5 Things NEVER To Buy At A Thrift Store

Stuffed Animals. I know how much my little boy loved on his teddy bears as a baby. And by “loved on,” I do mean drooled on, spit up on, drug on the floor, dropped in the street, tossed in the yard… So you get the point, right? They are germ central, second only to the ball pit at pre-Covid playrooms. And since you can’t count on them surviving the washer and/or the dryer, it’s best to pass on little Fluffy.

Bath Products, Perfumes, Body Lotions & Makeup. Generally anything that would be stored in your bathroom is a “skip it.” Did you know that these products have expiration dates? Most only last 6–24 months after opening. (Psst, check out this Insider piece for a great article that tells you how to find the expiry date.) And, since these items aren’t being sold by an authorized reseller, you can’t confirm they are authentic. There’s also no way to tell if they are contaminated. There’s a ridiculous amount of fraud in the beauty industry and fakes abound. Check out the Netflix docuseries Broken to see just how pervasive the problem is. Bottomline: these products may not be safe so move along to Sephora ladies.

Luxury Handbags. If you spot a Louis Vuitton or Prada at the thrift, don’t start jumping up and down thinking you’ve scored a hidden treasure — more than likely it’s a fake. The resale value on these bags is so high that it doesn’t make sense that someone would donate them. I spotted a lovely Prada, with tags still on, at the local thrift and had a quick moment of excitement. Starry eyed, I asked the clerk, “Do you think it’s real?” She said, “I don’t. It doesn’t seem to be leather. And it’s not high quality enough.” It’s extremely difficult for even the most experienced buyer of vintage to authenticate these bags. Luxury resellers like The Real Real have a “multi-point authentication process” so you’re nearly guaranteed to get the real deal. I purchased my Louis Vuitton Speedy bag from this site and then punted it to Lauren at Once Upon a Lauren to give it a glow up. Check it out below. She’s also made over her fair share of Coach bags, which IMO are easier to authenticate and CAN be found for super bargains at the thrifts if that’s your jam.

Louie Vuitton Speedy bag purchased from The Real Real and given a glow up by Once Upon a Lauren.

Electronics & Electrical Items. Always proceed with caution when buying anything electronic at the thrift. There’s a strong chance it won’t work, so you really need to be OK with losing your money if you proceed with purchase. I purchased a box of light-up bracelets for my kiddo assuming that since the box was unopened they’d work perfectly. Nope. They operated on tiny button batteries, which had all been rusted over. So, money down the drain and an unhappy kid. On the other hand, I bought a $10 Banker’s Desk Lamp that worked perfectly and, after a good cleaning, looks beautiful. I figured at ten bucks that I could take the risk and was fortunate that it paid off. PS, when I brought it home, my boyfriend said, “What, are you a banker now?” to which I replied, “If having a Banker’s Lamp makes me a banker, then I’m now a banker.” Check her out below.

Banker’s Lamp scored from an LA thrift store.

Bad Karma Items. The Bric Brac section is brimming with crazy finds, like this “Hearse Parking Only” sign. I thought it was a Halloween decoration at first, but it didn’t have any tell-tale signs of “this is just a joke.” There was no hook. It was extraordinarily sturdy, made of real metal. Even the size seemed authentic. And I found it at the thrift during a time as COVID hospitalizations were peaking and when you cringed every time you heard ambulance sirens. So I let it be.

Hearse Parking Only sign found in the Bric-a-Brac section of an LA thrift store.



I'm a self-proclaimed thrift store junkie curating and upcycling dope finds and putting them back into the universe for others to enjoy.

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Jules Mathis

I'm a self-proclaimed thrift store junkie curating and upcycling dope finds and putting them back into the universe for others to enjoy.