4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift Store

Cracked has had articles from some pretty wild sources -- doctors, child stars, spies -- but I know what you've all been thinking this whole time: "When are we going to hear from someone who worked at a thrift store?!"

That time is now, my babies.

I worked at a very popular thrift chain, the name of which has been removed because I don't actually know anything about the law and have no idea if what I'm doing might blow this whole operation wide open. Just to be on the safe side. I might not end up unveiling a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, but I bet I've got one or two things about working in a thrift store that might surprise you.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Advertisement

4
The Wealthiest Customers Are the Worst

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreImage Source/Photodisc/Getty Images

This might come as a shock to some of you, but did you know that sometimes having lots of money turns a person into a huge dick? It's true! Many wealthy people have no true concept of poverty and, well-bred though they may be, often delight in patronizing people whose lives are already hard enough as a way of re-affirming their financial and douchebag superiority. Working at a discount store leads even middle-class customers to either treat you like a discount human or an exciting foreign adventure, like, "Hey Bertrand, wouldn't it be a lark if, just this once, we vacationed on one of the not secret islands that only rich people know about? I'm serious, let's go to the Bahamas or Jamaica; we'll be slumming it just like the poor! Ah, the poor."

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreMedioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
"Oh, honey, isn't this just like if we were on The Wire? I'm such an Omar!"

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

The thrift store I worked at was in a really wealthy neighborhood, so obviously we got a solid handful of rich, bored housewives who'd come in out of idle curiosity for how the other half lives (spoiler alert, rich people: not as well as you). The wealthy customers would talk to me as if being around donated clothes meant that I was also some kind of discount, donated human. One such woman sneered when I told her an Abercrombie shirt was $2.99, because she expected it to be free, apparently. After I finished ringing her up, she stood by the register and pointed out every dismal aspect of our store like a judgmental stepmother.

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreAndrea Chu/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"Where am I supposed to park my nice car or my tiny dog? And what
about OTHER stereotypes about rich people? What about THOSE?!"

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

If they're not being rude and judgmental, they're just taken by how positively quaint the idea of a thrift shop is. Another clearly rich woman was totally enthralled by how "cute" all our recycled, dusty clothes and barely-making-rent employees looked. She was really curious about my life, totally amazed that I was in school, even complimentary about how well I socialized with her. She looked at me with sad, sympathetic eyes like I was a toddler in a Russian orphanage and she was Angelina Jolie.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

I can't decide which is worse: being openly thought of as a shit stain on society's otherwise perfect silk tapestry or being treated like an alien in a laboratory -- fascinating, yet still very much different and intrinsically inferior.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

A quiet majority of our customers, however, were people looking to steal.

3
Theft Is a Huge Non-Problem

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreDavid Woolley/Photodisc/Getty Images

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

The way our system was set up, unless a customer was the worst thief in the world, there was no way we could actually stop them. There's no barcode system to track our inventory -- we had to manually count everything once a month. We had cameras, but those were to watch the employees, not the customers. We were supposed to have plain-clothes anti-theft people wander the store, but we were in a nice neighborhood, so they only ever came in to train new police academy dropouts.

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreJackF/iStock/Getty Images
"If you see anyone taking anything just start making Michael Winslow noises."

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

An ongoing problem my store had was that we never had enough people on the floor to do everything our jobs entailed. (Surprise! Not a lot of people sign up to work at thrift stores, and most stores don't have enough money to pay the amount of employees they need!) We had to put out 800 items per employee for an 8-hour shift on top of letting customers into fitting rooms and checking on them so they don't steal, working the register on the exact opposite side of the store, helping customers find things, and keeping the store tidy. Even splitting all of that between two people (which is all we ever had on the floor), you still find yourself constantly rushing like a chicken with its head cut off who's also high on crack.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

In my particular store, the only time we ever caught someone stealing, it happened by accident. A very drunk guy brought his stuff up to the register to buy a single shirt. The hat he was wearing had our price tag on it. When I pointed it out to him, he lifted his arm to take off the hat and I saw his shirt had another one of our price tags on it. I pointed that out to him too. He went to reach into his bag where his original shirt was, presumably forgetting the hat and shirt weren't his, and when he opened the bag, I saw another one of our price tags inside it. He took off the shirt and hat at the register and walked out topless, leaving his original shirt inside the bag on the counter. And thus, my career as a crime fighter began and then abruptly ended.

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreMartin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images
Criminals are a superstitious and half-naked lot.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

2
The Pay Is Terrible

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreCreatas/Creatas/Getty Images

The risk of injury at most thrift stores is less of an "if" and more of a "when." We risked spider bites, inhaling mold spores, needle pricks, tetanus -- you name it. That means a larger portion of your check goes to workers compensation. Coming from a background of retail jobs, I expected about $120 a week working part-time, but every paycheck I got seemed curiously light. Sure, I'd get workers comp if injured. The only problem is that [POPULAR THRIFT STORE] usually rejects your insurance provider and makes you use the one that's run by [POPULAR THRIFT STORE] itself.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

So a noticeable portion of your paycheck goes straight back to the source, because it's better for their bottom line. Plus, they operate on an "at will" employment model, meaning they can fire you for whatever reason and you can't do shit about it because you signed a contract. So if you do get injured and can't go to work for two weeks, you're probably going to get fired, but they can cite other reasons about your job performance pre-injury.

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreDragonImages/iStock/Getty Images
"You once referred to capris as shorts. You can take that bullshit to Walmart. Good luck with the hernia."

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

[subtitle]
1
[POPULAR THRIFT STORE] Doesn't Trust Its Employees[/subtitle]

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreZsolt Nyulaszi/Hemera/Getty Images

One day, the anti-theft team came to our store and seized the computer that recorded all of our camera footage in a sweep involving six other stores. More than half of our employees were called to the main office, where they were accused of a variety of stupidly harmless things that don't jive with the store's dictatorial policy. One of my co-workers got fired because footage showed him wearing pants from off the rack that he didn't pay for. But there was a good reason for that: he came to work in dark jeans that didn't fit dress code. Our manager said he should get a pair of slacks off the floor and wear those. Even though he put them back after his shift, this guy got fired for doing what he was told to do by his boss. I should have been fired too, because I once wore a blue shirt that my manager said was more green than blue (I'm wearing it now and it's totally blue, Michelle). She told me to get a blue shirt off the floor and wear it for the rest of my shift. I ended up forgetting to change out of it and took it home. I didn't get fired because I was new. In retrospect, I should've done a whole bunch of bad stuff simply because they'd excuse it as me not knowing any better.

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreBaloncici/iStock/Getty Images
"You said to clean the store. Isn't the register part of the store?"

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Everyone else that got called into the main office got fired for "stashing." When a really dope item gets donated, our policy practically ensures no employee will have a fighting chance at buying it: staff can buy an item only after it's been on the floor for at least 24 hours. So, when an employee wants to buy something, sometimes another employee will price it and keep it in the stockroom until the date on the price tag passes the 24-hour mark. When the employee who wants the item is off work, they come in and another employee will casually put the item out on the floor for the employee who wants to buy it. According to store logic, being able to buy donated stuff using your employee discount is super illegal unless 24 hours has passed. We're all going to hell, but the employees who skirt that rule are going to Super Hell.

4 Harsh Realities About Working at a Thrift StoreJohn Martin
"Hope your cardigan was worth it."

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

This is a company that, to be clear, often "forgets" to give drug tests because it acknowledges that most of the people who would want to work there would fail. It's a company that, at least in my time, "forgot" to give someone a background check (that person ended up using a fake name to get hired in the first place). But don't you dare try to buy donated goods at a discount in a timely manner you underpaid monster.


Make sure you follow Talia on Twitter and Tumblr for even more jokes!

For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Terrifying Things Only Truckers Know About the Highway and 6 Awful Realities Behind the Scenes at SeaWorld. Have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.

To turn on reply notifications, click here

657 Comments

Load Comments

More Blogs

4 Surprisingly Insightful Plots From TV Sitcoms

These shows chose to go above and beyond.

78

5 Everyday Things With (Mostly Forgotten) Nazi Origins

Plenty of everyday things have weird connections to the Nazis.

121

5 Shocking Movie/TV Character Betrayals (That Make No Sense)

The thing about plot twists is that they almost never make sense on repeat viewing.

117

5 Horrific Acts Committed By Lovable Sitcom Characters

Sometimes the silliest goofballs get away with the vilest things.

110

6 Weirdly Terrible Books By Famous Authors

No author's bibliography is spotless.

137

5 Horrifying Ways Scandals Were Covered Up

People will do anything to keep their shady acts secret.

74