Don't buy used underwear and other thrift shop tips

Tucson’s yard sales may often be mediocre and its garbage picking slim, but we have tons of fun stuff hanging out at thrift shops.

BeautyBoy was a glorious find at Desert Dust on South Alvernon Way/Ryn Gargulinski

BeautyBoy was a glorious find at Desert Dust on South Alvernon Way/Ryn Gargulinski

Cheap prices are just one of the thrills of frequenting these places. Others include unique items, vintage finds and a lamp we now call BeautyBoy.

This ornate and garishly delightful gold cupid lamp stands about 5 feet tall atop a heavy gold stand and features a 2-foot gold lampshade.

It has become the centerpiece of my living room and I can no longer imagine the room without it. BeautyBoy was also a special gift from a special person, making it even more enchanting.

Thrift store tips:

Don’t buy:

* Used underwear, used socks or dentures
* Things that have non-working zippers – c’mon, no matter how well meaning you are, you know you’re never going to get it fixed.
* Stuff that doesn’t fit – a case in point was a pair of size 4 antique buckle shoes, which were technically purchased at a mondo garage sale in Michigan, that I tried to wear on my size 8 feet. Never again.

Look for:

* Daily deals many shops offer where a certain color tag will be discounted 50 percent
* Really cheap sheets, pillowcases and tablecloths for fabric crafts, outdoor furniture and creating Lucky Voodoo Dolls
* Items no one else would dare wear
* Jeans and leather jackets that come already broken in
* Underarm stains

My fave Tucson thrift shops:

Savers – various locations around town
Why it rocks: One of the biggest and constantly updated selection of clothes you can find – beats out any department store by a gazillion.
Any warnings:
So much stuff you are going to spend, spend, spend.
Best buy: So many – this is my favorite clothing shop, for sure.

Goodwill – various locations around town
Why it rocks: Biggest variety of items, from clothing to shelves, belts to a brand-new sheepskin rug I nabbed for a mere $60.
Any warnings: Employees get to put dibs on items as soon as they come in, but have to wait a day or two until they are allowed to purchase them. If you pick an item everyone wants, like the sheepskin rug, you’re going to piss off a lot of employees. Sorry!
Best buy: Toss up between embellished hippie-type blouse I wore to Woodstock tribute concert and molded dinosaur head I painted pink and stuck in the gravel of my backyard, as if he’s emerging from the depths of hell to feast on someone.

Desert Dust – 1475 S. Alvernon Way
Why it rocks: That’s where BeautyBoy came from. Best tchotchke shop in the West for those seeking kitschy, creepy and very unusual décor.
Any warnings: Not your clothing shop, although I did score a pair of low-waist, flare bottom suede pants that appear they were worn by someone in the Manson Family.
Best buy: In addition to BeautyBoy, this place always has an expansive owl collection to fuel my own menagerie of them.

Buffalo Exchange – various locations around town
Why it rocks: This place can be a bit pricey, but it’s also a goldmine for vintage and crazy finds. Good shopping on the clearance racks.
Any warnings:
They buy back clothing but rarely pick anything I bring them, making me feel like I have a closet full of very unfashionable clothing (which I probably do).
Best buy: Velvet vampire shirt with bell sleeves as wide as Alaska; awesome find for less than $10 on the Halloween clearance rack although I intend to wear it for daily use.


Goodwill dinosaur head/Ryn Gargulinski

Goodwill dinosaur head/Ryn Gargulinski

What’s your favorite Tucson thrift shop and why?

Do you ever think you’ll get lice from the hats?

Does it freak you out that the clothing could have come from dead people?

What’s your best and worst thrift store find?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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27 Responses to Don't buy used underwear and other thrift shop tips

  1. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski! My girlfriend drags me to these places. I don’t look forward to going, but always end up enjoying the shopping because of her love for this stuff. You can find some unique things once in a while, like that lamp Rynski…you wouldn’t want to part with it would you?

  2. azmouse says:

    My best thrift store find was a set of 6 glasses. They’re really pretty, with frosted glass. I paid twenty-five cents each for them. A friend of mine, a collector, offered me three hundred apiece for them! I kept em.

    I like Goodwil because I feel like the money I spend there will help less fortunate folks.

    I like to go to the Salvation Army store in my neighborhood and buy different colored plates. I smash them to pieces and use them to do mosaics. All over my backyard I have stepping stones I purchased and then made them mosaic with the broken plates and grout. Plates are way cheaper than using tile and look  just as cool. 

    Now beautyBoy is quite a lamp. It has such presence!

    • Rynski says:

      What a great idea on the smashed plate mosaics, AZMouse. I will definitely keep that in mind. You must have some great stepping stones. And those glasses sound extremely wonderful – esp. at 25 cents each!
      i agree i also like when profits go to a worthy cause. it’s also a good reason not to haggle, not that any stores will go down unless they are privately owned.
      yes, beautyboy kind of captures the whole world over here.

      • azmouse says:

        I also got a beautiful wooden bench (that has storage under the seat) at Salvation Army for twelve dollars.
        I think the price was an accident, but I got it for that price. Looks great on my back porch and matches my little ice cream parlor table and chairs that I also got at a second hand furniture shop, but that cost me a ton! But, I had to have it…the chair backs are metal and twist into the shape of a heart. So cute….

      • Rynski says:

        love it!!! where do you best like shopping for second hand furniture around town? I found a retro arm chair (puke green!) that i use for meditation for $15 at the habitat store on Ajo.

      • azmouse says:

        I forget the name of the furniture store I went to. It was on the northeast corner of Broadway and Wilmont. They have allot of cool stuff. I got an antique side table and a huge wicker shelving unit with glass shelves.

    • MarcyMom says:

      Smashing plates can also be good therapy – a two-for-one find.

      • MarcyMom says:

        Ryn, is this a good time to tell you I am no longer storing those green bowling shoes and fake mink jacket? I think you can get them back at our local Salvation Army store.

      • Rynski says:

        oh, no! you got rid of the green bowling shoes? i’m OK with the fake mink – i found a fake silver leopard jacket here in tucson…

      • azmouse says:

        The smashing was the best part! Well, and seeing the finished product.

  3. Karen Nelson says:

    Wow, you guys. I am not a shopper, so I really don’t know about many stores, so this was good information! I need to start frequenting thrift stores since I get paid so well by the Citizen! Is Twice as Nice worthwhile?

  4. Marie says:

    I’m a fan of estate sales.   While they can be pricey, in terms of antiques and so forth, you can score some really wonderful stuff.   I have some kitchenware — glasses, pitchers, kitchen linens, etc.  that I still hold up as prized examples of what you can get at just such sales for next to nothing.   
    Warnings — It is common to see from others from antique stores or individuals who sell on ebay also trying to get in on the deals.     You definitely need to get there early.
    Best Buy — A french antique demuline table that graces my entry way.   Not only did I get into a bit of a foot race to get to it, once I did, I sort of hugged it, thereby claiming it as mine… all mine.

    • Karen Nelson says:

      Wow… see, I just don’t have the patience or the aggressiveness for that! I’m more of a show up whenever and hope that serendipity is with me! Not very fruitful, but I may have saved a lot of money over the years this way!

    • Rynski says:

      love your comment, marie – also love the image of running to the table and hugging it as claimed – hahah! i remember once spotting an antique umbrella holder at EXACTLY the same time someone else did at a thrift store – both of us had our eyes light up at the same time – only by a millisecond did i end up with the thing.
      thrift shopping/antique hunting can surely be a very competitive sport.

  5. mitch says:

    Hey Girl!
    My best score also incorporates your “Dead guys” motif. When I lived in Redwood City, my  friends asked me to play pickup basketball. I didn’t have shoes, so I went to Goodwill for some sneakers, found ’em and also spied a pair of Ballys (retail maybe 275.00) for 8 bucks. They were pristine, and fit perfectly; can only assume that they came from an estate. This was your stomping grounds so you know that Atherton, Woodside, Palo Alto, etc. were around the corner. On the subject of beautyboy: “Non Desputandum Decorum Este” trans – In matters of taste, there can be no disputes. p.s. chk out my web this morn’ on how to fold a shirt!

    • Rynski says:

      how wonderful – brand new perfectly fit sneakers at a mere $8 – my luck dictates stuff like that will ALWAYS be a size or two too small – hey, give us the link to your fold a shirt post –

      • theargus says:

        Good Morning, hope your vacation was superb.
        The sneakers were a couple of bucks. Bally’s are hand-made Italian shoes.
        Fold a shirt is very much in the Ryn mode..
        How to Fold A Shirt

      • Rynski says:

        hey again – that shirt video is AMAZING! and she makes it look so easy. now if i could just understand what the heck she was saying i could do it myself (haha). and NOW i got it on the shoes – was not up on my hand-made Italian shoes for men – but thanks for clueing me in!

  6. MarcyMom says:

    The pink dinosaur rocks. Now I know what to put on my Christmas wish list. Does it eat chickens? The last time I visited the Salvation Army I found a clown head and thought of Ryn.

    • Rynski says:

      clown heads!!! i know someone with a birthday coming up that would just LOVE to have clown heads…(i’d send you the pink dinosaur head but i’ve become much too attached…))

  7. catsclaw says:

    Check out the White Elephant in Green Valley – open Mon. thru Sat. 9:00 a.m to 12.00 p.m.  Also the Animal League of Green Valley’s thrift store, the Attic,  open 7 days a week, 10:00 to 2:00.  Terrific bargains.

  8. Bjay says:

    Catsclaw.  The White Elephant is great!!  A couple years ago I went in and bought this kewl little bracelet made out of dirty gold wire and large pieces of jade.  It wasn’t in the best shape but it intrigued me.  I spent $6 on it.
    Then when the Antique Roadshow came through town I took the bracelet with me.  I found out it was actually worth $300 and was told not to wash it and to hold onto it because the value would likely keep going up.   So I attest there can be some good buys there.

  9. rjowais says:

    I love the white elephant..
    Its great to see it here with us 🙂
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