sticking you know what you are dealing with so you can maybe get a deal, or at the very least, not over pay if they over-looked something. If you don't know how to fix or replace a zipper yourself, my alteration place has good prices, however sometime if you have to replace a zipper, it may well not be worth your find. If it's just sticking or jammed you usually can tell right away. Always make sure it's on track (the bottom isn't ruined). Zippers being stuck easily can be fixed with DW40; it works for me every time. That is what I would recommend, if its only a zipper that is sticking and it's something you want and worth the money.
If the leather itself has a spot on it, it could save you money by pointing it out and be something you can fix. I have a great pair of boots that I tripped in the first time I wore them and tore the leather, making the toes look black, not the brown boots I had bought. Any craft store sells paint that is water proof, used for leather. Even if its an "off" color like mine was, I mixed 2 of the paints together and to this day only my son and I know it ever happened. So if there is a place on a bag, jacket, or pair of boots some of it can be redone for around $5.00 making it well worth it. When I say redone I don't mean the entire bag or jacket, I mean worn spots on the elbows, or spots of wear on a bag can be easily matched with this paint and made to look new again.
For example my own bag, which I love, is a mustard color. Where I keep my hand sanitizer there is a worn spot, but the rest of the bag is still in perfect shape - matching that and fixing it myself is what I will do, not get rid of my Tignanello. I promise it was a gift I will have for years to come.
Leather can be cleaned up and reconditioned in a few ways without costing you a bunch of money; talcum powder removes grease from leather, so just because there is a spot of oil or grease may not mean it's not worth seeing if they will give you a deal, or if it is a great deal may be worth a second look. Remember you can buy leather cleaners, water proof products, or if like me, use olive oil for cleaning and keeping my leather in soft, subtle shape costing hardly nothing. I have heard coconut oil works well. It comes in a jar and is very hard making it easy to put on a cloth and rub into the material. Also remember if it's brown, black, rust, or a color easily matched and has a small spot or maybe creases from prior use, shoe polish will soak into the spot, making it appear the same color. When using shoe polish on anything other than shoes, make sure you polish a couple of times, using a small amount each time and always getting any left over polish off. If you don't, it will come of on something you don't want it to; like your shirt, coat, etc. The liquid shoe stains do not do this. If using one of them make sure you have matched up the leather before applying. These things can also make an item you have look new again.
Jeans, another thing found behind the counter or in the glass case, are always based on name brand. $25.00 for a pair of brand name jeans may be something many are interested in, but look out for knock offs. The people working at Salvation Army or Goodwill especially, will not know how to recognize fakes. The small independent thrift stores or consignment stores know more of what they have, and its worth. I know polo type shirts that have a little symbol on the right side, aren't always a real polo (Ralph Lauren), or another brand, but they have copied the "tag" or taken it from another item. If you don't look close, you wouldn't catch it until too late. Not everyone cares about labels, but if you are paying for it, you should get what you pay for - new or used.
They keep sun glasses and jewelry there locked away also, these are so easy for people who steal to take. It doesn't always mean they are anything expensive to begin with. I have found the neatest jewelry behind the glass in bundles sometimes and on a half price day. Keep in mind these things are already marked down like everything else in the store.
Cameras, CD players, and watches are just a few of the other things that seem to be out of reach. If you ask they will gladly open the case. Make sure it's working (if it needs electricity or battery) - it's usually a good idea to carry some batteries with you if you are looking for any items that take them. That way you know its in good working order. I got a beautiful, expensive watch for $10.00 from my church thrift store and they said if you take it and get a battery, if it doesn't work, bring it back. Not everywhere would do that, so ask to be sure. For the cost of a watch battery, I have a watch I could never afford, wouldn't even have thought I could own one.
Sometimes these locked away treasures are worth asking, maybe bargaining, putting in a little time. Other times it's better to know when it's not a treasure at all; just locked away. Items found behind the glass can make the best gifts. Although they may not be your usual purchases, don't be afraid to look. I wrote in one of my posts where I had gotten a blow dryer that was worth well over $100.00, but I knew what I was looking at. Like I said, "some people make a living doing this" - most of us do not, so knowing a little bit about what you may be bargaining down could pay off. I always look at what is in style, what is in the magazines, and when I see name brands it helps knowing a little bit about what you may be "hoping" to find. Always try to look on the days they have 50% off or any other special your local thrift store has.
Finding a bargain is so much fun. Once in a while, it is like finding hidden treasure! I keep up on magazines and look at what the price "new" is to see if it is really a deal when buying anything that isn't obviously my usual thrift purchases. Good luck with your treasure hunting!
By Luana M. from San Diego, CA
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You have some really good tips on what to look for & be careful of, but I've found most of my real treasures on the floor, where someone who didn't realize what it was marked it for practically nothing! ;D
This is very helpful, especially since I am a financially strapped college student! I love to have nice things to wear and name brand hand bags, but often times I can't afford them. Using this method to shop really helps me. I am going to try the leather cleaning tips on a few jackets I have had for years.
Absolutely right. Sometimes it is better to go consignment when looking for leather and name brands as well. Usually they are very up on the latest fashions and know name brand from knock off. They have sales too! Last February I found two $200 plus brown sheerling leather jackets for $50 each. They were marked 50% off! I got both coats one shorter and one dress calf length for 50$ all together! Nearly 500$ worth of Wilson leather coats. This is a great tip especially if you have children!
Oh, I am so cheap that I look for the leather jackets/purses & other treasures not under glass! Sometimes real leather is mistaken for vinyl & then you really get a good deal! (You can smell leather!) I have found several very nice black leather jackets of varying weights for my husband just hanging on the regular racks.. Ditto a green purse for me. I do find that things in glass cabinets tend to be overpriced, although I have found good deals on moisturizers & that sort of thing in cabinets(?) And I do look at the jewelry.
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