Thrift Stalking: How to Thrift Like a Savage 2

Thrift Stalking: How to Thrift Like a Savage

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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.

Thrift Stalking: How to Thrift Like a Savage 3
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…

Thrift Stalking: How to Thrift Like a Savage 4

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.


Thrift Stalking: How to Thrift Like a Savage 5

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.


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A BOGO Frump-to-Hip Refashion!


  • Helen

    Hahaha! I did the same thing 14 years ago. This time it was over a very rare purple handmade Icelandic wool sweater in a little co-op shop in Husavik. Icelandic wool is notoriously hard to dye due to its high lanolin content so to find my favorite color was awesome. While I waited patiently trying to distract myself with other items I prayed to the Gods that I would fit into the sweater. I was pregnant with my Son at the time. When the Lady put the sweater back on the rack I did wait fo her to leave the parking lot before I snatched it. I hid the sweater in a bag on my walk back to my Sister in Law’s house. I still have the yummy sweater.

  • Elaine

    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

  • Veronica Erwin

    Hey, just found your site. So glad you got the bag. Not only was it left behind by that shopper it got through the hands of the workers who cherry pick items for the site. That would have fetched a high bid. Good for you!!

  • Shelia

    LOL, Too funny. I like you, take my thrifting very seriously, my husband on the other hand hates my thrift shopping. I was looking for a very large piece of mcm artwork for my home, and made the mistake of bringing along my hubby ….now, keep in mind, he has NEVER gone with me when I thrift so he dos’ent understand the rules of engagement like we do. Well, I found the most absolute, huge, and original painting that I fell in love with,,,I had been admiring it and standing back eyeballing it when a few 20 year old’s were deciding weather they wanted it too. The gal had her hand on it and was just ready to carry it off when my hubs reached out, grabbed it right out of her hand, and handed it to me. The look the gals gave us could have put us 10 feet under lol… I was sooooooooo embarrassed . I apologized to the girls, but I was so touched by what my husband did, I didn’t know whether to scold him for being rude, or kiss him for being so thoughtful to me… the painting now commands a place on the biggest wall over my sofa ,,,,:) And that ladies, was the first and last time my husband will ever go thrift shopping with me…

  • Molly

    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!

  • Andrea

    Awesome. I just recently won a Goodwill auction of a Dooney and Bourke bag for 20 bucks(ten of it was handling and shipping costs). You really lucked out that your location decided to put it on the sales floor instead of in an online auction.

  • Cathy Stamp

    SO glad you are back. I was missing your refashions something terrible. Love your stories of the thrift score. Keep up the good work. Can’t wait to check out your new blog, Chef and Pauper.

  • Kimberly Wollmer

    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.

  • Ann

    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.

  • Rebecca - Knoxville, TN

    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!

  • Catherine

    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.


  • Carol

    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.

  • mary

    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…..

  • Tami Von Zalez

    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

  • stephanie

    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.

  • Molly O'Hara

    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!

  • tambra nicole

    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.

  • Trish

    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.

  • Olivia

    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 🙂

  • Bernadette

    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!

  • Ana Jackson

    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!

  • TEMA

    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!

  • Lourdes

    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.

    • Ami

      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.

  • bren

    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,,,,

  • Helen A

    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.

  • Wendy

    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.

  • Yona

    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.’

  • Jen

    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.

  • Mary

    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)

  • Ruthie

    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.

  • Jillian McKimm

    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

  • Marites

    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?

  • Wilmoo

    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

    • helen s

      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

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