The Conspicuous Consumer Scdvage Operations

Shopping at thrift stores takes timing, a practiced eye, and a sense of adventure.

Walk into any thrift store in Dallas on the day new stock arrives and you’ll witness something like the Oklahoma land rush, the scramble for a Super Bowl fumble, and Kentucky horse-trading. It’s the thrift store stampede, and it requires not just luck, but timing, patience and a sharp eye.

The participants are not poor waifs scrapping for a piece of bread crust, but in many cases, the upper crust scrapping for a castoff or a basement-priced cocktail dress. Thrift store shopping sometimes turns up incredible kernels among the chaff and at bargain prices.

According to Dottie Cartwright, a young free-lance artist who half-seri-ously bills herself “the super Goodwill shopper of Dallas,” timing is of the essence in thrift store shopping. After three years of thrift store scouring she counts among her coups the following: 100 pieces of Dansk flatware, in a current pattern, bought for $65 at Goodwill, and worth about $750; a brand new Eddie Bauer sleeping bag for $16; and an American Indian basket she purchased for 35 cents and for which an antique dealer offered her $75.

To get the great buys before they are all snatched up, she counsels you to learn the delivery schedules of the various stores and precisely when the merchandise is put out for sale in each. Goodwill and Salvation Army, for instance, bring all their donations to a central place for sorting and repair, if necessary. Items are then sent to the branch stores at specific times each week. All branch stores are supposed to get the same quality of goods, but the higher volume ones get a larger supply and managers can request more of a certain item if it sells well in that particular neighborhood. The other thrift stores do not run such precise schedules, but they are better stocked on certain days of the week. Knowing the schedules puts you on an even footing with the collectors and dealers, for most of the stores have strict policies prohibiting anyone from seeing, reserving or buying merchandise before it goes on the shelves. In most instances, store employees can not make purchases until the goods have been on display for 24 hours.

Seasons are also important, with more items generally available after spring and fall housecleanings. Ms. Cartwright notes that better clothing appears in winter, as people tend to spend more money on cold weather garments.

Besides a sense of timing, the thrift shopper must have a good eye. Many large retail stores donate new, slightly (sometimes infinitesimally) damaged goods to the thrift stores, especially to Goodwill and the Salvation Army. This, I assume, is the source of the Pierre Cardin tie, of current style, I found recently for 85 cents; the Chinese import art objects; and the Geoffrey Beene cocktail dress of recent vintage tagged at $8.95.

Of course used items still form the main stock of these stores. Because of the recent antique boom, store managers have gotten wise to the value of old things they once considered junk, and in some instances overprice low quality goods simply because they look old. But some things still get by. One Disabled American Veterans store manager told me of the old jewelry set he sold for $12, later learning it was worth $250; of the gorgeous antique oak tables that went for $35 each; of the World War I era stere-opticon, with 80 slides, that was practically given away for $7.

Even if you don’t find an antique, older wooden furniture is often a good buy and usually of superior construction to modern pieces. So are used appliances, as long as they work. Just remember that none of these stores can guarantee an appliance, although if you buy one that’s supposed to work and something is grievously wrong, you can usually get a purchase credit.

Books also constitute a worthwhile purchase, and there’s always the chance of getting a first edition for a quarter. Antique and period clothes have been a fad for some years now, but the chances finding any really old clothes are small. Period dresses occasionally do turn up. The current fad for cowboy and Hawaiian shirts is not too difficult to fulfill at the thrift stores.

One final rule in thrift shopping – patience. Since the stores depend on donations, and because their stock turns over rather quickly, you can go there on even the best-timed day and find nothing of interest. Thus, you simply cannot go shopping with a particular item in mind. But if you go with a sharp eye and a sense of adventure, you can’t lose.


With a dozen stores in the Dallas area, Goodwill is the leading thrift shop chain. It is the best place to get very current, very wearable clothes at extremely reasonable prices. Goodwill is one of the few thrifts to clean all clothes before they are put out on the racks (although none of the stores hang up dirty or smelly clothes). It also features try-on rooms and shopping carts. While the furniture is often nicely finished and repaired, it usually is not cheap enough to be considered a bargain on the order of the Salvation Army’s. Only the Main store at Hampton road carries much furniture. All branches have dishes, glasses and small appliances – and these can be good buys. Goodwill will deliver your large purchase for free if it costs $30 or more. Less than that, there is a $5 delivery charge.

Main Store, 2800 N. Hampton Road

– Besides being the biggest and best -stocked, this Goodwill has the Treasure House, where all the nicest dishes, jewelry, decorative items and antiques are sold, usually at prices a bit higher than in the rest of the store. Be careful, for some of this merchandise is overpriced and of dubious antiquity. Although Goodwill personnel say items are put out here at various times, constant shoppers find that most merchandise arrives at the Treasure House between 10:30 and 11 a.m. every day except Monday.

The remainder of the store features a great selection of clothes, with a lot of current stylish blouses, as well as older styles, priced from 89 cents to $2. This store also stocks the largest selection of used books of any of Dallas’s thrift shops, and they are all neatly categorized. Paperbacks start at 19 cents, hardbacks at 29 cents. Don’t overlook the bin items – lower priced clothes and miscellany. Here you can find good linens for less than a dollar, and sometimes handmade quilts for under $5.

Next to the Main building lies an open, fenced-off area known as the Flea Market. For those who like to pick up spare parts, it’s a gold mine. Otherwise, it’s a pile of mostly useless, unrepairable junk. A large shed in the Flea Market houses clothing not good enough to hang in the main store. Although most of this is also junk, Goodwill public relations person Rita Cox says it is here you’re most likely to find really old clothes, which the store’s pricers often assume is unsaleable.

1505 Second Avenue – There are some good buys, particularly in small appliances, in this bright cheery store. The few pieces of furniture are most abundant on Fridays. Clothing is put out on Monday between 2 and 4 p.m., and early Friday morning. Wares go out Monday noon, and Thursday between 3 and 4 p.m.

100 N. Lancaster (Oak Cliff) – This large store has a good clothes supply, a small but neat book section, and very little furniture. Although the store gets deliveries Tuesday and Thursday, items are not put out in any particular order, although most of them are on the shelves by Friday night.

2511 Elm Street – Another good place for small appliances and other wares. Deliveries come in Tuesdays and Thursdays, with clothing put out between 12:30 and 1 p.m. the same day.

2710 Samuell Street – The clothes selection is good, that of wares and books is not. Clothes are put out Tuesday between 10 and 11 a.m., wares from 11 to 12. On Thursday, clothes go out from 2 to 3 p.m., and wares from 3 to 4 p.m.

Ferguson Village Shopping Center – A large store, generally well stacked. New items come in Tuesday and Friday afternoon; wares are put out first and other merchandise on a non-scheduled basis.

2004 Greenville Avenue – This small but expanding store has been enjoying a growing popularity during the past year. On Wednesday, wares are put out from 2 to 3 p.m., miscellaneous from 3 to 3:30 p.m., clothes from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. On Friday the order is: wares, 9 to 10 a.m.; miscellaneous 10-10:30 a.m., and clothes from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Garland, 530 Garland Avenue – This nicely arranged store makes good buys very easy to find. This branch carries more textbooks than the others, because of the large number of college students in the area. A unique feature – the manager gives Scout uniforms free to local children who can prove their membership. Deliveries come in on Wednesday, but merchandise is put out a little every day.


This is the best place to get furniture. Unlike Goodwill, Salvation Army stocks each of its branches with some furniture. While it is not as nicely finished as Goodwill’s it is often of the same basic quality and considerably cheaper. Most other goods are also cheapest here. The Salvation Army has six local stores but is planning to close three – on Canton , Browder, and Maple – by the end of the year. At that time the Army will move into new large headquarters on Harry Hines and Inwood, where it will open a new Main store, an “As Is” Shop, and will have better painting and repairing facilities. The Army charges $2.50 for delivering large items; $5 if the destination is out of town.

2726 Samuell Street – This is the largest SA store. Although a bit musty, it has the best supply of furniture, appliances and televisions. Furniture is put out Monday, Wednesday and Friday, shortly after 1 p.m. Clothing, dishes and miscellaneous go out every morning of the week.

7921 Lake June – The best clothing supply of all the SA stores is here, as well as a pretty good stock of furniture. There are also a number of old books. Clothing is put out by 10 every morning, small appliances and housewares by 9 a.m. Furniture goes out shortly after lunch on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

718 West Jefferson Boulevard – This store has a small furniture supply and a fair amount of clothes. Clothes go out every day, at various times. Furniture is put out Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Dishes and small items are out by 10 every morning.

1500 Canton – Once the main store, it still has a good book section and a rather cramped clothing section. There are some furniture and dishes. Clothes and dishes are put out every morning. Furniture is out by 11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

2103 Browder – You have to look diligently here, as clothes are not well sorted. Dish and furniture supply is small. Furniture is put out about noon Tuesday and Thursday. Clothing and other items go out every day.

4732 Maple – Small and cramped, with dishes piled up way in the dusty back, this store gets its minimal furniture supply on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Clothing is out by 10:30 to 11 every morning, and small wares go out from 2 to 2:30 p.m. daily.


These are almost all big stores, all well-stocked with a very wide variety of merchandise. The prices fall somewhere between Salvation Army’s and Goodwill’s, and the furniture is often a good buy. The difference between these and the aforementioned stores is that most DAV’s operate fairly independently, with pricing done at each store and the suburban branches depending on merchandise from the towns in which they are located. Timing is not so crucial here, as new goods are constantly coming in. All DAV’s have a large supply of new plastic dishes, some of which are from the beautiful, cleanly modern Oblique line and sell for 45 cents each. DAV’s are the best place to get used Army, Navy and Air Force clothes, at cheaper than surplus prices. Delivery charges are about $5.

2205 Second Avenue – A big, prodigiously-stocked store, it has a great assortment of everything except books. There are a lot of old business machines and appliances, television sets and record players. The furniture selection is pretty good. Funky period clothes can be found here. Items are put out all day, every day.

401 West Jefferson Avenue – Another big store with lots of everything, this one also has a small room devoted just to books, starting at 20 cents. Another feature is the big “As Is” section in the rear, with many small appliances in need of only minor repairs. Don’t expect to find old clothes; manager says they throw them out. Best time to shop is Saturday morning.

Dallas West Shopping Center – Smaller than the other DAV’s, this one has a pretty good clothes supply and a fair amount of furniture. The wares section is also pretty good, but the “As Is” section in the rear leans heavily towards junk. Items are put out all the time.

Grand Prairie, 809 Davis Street – Supplied by Garland, Farmers Branch and Carrollton residents, this large store has a very good book supply. It is also the only DAV branch that cleans all clothes. Manager throws away very old clothes. There is a good furniture supply and dresses cost from 75 cents to $1.50. Items are put out every day.

Irving, 2310 Rock Island – This store looks small but has a lot of good wares, utensils and appliances. Also, more Army-Navy clothes than others, and what seem to be the remnants of various tours of duty, such as Japanese robes. Furniture is mostly motel modern. Big “As Is” section in the rear has great variety of not too junky items.


The only Amvets store in Dallas is at Second and Hatcher Streets. Some of the lowest prices in town can be found at this big, cheerful store, but they are erratic: dishes are sold not in sets but by the individual piece, which can get expensive. The good supply of men’s shirts starts with prices of 45 cents. There are lots of small appliances costing only a few dollars, and television sets start at $14.95. The furniture supply is fair, but there is a great “As Is” shop in the rear with everything from wicker lawn furniture to bird caees. Manager plans to set up a rack with just period clothes. There is a $5 delivery charge for large furniture.


There are two stores, at 532 West Jefferson Blvd. in Oak Cliff and at 2727 South Lancaster Blvd. They feature really good second-hand clothes, with labels like Courreges, Mollie Parniss and Pierre Cardin. They also cost a bit more than other thrift shop merchandise – from $2 to $10 for dresses. Clothing manager Richard Westrop said they canvass the better neighborhoods in Dallas to get this fine supply. There is also a small furniture supply and some appliances, and television sets are priced from $19.50 to $145. Few stores donate merchandise directly. Although not as large as the Oak Cliff store, the Lancaster store did have one terrific buy recently – several old leather and brass bound steamer trunks selling for $10 and $15. (Most other thrift shops want $35 and up for these.) All proceeds from these stores go to the Boys’ Valley Ranch. Greatest selection is available Thursday night. No deliveries.


Located at 2003 Greenville Avenue, this very small store is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday only. There are a few geegaws, but mostly clothes with good labels and prices ranging from 50 cents to a few dollars. The League is also considering starting a collection of used furs and designer dresses, to be sold at higher prices, hopefully by this autumn.


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