Is It Ever Okay To Buy Gifts At A Thrift Store?

Tacky, incompetent regifting is one thing, but Mrs. Money over at the Ultimate Money Blog raises another question: when is it appropriate to give people gifts that you’ve purchased at a thrift or consignment store?

It then hit me: is it acceptable to purchase thrifted Christmas gifts for others? Just because I’m all about used clothing doesn’t necessarily mean other people are. I know that my friend bought her daughter (who will be 3 in January) clothes off eBay awhile back, but for Christmas? Is it really tacky to buy used?

Are some things more acceptable than others to give used–for example, an antique plate as opposed to a slightly worn sweater> Is it different for children as opposed to adults?

Are Thrifted Gifts Acceptable? [Ultimate Money Blog]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Winter White says:

    I would say that buying THRIFT STORE clothing etc is tacky. That doesn’t mean no consignment stores (I would love some spiffy VINTAGE apparel) but from the salvation army? I’d rather you just not go to the effort.

    • [MG]LooseCannon says:

      So if I go to the Salvation Army, buy vintage clothing there, take it to a consignment store and put it up for sale, then buy it for you, that’s acceptable.


      Although I kinda feel like maybe the issue is more of a perception problem on your part rather than an issue with the items themselves ;)

    • Alys Brangwin says:

      I would like you to tell that to my grandmother, and I would also like a do-over for about ten years of birthdays and Christmas holidays from her.

    • Tito151 says:

      Of all times of the year to shop at a Thrift store, the best time would probably be around the holidays since that’s when people usually need more help. If you honestly feel that the item is in good condition, then there should be no reason that you can’t use it as a gift.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      If it’s awesome and I like it, I don’t care where someone bought it. Thrift a spectacular piece of Syracuse china for my collection and I’ll be even happier that you got a good deal.

    • mythago says:

      Oh, all right. I’ll take that valuable antique glass and the vintage Frye boots back and get you some brand-new crap from WalMart.

    • calquist says:

      As long as the gift is thought-out, I don’t think where it was bought matters.

      There is a big difference between new unwanted crap from Walmart and a salvation army cat ornament when I love cats.

  2. Alter_ego says:

    I feel like tere a big difference between, say, a used DVD, and used socks. While I’d buy used clothes for myself, giving them as gifts seems a little weird. But stuff like movies, or CDs, or plates are something, seem fine as long as they’re functional.

    In high school I had a friend whose mom owned a consignment shop, and all year long, he’d put stuff aside for us if he thought we’d like it. So our Christmas presents were always used, but he’d spent the whole year lookig, so they were always good, and no one minded.

  3. Preyfar says:

    I’d say yes, totally. It’s acceptable. Gifts are about giving something that people can use and enjoy. Or at least it should be. Does it have to be new? No. It should just be something from the heart. We’ve grown so commercially focused as a culture that people expect if you didn’t buy it new and there’s no gift receipt it must be “bad”.

    I’d just recommend washing/dry cleaning anything you get from a thrift store and/or disinfecting it (out of good measure) before giving the gift.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      But dry cleaning sets blood stains in instead of removing them.

    • Julia789 says:

      Used clothing = bed bugs being welcomed into your home. Merry Christmas infestation!

    • DeathByCuriosity says:

      Definitely wash anything you get from a thrift store. They do NOT clean the merchandise themselves, so you’re counting on the donor to pre-wash the items. Most do not. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from donation sorters about what they find mixed in bags of donated clothing (such as underwear with clumps of feces clinging to the insides).

  4. full.tang.halo says:

    Some items just are not made any more and a thrift store might be your only chance to find it. You’d be amazed the amount of what might be considered antiques or collectibles that are at goodwill type stores in Florida. Parents pass and kids just want to get rid of stuff and give it to goodwill/salvation army.

  5. Fred E. says:

    I have given gifts from thrift shops, even for weddings, things like a nice reproduction Chinese vase from the Met, nice sterling silver serving pieces and jewelry, and a beautiful crystal footed bowl. There are some thrift shops here that get nice donations, like the Opera Shop and Housing Works.

    I probably would not give anyone clothes from a thrift shop but I would never give clothes as a gift anyway, except for a nice silk scarf, unless they told me exactly what they wanted.

  6. tbax929 says:

    I give used books from as gifts. They give you a really cool insert that explains why it’s cool to get a recycled book and how important it is to donate unwanted used books instead of just tossing them out. Just about everybody on my list got at least one used book this year. I did the same thing last year, and the people I gave them to thought it was a great idea. Many of them said they would start buying their books from betterworld as well.

    I don’t think I would give used clothes to someone; maybe I would if I knew they bought clothes from that particular thrift shop, but I don’t think even then I would. It’s a real non-issue for me because I don’t usually give apparel as a gift anyway.

    • Booklvr71 says:

      Just a FYI, Google Betterworldbooks scam before you sing their praises here. They have had some intense criticism about their business model of promoting themselves as if they were a non-profit.

      They are not. They give a minuscule amount of money to charity, and that after “taking care of themselves”. They are a for profit company, and if you give them books for free, you are actually putting money directly into the founder’s pocket, not into the hands of any disadvantaged group.

      Any business can promote itself as a “socially conscious venture”, but it doesn’t make it true. If you are going to donate books somewhere, pick a small local charity, your local Friends of the Library group, or just give them to Goodwill.

      • tbax929 says:

        For every critic out there of them, there are 10 people who say they’re doing a fine job. How about this? You donate the way you want to, and I’ll donate the way I want to. Of course they don’t donate every cent they earn; they have expenses to pay as a business.

        I will continue to do business with them, as I think it’s much more responsible to buy a used book than a new one.

        • Booklvr71 says:

          Um, they arent a non profit. Giving them a book, or buying from them is not supporting a non-profit. They send their unsalable books to a charity that is *surprise* also run by the founder of the for-profit company. They can then write off an inflated “retail” amount for the books that they actually cant sell, those books that were too badly damaged by library circulation and that no other charity wants.

          If you want to buy used and support charity, buy from any used seller on many of whom donate both a percentage of Gross profits and also donate their still usable books to reputable non-profits, or from the many Goodwill stores that sell via or their own sites ala

    • antisan says:

      Used books are the best! Especially ones with margin notes or hilights. I love having someone else’s experience of a book (particularly books my mom read in college or something- those are the most special.)

  7. lennox11432 says:

    I think it varies on who the gift is for and the nature of the used item. I happen to have two lcd tv’s, so I’m giving one to my parents for my Xmas. Is this tacky? I would say no, I hope they think the same! But as I see it, I didn’t get it used from someone but I am sacrificing having two tv’s in my house so that they can enjoy beautiful, glorious HD. I also go them a new bluray player to go along with it.

  8. Corinthos says:

    Only time I would do it is for vintage rock tshirts and they are into that kind of thing. I had a friend in college who used to hit all the thrift shops in the area on the weekends and pick up several to ebay or for gifts. He used to give some good one away for Christmas present and usually say something like “well if you don’t like it you can ebay it for 40 dollars because thats what they are going for.. He also worked at one of those sell it on ebay stores and think he stole the idea from a customer.

  9. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I have a cast iron pan I saved from a dumpster that I’m waiting to find a deserving recipient for. Someone tried to cook fish in it at too low a temp, and it reeked of fish. A little steel wool, dish soap, and 6 hours of heat and lard, and it’s ready to cook for decades to come.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      see, i use a propane torch and a wire brush on junk cast iron. i’m too lazy for sandpaper

      • quail says:

        Never tried it, because I heard it’s quite dangerous, but if you heat the cast iron up really hot then plunge it into cold water the rust and what not will pop right off. You then have to re-season it, but I’ve heard it’s a great way to get ‘neglected’ cast iron back to new.

        • BarbiCat says:

          I haven’t heard of plunging it in to cold water, but that sounds like a good way to destroy a pan if done incorrectly. It’s more than possible to clean a cast iron by placing it in an old fire and covering it with coals [to bake the gunk off], but even that can ruin pans if the temperatures are wrong.

          Cast iron is great, but it’s not indestructible – probably best to stick to the methods that are less risky, unless you know a good blacksmith who is willing to fix whatever may explode on you.

          • Fujikopez says:

            Yeah, anything with extreme temps or temp changes can permanently alter the metal and it will never be the same again. The best way to start afresh with an old cast-iron piece is to use electrolysis on it (there’s instructions somewhere out there on the net; involves a car battery charger), then immediately re-seasoning it.

        • thisistobehelpful says:

          If you heat up a pan and sprinkle cold water (like flick large drops) into it, generally where the water hits the baked on goo and char will come off. When you’re done cooking in it pour some hot water in there, leave the heat on and push the junk off with a soft spatula or wooden spoon and empty the water out. Neither of those methods is for teflon pans. If shit’s sticking to your teflon you done killed your pan.

          If you plunge a hot cast iron pan into cold water it can crack and at minimum will probably warp. If you plunge any type of hot pan into cold water it will probably warp. The more you do it, the more it warps. Then you get one of those pans that rocks on the burner as opposed to sitting stable.

          Rust really has to be scrubbed off because it’s not the same as something just sitting on top of a material that managed to glue itself there. You have to see how far down it went otherwise it’ll recur in that spot. If you cook over a gas fire you can also rub dish soap on the underside before cooking. That saves it from sooty bottoms on campfires but if you’re a messy cook it can also save you from burning food into the bottom of your pan on the burner. DO NOT do that on an electric stove of any sort.

          • webweazel says:

            “”If you heat up a pan and sprinkle cold water (like flick large drops) into it, generally where the water hits the baked on goo and char will come off. When you’re done cooking in it pour some hot water in there, leave the heat on and push the junk off with a soft spatula or wooden spoon and empty the water out. “”

            This is exactly what I do with my cast iron pans. After turning off the burner and taking out the food (and if I don’t need the pan scrapings for anything) I SLOWLY pour in a little water, and the funk comes right off with a light scraping. Pour in some more water, and let it steep on the stove while I finish dinner. When I wash the pan, all it needs is the water poured out, and a light wash with soap. No scraping or scrubbing involved, and the season isn’t bothered one bit. I think if more people realized this, they might use the cast irons more. There really is no substitute.

  10. Chris Walters says:

    Hey, that’s a photo I took! Hey I’m on the Consumerist! !!!$!$!!

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      I know, it’s sweet isn’t. I should warn you. Don’t let it go to your Ego’s head. My Ego lusts for attention, and gets upset easy. Also, you realize we now know YOUR flickr feed now.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Don’t get too excited. It’s right before a holiday and everyone is rushing to get done and out of the “office”.

      “Looks like a thrift store? … Okay, post it!”

  11. bcsus83 says:

    Personally…I say if it’s something the person collects–ie, I collect vintage toys, often found in thrift shops–sure. If it’s your immediate family, as in people that live in your house, eh, I guess. Anyone else? No. Tacky as all get out.

  12. justsomeotherguy says:

    All gifts are fine, regardless of the source, as long as he person receiving it is not the type that wouldnt appreciate it.

    I got some really sweet birthday gifts, all of them thrifted. An etech-a-sketch animation station was one of these gifts. Some neat kitchware too!

    I’m certain some of the commenter havent been to thrift stores. The salvation army store in my area has some of the nicest furniture and kitchen stuff…

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      Well, I’ll be the first to say that some of my kids gifts this year are coming from Goodwill’s ebay-style bidding site (all new items). I was shocked to see how many new-in-box and new-with-tag items they had available, along with some exceedingly cool one-of-a-kind items. The site also has lots of used high-end merchandise, like Coach/Dooney & Bourke/Kors/D&G/Gucci/Chanel handbags, sunglasses, and the like from their outlets in Vegas and Orange County. The only reason I haven’t indulged in any of these items (yet) is that Groomzilla would flip if I brought home another Dooney & Bourke purse. :(

      Major scores this year from the Goodwill site: a Hello Kitty suede and fleece vest, a Hello Kitty MP3 player (sensing a theme here?), and two gigantor Star Wars Tie-Fighter kites. I spent a fraction of what these items would’ve cost me in the stores and I think my kids will love them.

      • El_Red says:

        Yes, but this is not used clothing. These are high demand items, your kids will appreciate for a while.

        • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

          True enough. I still think it’s an okay idea as long as you know the recipient won’t mind. I have a soft spot for Goodwill (they do a lot of good in our area), so I guess my reply was a PSA for their online shopping spot. I just hope y’all don’t start outbidding me on the good stuff. :D

  13. ubermex says:

    probably not clothing, but maybe other items. It’s DEFINITELY ok if your friend is some kind of a collector of something and you find something rare or specific at a thrift store.

  14. thetroubleis says:

    It depends on the item and the recipient. I have friends who I know would love having a bunch of stuff to tear apart and craft with, but you have to make you’re you’re buying for that kind of person. This is so a YMMV thing.

  15. LunaMakesThings says:

    I’ve been shopping in thrift stores since I was a kid (used to be embarrassed by it, then in high school it was suddenly trendy, heh) and sometimes you can find really great stuff. Glass, ceramic, and some metal things often look brand new, or sometimes just need a bit of cleaning to look new. I’m not saying lie to the recipient and say it’s new, I’m just saying that “thrift store” doesn’t have to mean “dirty, beat up looking stuff.”

    If you want to be like me, and of course you do because I’m awesome, you get something at a thrift store like an old chair, and you refinish and recover it yourself, and then you’re giving something personal, meaningful, and environmentally responsible.

  16. jano says:

    When my brother was in high school, he went through an “ironic t-shirt” phase – the kind with other people’s names on them, tacky slogans, etc. I definitely got him a few shirts from Sal’s from holidays, and he loved them.

    I think the key is knowing your target. Someone who must have the newest trends is probably not going to like something from a thrift store. Someone who shops there all the time would probably appreciate it.

  17. chemmy says:

    Well, my inlaws always absolutely hated anything we ever got them. No matter how much they wanted/needed it – just because it was 1/2 from me, they HATED it. Two years ago, they actually kicked us out of Christmas dinner saying that we were disrespectful and we weren’t allowed back until we brought them better gifts. Then they called us when we got home to say that our gifts were so offensive to them that as soon as we left, they put them into the trash outside (nevermind how awesome they were and how much $ and thought went into it…) So last year, we got them trinkets from the thrift store. We figured if they hated it, it may as well be cheap for us. They threw them away as soon as we left, as confirmed by a family friend (although at least that year, we didn’t get kicked out lol).

    This year? NADA. Hope they like it.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      No offense to you or your husband, but your in-laws suck. How nasty and greedy do people have to be to act like that??

    • quail says:

      Sorry to hear about it. But you’re not alone. A friend of mine went through the same thing. Can I suggest that if you ever feel obligated to get them a gift, jut get them a card that says you made a donation in their name to some charity or other? Heck, just write it on a scrap piece of paper. Why buy the card?

      • webweazel says:

        Damn. That makes me appreciate my in laws all the more.

        Those people are definitely abusive. The charity donation sounds like a good idea. They can’t throw it in the trash, and at least it helps somebody out in the process.

    • Fujikopez says:

      You should buy them a picture of themselves.

  18. themrdee says:

    I would thing the opinions reveled by your questionnaire would depend upon the answer’s age. Younger people would probably be against thrift shop gifts while older ones would not. My Mother was number 9 of 11 children and did not get a new unused dress till she was graduated from high school Back then the thrift store was a real family owned and operated business.

    • larkknot says:

      I’m pretty young and I’d be thrilled to get something from a thrift store as long as it wasn’t already used to the point of falling apart.

  19. Jesse in Japan says:

    How can it ever be wrong to give somebody a gift? When did our culture come to the point where a person not only has a right to expect a gift, but to complain if the gift is not some shiny new thing?

    • El_Red says:

      Used clothing? Sorry, but if you don’t have money to spend, I’d rather get home baked cookies. Nothing like worn stuff to feel appreciated. Unless it is some collection/vintage item, it just send a message : ”I’m cheap and you don’t deserve a thoughtful gift.”

    • Fujikopez says:

      I think that in a lot of cases of “crappy” gift-giving, it’s not that the recipient is so ungrateful, it’s that the giver obviously thought so little of them to give them something that they wouldn’t like, and it’s offensive. Like, it’d be one thing if someone bought someone a used item at a thrift store, but another if the item was damaged, broken, or obviously a poor choice for that particular person. I’ve been given gifts that are so cheap/useless/tacky that I’d rather just not have gotten anything but a friendly visit or card from the giver, ya know? I felt like an afterthought.

      JFTR, I shop at Goodwill all the time. I wouldn’t be offended if someone got me something secondhand as a gift if it was in like-new condition, or if they were in hard times I would be okay with “good” condition.

      • Fujikopez says:

        To clarify: my post doesn’t just have to do with secondhand stuff. The gift-receiving experience I was referencing dealt with items that were purchased new.

        “It’s the thought that counts.” Well, when the gift clearly indicates that no thought went into it, the gift feels empty and like an obligation.

  20. Winter White says:

    Maybe those of you who live in wealthy areas have sweet stuff at your salvation army…but mine is mostly full of well-worn Kmart clothes and really old chintzy china. I’ve never found a piece of furniture there that wasn’t completely broken. It’s mostly stuff that people would normally throw out.

    So I guess if you have cool thrift stores then yes, but I wouldn’t want anything that I’ve ever seen at any of the thrift stores within 25 miles of where I live.

  21. CrissyT says:

    I personally buy most of my clothing at thrift stores. Last year from my mom I got an entire bag full of thrift store clothing, and I loved it. I think it totally depends on the recipient, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with thrift store gifts. Id much rather know someone took the time & effort to look for something for me (you KNOW how long it takes to find anything in the Salvation Army) than to just walk in to a store & grab something I will never use. I think I am giving 2 thrift store gifts this year, and both are brand new items.

  22. El_Red says:

    No! Unless it is some old silverware or collection items.

    (Unless you’re motivation is to never get invited by that family member ever again!)

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      I’m giving my little cousin used clothing from a thrift store.

      Of course, it’s a vintage 1960s union-made Mod wool coat and I know she’ll love it, but it’s still used clothing from a thrift store. I guess it would be more acceptable to someone like you if I’d spend a hundred dollars on it at a vintage shop.

      • BarbiCat says:

        Something tells me El_Red doesn’t realize how most thrift stores and used merchandise stores make their big money.


        When I worked at a thrift store, our regular customers owned their own vintage stores/antique stores/etc. They would come in daily, without fail, right at opening time, and spend hundreds of dollars on items that they would turn around and *make* thousands off of.

        If you think thrift stores have crappy items, it’s because you’re going after everything good has been picked over. I still remember the day we got a good several hundred dollars worth of mint condition original Transformers and other assorted childrens toys from the 80s. It was madness, watching people try to buy as much as they could and calling their friends to come and get some. I think we had every collector in the city there by the end of the day, but the toys only lasted about thirty minutes.

  23. crazedhare says:

    I am wearing a thrift store early Christmas gift RIGHT NOW, and I am absolutely in love with it. It is my current favorite piece of clothing. Like many of us, the gifter is being frugal this Christmas season and has chosen to make home-made-from-scratch-incredibly-delicious baked goods for most people, but also gave me a snuggly, comfy, adorable new hoodie from a thrift store. I am HONORED to have received it, because it is perfect for me. A well thought out, kind, considerate gift is great (regardless of cost), and I would rather have that than some things people have bought new over the years.

  24. cosby says:

    Few questions come to mind but the first one is simple. How much money does everyone make? For lower class families it would be the best bet to maximize the money they have.

    Other examples would be kids clothes as they can out grow them fast and random styles that you might not be able to find new.

    Most cases there is going to be nothing wrong with buying used.

  25. puddinhead says:

    I have purchased several gifts at thrift stores…but they were collectible items I KNEW the recipient would adore. For my stepmother I found a 1940s toaster cover embroidered with cherries (her kitchen was cherry themed at the time). I paid $1.00 for it and she loved it. It was unique and in perfect condition. For MIL I found her a set of handpainted Pyrex from the 1930s for $8.00. They would have cost me at least $75.00 in an antique store. She couldn’t believe we got them for her and kept asking where we found them. I have also picked up designer sweaters for my fickle teen age sisters. I would not have been able to afford the same brands new, and my sisters would have been disappointed in the cheap new items I COULD afford.

    That being said, I wouldn’t just go buy a bunch of crap gifts at the thrift store, just as I wouldn’t buy a bunch of crap gifts at a regular store. I put thought into every gift I buy, regardless of venue.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      I agree. I’ve found some really great, unique kitchen items at my local Goodwills. Also, Goodwill around me sells Target close-outs so you could get brand new items there, really cheap. I’ve bought lots of clothing there, especially on 50% off day. Some of it’s new, some of it is funky vintage stuff.

      Goodwill is also a pretty good place to get cool barware. You can find all kinds of glasses there.

      I think if you see something there that you know someone will really appreciate or love, where you bought it doesn’t matter.

  26. JamieSueAustin says:

    I gave several thrift store presents this year. One was a desk organizer filing system type thing. It was wooden and heavy and very nice looking and my neat freak friend had OCD meltdown over it.

    A thoughtless present is a thoughtless present, new or not. So if its used doesn’t bother me at all.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      True about thoughtless presents — doesn’t matter if it’s new or used if the thought behind it is ‘I couldn’t be bothered’.

  27. blue_muse says:

    I have to say it’s a great way for kids to spend their money to buy gifts. One Christmas, my husband took both my kids in Goodwill, looking for something else, but while there realized that my kids could actually buy gifts for others with their own little bit of money. The kids bought me some good Taste of Home cookbooks that I’ve used a lot.

  28. mac-phisto says:

    does it really matter? a good gift shows that you know a person well & care enough to give them something special. new, used, mall, thrift shop – these things are all irrelevant.

  29. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    I say like with many gifts, it depends on how well you know the person. I’ve picked my sister up some second-hand stuff — clothes, books, etc. — that I knew she would LOVE. But my closest friend, I’d never do that for … she’d be squiked out by it.

  30. HogwartsProfessor says:

    It’s true what they say; that it’s the thought that counts. And thought means you take the recipient into consideration. You wouldn’t want some tacky, cheap, dirty thing from the flea market, would you? Neither would your giftee. And you wouldn’t want a brand new item that you hated, either. But if you found a really cool thing that you knew the recipient would love, it would be a terrific gift. Not something that you picked up because YOU like it, or something you thought they should have even though they never use/buy it. That’s most of the gifts I get, stuff I never want or use.

    I was in the flea market one time and a guy was walking around with a neat little wine basket (like a tiny picnic basket) that had glasses in it and everything. He saw it and thought it would be perfect for this couple he knew who was getting married and who were into wine. He showed it to me and it was in perfect condition, very nice. I thought that was a very thoughtful, romantic gift for his friends. I would love to get something like that, tailored to my interests. If the giver told me he/she got it at a flea market, I’d ask “Which one?” so I could go back and look for more cool stuff. :)

    As for clothing, I think it’s presumptuous to buy clothing for another adult unless it’s something you know they want or asked for. Adults don’t need other people to dress them.

  31. jacobs cows says:

    Before you do this you have to know that the recepient would be ok and not insulted by this.

  32. levelone says:

    It’s not tacky unless the giver buys tacky gifts. I think it honestly depends on who you’re shopping for and what you’re buying. There are a lot of things in good, or even like new condition at thrift stores, as well as vintage or antique items.

    Clothing is not something I’d buy a lot of as gifts, since it tends to take on that “thrift store smell” if it sits there too long. Plus, a good bit of the clothing at thrift stores is ugly, interchangeable, bland or too roughly worn – there’s a reason it was given away.

    When I shop for myself at thrift stores, I look for cds, books, movies, board games, bath hardware and band/movie t-shirts. Of the three times I bought gifts from a thrift store, one was a like-new Sarah Vowell autographed book, one was an Edward Gorey t-shirt that I knew my friend would love, in very good condition, and the last thing was a vintage Mac that still worked (for my other half).

    One thing I would personally consider tacky is if knew the gift came from Salvation Army, since I don’t support their homophobic policies (but I don’t know anyone who shops there, so it’s moot).

  33. mommiest says:

    This is one case when the thought really counts. If someone picks out something for me that they think I will like, I don’t care where it comes from. I appreciate the effort and I realize I’m hard to shop for. I like it a lot better than some of the tacky regifting I’ve experienced, when I get the feeling that the goal was to check me off a list.

  34. kaceetheconsumer says:

    Yes, absolutely. A piece of brand new shiny crap from a regular store is still crap, even though it’s new, and there are good things to be found at thrift stores. Obviously, a broken/dirty/defective thing from a thrift store is a sucky gift, but there’s lots there that is really good.

    I saw a great tip somewhere online this year that we’ve used to much appreciation: instead of using disposable plates to send out cookies to neighbours, teachers, etc., go to the thrift store and buy some holiday-themed plates/bowls. Put the cookies in that and give the whole thing as a gift, making sure the recipient knows you don’t need the dish back. Then they’ve got a dish they can keep if they want, or regift with more cookies to the next person, and the giver doesn’t have to worry about retrieving a beloved plate.

    My daughter and I found some cute plates for 59 cents apiece at Goodwill and gave them out with cookies and everyone thought it was an awesome idea.

  35. firemunkie says:

    some people love thrift store treasures. so i think ur missing a fourth option: only if the person shops there on a normal basis. my gf is one of this people and a few of her friends too

  36. saifrc says:

    I think it’s pretty clear that this question depends completely on the gift, the condition, the recipient’s taste, and your relationship to the recipient. You don’t buy used thrift store socks for your girlfriend’s father (if you’re, say, trying to impress him). On the other hand, go ahead and buy that tape deck for your teenage nephew who likes to tinker with vintage electronics.

    One of my favorite gifts ever was purchased at a thrift store, and could (possibly) only have been purchased at a thritt store: a perfect condition yellow Pickett slide rule. As a fan of retro technology, and a mathematics student (at the time), it was the perfect thing for me — and you couldn’t exactly find something like that in any ordinary retail outlet!

  37. Shield Ramrod says:

    A nice gift can be obtained anywhere, even a thrift store. But please avoid what my mother in law gave me a few years ago:

    A set of bath salts (meh)
    From Goodwill (well, OK I suppose)…
    With the price tag still on. (oh, now, come on).

    Nothing says “I care” more than third-hand shopworn personal care items, where the giver is intent on demonstrating that they’re passed down by unknown parties for a cheap price. I still get a “laugh” from that.

  38. Cantras says:

    I’d say it depends on the person’s used-stuff taste. If you have a friend who is skeeved out that *you* buy your stuff there, don’t shop there for her.
    On the other hand, I have this really awesome embroidered shirt with frog buttons and a mandarin collar and when my friend saw it, she demanded to know where I got it (goodwill)– and then bemoaned that dammit, she’d just been there the day before I had been, she must have missed it! Dammit!
    I buy all my clothes at Goodwill, pretty much, so I wouldn’t be freaked out if someone got me clothes there. Okay, if they don’t know my taste or my size I can’t return them, but I can just donate them back and have an excuse to go to goodwill that day! hurray!

  39. Outrun1986 says:

    It depends on what the person wants, not everything is available in a retail store, and most stores around here have a very narrow selection of products. If the person wants something that cannot be found in a retail store then you may have to go the used or second hand route. The person isn’t going to know where it came from as long as they are getting what they wanted and as long as you remove price tags or markings. A lot of times you can get brand new or nearly brand new things at yard sales and thrift stores as well.

    I would suggest making sure the gift is in clean condition when giving, there is more dirt on second hand things than you think even if you can’t see it. Wipe off a used DVD or video game case and you will see what I mean.

  40. JulesNoctambule says:

    Perfect timing — yesterday, I gave a friend an early birthday present of Danish modern tableware that I found at a thrift store. She was delighted, but expressed concern that I’d spent too much on her, since this particular type is very desired by collectors and gets very pricey indeed. I admitted I found it in a favourite thrift store and she said she was even happier knowing that I scored a fine deal on it, too! Then again, we are both known for our love of the thrift score.

    The spouse and I bought many of the presents we’re giving this year at thrift stores. Far from being damaged or tacky items, they include some new-in-box coffee mugs, a vintage 1960s coat, popular hardback books and a type of basket collected by an aunt. They’re things the recipients will enjoy at a price we can afford, and we didn’t have to endure the mall or encourage global business practices with which we disagree to get them.

  41. Starfury says:

    I collect board games and sometimes come across a treasure at the thrift store. I know people who would be thrilled to get one of my finds as a gift.

  42. Burzmali says:

    I have no problem with certain used things as gifts. Older, but reliable, tech (i.e. VCRs, since they can be hard to find new) or things I would normally buy used anyway (videogames, CDs, etc) are all fine. Used clothing seems iffy, though.

  43. outlulz says:

    I used to work at a Goodwill and sold a used coffee maker to someone who said they were going to give it as a wedding gift.

  44. C4 says:

    I don’t give clothes as a gift, so anything I find at a thrift shop that I think someone would like; I wouldn’t think twice about wrapping it up for Christmas.

  45. Serenefengshui says:

    Why the obsession for the new? Aren’t we supposed to be all green now? Reduce REUSE recycle, right?

    I find wonderful items at the thrift stores and have gifted them. Usually to family, but most of my friends are thrift store fans as well.

  46. yzerman says:

    A gift is a gift. It’s not about new or used.

  47. ElizabethD says:

    If the gift is brand new in its original packaging OR is a collectible (such as vintage jewelry, a certain antique china pattern, whatever) that your friend/relative seriously collects, then it’s fine. I used to collect turtle items, and people would buy me things at yard sales, flea markets, Savers, Salvation Army, etc. Same as buying at an antiques shop, but probably a lot cheaper.

    Otherwise, NO. Tacky tacky tacky.

  48. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    one day my mom said ‘i gave a sweater just like that to goodwill last month’ and i said ‘probably the same one then, the goodwill just off the highway? that’s where i picked this sweater up three weeks ago’
    after that, she would just call me to come over and go through the donation bags she filled up a couple of times a year so i could pick out what i wanted before she dropped them at goodwill.
    if someone went into a thrift store, picked up the first thing off the shelf and wrapped it for me without thought, i might not be too thrilled.
    but if it was one of my friends who knows my tastes, i’d be glad they took the time to hunt down something i like, regardless of the store.

    • strongbow says:

      I wish my mom would do that — call me up and ask what I’d like. She’s got some great stuff from the 60’s. But she doesn’t really get why I’d be interested in it and so just gives it away. Lucky you!

  49. lotussix says:

    my girlfriend got me a used keyboard from a pawn shop, i love it just as much as i would a new one.

  50. feyshadowgirl says:

    I think it really depends on the item in question. Antiques are usually hard to find “new”. Clothes are a no-no unless there is an original price tag on it.

  51. mythago says:

    That’s….a pretty limited questionnaire.

  52. strongbow says:

    I’ve bought my mom stuff from a thrift store for a Christmas present, but it was either Aynsley teacups or Spode china. So, yes, I’ve done it, but it depends on the item. Probably not a sweater or underwear. OTOH, for years I bought most of my clothing from Goodwill, Amvets or the Salvation Army — so, if you can find a great vintage coat or hat for me, I’ll be happy. Personally, I’d rather recycle than buy something new. But it is really a situation where one needs to know the recipient and their tastes.

  53. Noadi says:

    Of course it is if it’s the right items for the right person. I love vintage clothes amd decor for example so I’d love soem thrift store stuff that fits my style. Antiques of course are cool, or an item the recipient collects, young people just getting started in a first place can always use gently used furniture. etc.

  54. Southern says:


    Gift Giving is supposed to be a way of saying “I was thinking about you when I saw this”, not about “how much can I spend on you”. I’d even much rather have a HANDMADE gift than a storebought one, because I know that person was thinking of ME when they made it (the entire TIME they were making it, in fact) — no just the 10 minutes it takes to log onto Amazon, have something drop-shipped and say “OK, my shopping is all done!”

    Now granted, I probably wouldn’t buy something at a THRIFT store as a gift, but used in general? From like Craigslist, or a pawn shop, or something along those lines? Yes, yes I would. And have. Especially for things like electronics and/or jewelery.

    For instance, last year – a brand new Wii, in the box, with 7 games, 4 controllers, a Wii Fit and 2 Guitar Hero guitars (with receipts for everything); $400 off Craiglist. Do you think my children care if it was “Used”? heck no.

    Maybe it’s frugal, maybe I’m cheap – But I’m certainly not above saving money.

  55. SoCalGNX says:

    Depends on what you buy. There are occasionally new items at these stores as well as collectibles. If you can find something in these two categories, shop there.

  56. JohnnyD says:

    My mom asked for a very specific kind of pyrex pot- much too specific, as it seems like they don’t make them that way right now. After checking eight different stores and the internet, and asking her again what characteristics it needed to have, i went to Goodwill. Bingo! I’m also giving her something new that’s *almost* what she wanted (I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving her only something from goodwill, especially since it’s not in mint condition) but i think she’ll be pleased to have the goodwill one. (If not, I’m including the gift receipt and being frank about where i found it. She knows i looked everywhere.)

  57. CyberSkull says:

    If it is what the person wants, what’s the difference between a thrift store and eBay? Both sell mostly used goods, but somehow paying less makes it less of a gift?

    Disclaimer: My family no longer operates a thrift store so there is no economic incentive for my post. ;)

  58. Sumtron5000 says:

    I wouldn’t get my boyfriend’s parents something from Goodwill, but thankfully my friends and I see the benefit of keeping things out of dumpsters & cutting down on consumerism. So yes, I would find it acceptable to buy used items for some people. 50 desses, weird painting, & 80s pocketbooks! The last pocketbook I bought from Goodwill still had Parkinson’s meds in it.

  59. DeathByCuriosity says:

    “Only if the items are brand-new *or* certain types of non-clothing (LPs, video games, collectibles, antiques, vintage goods, etc.).”

    That’s the option I’d choose if it was in the poll.

  60. Verdant Pine Trees says:

    I’ve given items I found at antique stores to friends and they’ve loved them – why shouldn’t I get something at a thrift store that’s the same type of thing? I wouldn’t go for clothes though, unless I knew the person collected vintage, or likes vintage fabric that can be remade, Andie in “Pretty in Pink” style.

  61. etoilegyrl says:

    I would gladly accept a twenty-five cent paperback from the DI over those generic $20 gift sets I always get that I’ll never use anyway…

    As to it being acceptable, I think that would depend on the quality of the item and the tastes of the gift receiver. The old 1993 corporate softball tee with half the letters missing, no. The designer coat that looks like it’s never been worn, absolutely.

  62. reblnews says:

    I’m amazed by the snob factor I’m seeing here, but I guess it’s common enough. See, I used to live in a quintessential California surf town, where you could find awesome vintage surf tees at the thrift stores. Knowing my friend liked this kind of thing, I scored a handful of them for her – but they weren’t good enough for her, I guess. No, she preferred to buy the EXACT SAME thing from eBay, and spend twice as much, plus shipping. Go figure. I had to laugh, especially knowing that I have yet another friend who combs the thrift stores for this stuff, and then sells it on eBay. I don’t generally give clothes as gifts anyway, but I label hunt at the thrift stores, where I’ve found Patagonia, Armani, North Face, Mountain Hardware, and a whole lot more – all in perfect condition, for a fraction of the cost. Cashmere? Yup. Virgin wool? Yup. Organic cotton? Yup. Goretex? Yup. Linen? Yup. Sure, there’s tacky polyester crap there too, (which I won’t wear) but it’s still cheaper than the tacky polyester crap you find at Ross…

  63. BytheSea says:

    Baby stuff can be hardly used or brand new. You cand find and reporpose things if you’re creative. Sometimes you can find an antique or collectable. Or you can buy a ton of something someone really likes for less, like 100 paperback books. Depends on the situation. I wouldn’t give adults used clothes but you can find someting unique or interesting an The Olde Curiositie Shoppe.