Thrift/Vintage Shopping Etiquette: DO's & DON'Ts

Thrift/Vintage Shopping Etiquette: DO's & DON'Ts

We’ve all heard the expression “Bish don’t kill my vibe” and what generates a positive vibe differs from person to person. For me, being in a thrift store and hunting for amazing finds is enough to put me on cloud 9, however, when you run into someone who lacks shopping etiquette it's enough to put a dent in my idea of the perfect outing.


A great and hilarious example of this would be from my outing at a vintage store in the city of my new home, Riga, Latvia. I had been here just over a week revelling in the culture and architecture when my itch to shop got the best of me. I was so jazzed when I found this vintage haven! The store was amazing, sporting a new launch of clothing and as a result, was very crowded.


As many of you know, not all shopping experiences occur with the luxury of space, especially when you’re like me and the majority of your shopping occurs outside of massive malls and box stores. Despite this particular store’s charm and great selection, there wasn’t a whole lot of space. Add a sale and new collection launch as this store had done and I found myself getting bumped, bobbing and weaving from rack to rack and waiting in line for one of it’s three adorable little change rooms. And let’s be honest, NO ONE likes to wait in line, we are all busy with places to go and people to see! What to do?


DO: WEAR AN “EASY ACCESS” OUTFIT OUT SHOPPING. What do I mean by this? Well, as I entered the store and found myself feeling more and more like a sardine stuffed into a can, I decided to be proactive and try on clothes as I found them in order to avoid lines for the change room. Of course, it being Fall, I was wearing a hat, scarf, and jacket, not to mention my bulky jeans and a T-shirt. What I had chosen to wear was not the most ideal for slipping on and off articles of clothing. I’ll admit my first attempt to be proactive and try things on the spot showed poor shopping etiquette. I had to take off my hat, bulky scarf and jacket and put them on the floor to try on a few tops. By top number three I was beginning to feel like a hot mess and I hadn’t even gotten to try on bottoms!  In hindsight I should have worn leggings and a fitted tank top. Wearing thin clothes fitted to the natural shape of your body allow for you to try on items and get a feel for how they fit your body without having to wait in line forever.  Mind you there are always exceptions and sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and wait your turn (wahwahnn).


When you do find yourself gnawing on that bullet as you wait in line for the change room—as I had to do because I was wearing bulky jeans and needed to try on bottoms—there’s nothing worse when you see TWO friends go into one change room...this actually happened to me. At first I thought “hey two birds, one stone- they’ll be out fast, no big deal.” That was until I could hear them giggling, comparing outfits and taking what seemed like the end of time to change.


How best not to get on the nerves of other shoppers?


DON’T: HAVE A FASHION SHOW IN THE CHANGE-ROOM WHEN IT’S BUSY. To clarify, I’m all about having fun while shopping -especially with friends- and advocate for not letting people kill your vibe. BUT when it’s busy and you can see there’s a long line of people waiting, it is 100 percent poor shopping etiquette to parade around in the change room with your bestie, exchanging outfits to see who really wore it best.


And definitely…


DON’T: WEAR A BIG PURSE OR BRING SHOPPING BAGS. Much to my dismay some of the other shoppers either had big purses/backpacks or had other bags from previous stores with them which took up a substantial amount of space and caused moments where myself and others were getting bumped around between racks of clothing. Think of each rack of clothing like driving down a highway…no not just any highway.. the Autobahn of vintage goodies. There you are going down the racks accelerating through the items and you come up to an oncoming shopper but you have a massive purse/backpack or other shopping bags from a previous store and instead of passing this shopper like the sports car you want to be, you’re stuck there just slowly and awkwardly getting by like a massive RV with 12 bikes stuck to the back. And there’s nothing like a slow driver stuck in the passing lane to get on everyone’s nerves!


However, in the midst of all the aisle traffic jams, I had come across this rack of beautiful vintage leather and suede jackets— I swear they were all calling my name—but one in particular caught my eye. It was on a hanger hanging on the rack…TYPICALLY this would give the majority of shoppers the impression that it was up for grabs, however, within a minute of getting my eager paws on it a lady confronted me in broken English claiming it was her jacket and that she was going to try it on (despite it being on the rack and not in her arms). Granted, I’m an English speaking Canadian in a new European city, so naturally I said “sorry!” and chalked it up to a language barrier, but she sighed angrily, persisted and said she was going to buy it. With hesitation I gave her the jacket and just like that she had killed my vibe in the first degree.


DO: HOLD YOUR GROUND- as the jacket left my hands, in that moment I knew I wanted it. It was a beautiful vintage tan lambskin jacket with fur trim around the hood and a silk aztec patterned lining in MINT condition. It should have been mine. I should have held my ground and said too bad. It was tragic— not “Greek Tragedy” tragic—but a tragedy nonetheless.


On the contrary, the lady should have known better..


DON’T: LACK ASSERTIVENESS- If you see something you want hanging on a rack, be assertive, grab it and hang on to it for dear life! If the lady knew she wanted to try the jacket on let alone buy it, she should have taken it off the rack and kept it, instead of berating a fellow shopper and making a scene.


The double-edged sword of shopping vintage and thrifting is that generally everything is one of a kind, which is wonderful but once it's gone, it’s gone for good. In attempts to rekindle my positive vibe and move past the unfortunate jacket ordeal, I continued my hunt by bobbing and weaving through the aisles for some other great finds. After some time had passed and the lady had carefully examined and tried on the jacket, she left. Luckily, the vintage gods were looking out for me that day because as I was heading towards the cash register I saw the jacket. The lady must have decided she didn’t want it after all!


So shoppers, all in all, the next time you are on your hunt for the perfect vintage/thrifted outfit or simply out for the thrill of finding the find, dress for the occasion, be aware of others around you, don’t be afraid to go after what you want and do be sure that once you’ve found that special piece you never let it go!


-Michelle Good