Thrift Stalking

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I take thrifting very seriously. If thrifting were an olympic sport, I would win the gold medal every time.

Thrifting is not a game. Thrifting is not just fun. Thrifting is a sport, not a strawberry social, y’all.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar is on Netflix right now, btw.

Yesterday, my thrifting savagery reached a level I’m not entirely proud of.

Let me explain. I popped into Goodwill and was browsing, like ya do. I was going through the handbags when  a lady to my left who was chatting on her phone said, “Oh wow. I just found the weirdest thing. It’s a vintage Dooney & Bourke suitcase thing!”

No. Oh no you did not, I thought, my eyes narrowing to slits.

I kept my breathing slow and calm, but inside, I was more like…

If that lady hadn’t been there or if she had just shown up five seconds later, that bag would have been mine. I couldn’t believe my lousy luck. Also, I needed a new messenger bag to go with my new job where I telecommute for half the week. The universe was suddenly a cruel and unfair place.

She slung the bag over her shoulder and continued browsing, all the while chatting with her friend.

So I did what any thrift-obsessed savage would do. I followed her. My thought was, she could change her mind at any moment. She didn’t seem that excited by her find, and it wasn’t hers until she brought it to the cashier.

The game was on!

This perfectly nice lady of course had no idea what inner turmoil I was suffering. When she walked over to housewares, there I was in the next aisle…picking up an occasional item, furrowing my brow, then returning it to the shelf. I studied theatre in college, so I think I pulled off the role of Shopper 12 fairly well. When she went to the other side of the store, I waited a few seconds and headed in that direction as well, flipping through the racks as though I hadn’t a care in the world.

This lasted for twenty minutes.

I started to feel ridiculous. I was supposed to meet up with Brian in half an hour. I didn’t have time for this. This lady would have to be nuts to not buy this thing, and I was behaving like a crazy person.

Then, It happened.

She shrugged the bag off her shoulder, draped it over a nearby rack, and left the store. I gave it 10 seconds, then rushed over and claimed my prize.



This savagely thrifted messenger bag was purchased for a mere $16.

That’s how it’s done you guys. That’s how amazing finds happen.

Thrifting is not a game.


4.7 (93.58%) 106 votes

80 thoughts on “Thrift Stalking

    1. I too, have followed…….won and lost…the trick is to stay totally dissss interested….. then I keep a watch… in …and fake a cell call..til they are out of sight…minnnnne

  1. As a real thrifter I would have done the same thing and I have done it. Once stood in line for an Asian picture was the 1st in line and sprinted to get the picture. Yes I won!! Enjoy

  2. I go thrifting with my husband. I’m meticulously shifting through hundreds of shirts so I don’t miss anything. Meanwhile he aimlessly meanders around and the 3rd thing he looks at is an unworn Calvin Klein button-up. Like, whaaaat?

  3. Ah Jillian, atta girl! Brought tears to my eyes, the precision stalking, the devotion, I’m so proud of you! THATS the way it’s done. I admit I have been known to almost hyperventalate whilst the hunt and stalking is on. Thanks for sharing, I was right there with you! Love Jillian

  4. Your juju mama stalking/desire powers made her put it down, good work. I once got one in navy for $2 that needed a bit of a repair.

  5. Loved this story. I started to breathe more rapidly as you were building up to the end……..just like when I’m driving up to the Goodwill, ha, ha, ha. The thrill of victory….the agony of defeat (probably showing my age here with a little Olympics talk)

  6. I thought you were gonna say you stole it out of her shopping cart or something, Haha! So you got your prize. Me, I don’t care about stuff that much so my life is infinitely easier than most people’s.

  7. Kudos to you Jillian. Similar thing happened to me @ Marshall’s when a woman was holding a skirt that I really wanted, but she put it back on the rack and I snatched it up. Would you believe that she regretted doing that when it was already in my hands and said ‘Oh, that’s mine, I was going to take it’………I said, ‘sorry, it was on the rack, not in your hands.’

  8. If there was a twelve-step program for thrifting stalkers, I would definitely be leading that thing. I am well into my sixties and have been thrifting for over 50 years. That’s right, baby. When you are this serious about your vocation, one thing leads to another and you just naturally pick it up. And in this case, that bag was meant to be yours. Case closed. Maybe I wouldn’t be a leader; I find it WAY too easy to justify.

  9. I would have to challenge you to the gold medal as I am an avid op shopper in Australia and have been for many many (to many) years. And I have also been known to stalk. Just recently I waiting for a woman to try on a dress that did look fabulous on her but it was too long and off course I said (quite sincerely) that it would most likely cost more to get the hem taken up than the dress itself, so she didn’t buy it, well it looked fab on me to so I bought it and took the hem up myself. I love your refashioning which is what I do as well, I will have to send you one of my B4 and after numbers.

  10. This post delighted me! Someone else has been through that!!! I have twice followed a fellow thrifter in the vain hope s/he would have a mind change! Alas, I lost out both times,,,,

  11. I have done the very same thing a few times when I’ve been thrifting. Sometimes you like you did, sometimes you don’t. Congrats on your score.

    1. Good for you. Had you not been so persistent you would not have snagged that deal. I have done a little following folks around to a lesser degree.

  12. Of course it’s a game…! LIke professional football is a game! :) I never go in any thrift store without feeling like I was sent there for a purpose… for that special something that I will recognize when I see it. Sometimes I’m disappointed that the special thing didn’t come my way.. but mostly… eureka! And it keeps me coming back over and over…! Yeah! I understand! And I’m game! LOL!

  13. I just score one alike but…crocodile!…Dusted and dry…nothing

    like a little love with some naturals oils will not bring to his previous glamour life!

  14. That is so funny! I was once stalked by a lady, not as discreet as you. I wanted to buy a vintage suitcase and when I opened it, this A-mazing leather vest was in it. The lady followed me all the way to the check out and finally asked me directly. She was friendly and we both had a good laugh over it. I still have the vest… and the suitcase!

  15. This is making me miss thrifting in the US! Thrift stores/charity shops aren’t a thing really on the Mediterranean islands where I live now. Thank you for sharing this story (got to live vicariously), loved it :)

  16. Awesome. You’re definitely a pro. I probably would have assumed she was going to buy it and let it go at that. No more. From now on I’ll stalk.

  17. I love Dooney handbags and your messenger bag is awesome!

    I went thrifting a few days ago and I found a Juicy Couture purse and a Fossil purse. It was a good thrifting day. Sometimes I can’t find anything, other times I feel like I may need another cart.

    Glad you’re back, Jillian! I’ve missed your creativeness.

  18. 20 minutes, that is Olympic level thrift stalking. Quite worth it though! Also, thank you so much for the heads up that To Wong Foo is on Netflix, been AGES and I’ve been talking about my desire to see it again. What I would give for a find like that attic!

  19. Not long ago I was in my local Goodwill. I opted NOT to browse the housewares section like I usually do but drifted over to the furniture instead. As I was checking out, I noticed the man in front of me had a brand-new looking white Kitchenaid mixer in his cart. I leaned over as casually as I could and was horrified to see it was marked for only $25! Dang it. It took me quite a while to get over that one.

  20. Oh yeah, full on contact sport! hahahaha I had a shopper do that, but she wasn’t so lucky, that little strawberry nesting doll was all mine.
    There are those items that you just KICK yourself for passing up – two that come to mind, a mid-century modern chair I could have flipped easily, and a large oil on canvas still life.
    Now where is that $25 Kitchenaid when you need one?
    Pop by for a visit some time

  21. This is so me….have done this many times and am devastated when people buy the item. I haven’t got the nerve to ask them if they really want it….

    Several people have asked me politely if I would consider giving the item up,and I have given them the item when I heard their reasons….part of a set they’re collecting etc etc. So much nicer than stealing out of my basket when my back is turned. Have resorted to buying super items immediately and stashing them in the car…..

  22. Wonderful humourous story. Loved the picture of you skulking about, silently eyeing the prey, I mean, the customer. Glad you got your bag. I have tried too but lost as she bought it at the checkout. My loss.

  23. Oh my gosh we are sisters from another mother, I have done and will do again the stalking of an item, I really have to have.
    Good for you and being so persistent about that beautiful bag, lucky you.


  24. Great story! So many of us “thrift obsessed savages” can relate :) Your patience paid off. Had she known you really wanted that bag she probably would have bought it. Nothing makes an item more desirable than to find out someone else wants it.

    Love your blog, it always brightens my day!

  25. Done the same thing. I have also asked people if they are buying something if I am not the only one on that particular hunt. And, the moment that I am most proud of, I got an antique store to change their hold policy so that they now will take your phone number instead of it being first come first serve if the on hold item isn’t picked up. There were 6 people in that store waiting until 11 am for my 18 drawer card catalog, but they called me when she didn’t show and I picked it up after work. Ha! That was definitely my Snoopy dance moment.

  26. Great snatch “Shopper 12”! haha! I thought you were going to offer her more than the price on the tag. But then I was thinking, if she does that, doesn’t that go against the rules? Glad you got it.

  27. I’m always a little afraid to leave awesome stuff in my shopping cart at thrift stores if I need to use the bathroom or dressing room. If I’ve got any cast iron, I definitely hide it under some ugly clothes so nobody can snatch it from me while I’m not looking!

  28. Hello lovely! I miss your posts. I hope that you being absent is because you are out living your life! I hope all is well xoxo

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