15 Thrift Shopping Terms You Need to Know

yard sales
Armin Staudt/Shutterstock.com

Every hobby and profession develops a unique term, and it’s no different from the world of secondhand shopping.

As a professional thrift shopper and retailer for over 30 years, I’ve noticed my “associates” and I have our own language – peppered with odd terms, abbreviations, and acronyms.

And since Babbel doesn’t offer courses on becoming fluent in thrift store language (what’s up, people?), allow me to translate. Here is a set of terms that will help you navigate the wonderful world of shopping and reselling.

1. In the wild

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

Ready. “In the wild” refers to where valuable used items (and indirectly, the skills of the buyer) are found. It takes a special skill to find treasure in the wilds of thrift stores or flea markets as opposed to more civilized environments such as high-end antique shops.

2. Honey pit

Land sales or garage sales or yard sales
Faizal Mazlan / Shutterstock.com

Spend enough time in the wild, and you’ll eventually find “honey holes” – places where the good stuff abounds. Made popular by the TV show “American Pickers,” any thrift store, land sale, yard sale, or junkyard can be a honeycomb.

3. Toast

Yard sale
Richard Thornton/Shutterstock.com

Used items that are “burnt” or “baked” show signs of heavy wear or use. To take the metaphor one step further, seared is slightly better than “fried” (stuff so damaged it loses all value).

4. Repop

Land sales or garage sales or yard sales
Faizal Mazlan / Shutterstock.com

The odd linguistic word “repop” refers to an item that has been reproduced to mimic the original. For example, “The Coca-Cola sign isn’t vintage, it’s just a modern repop.”

5. Flea bites

pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

When is a chip not a chip? When it is a “flea bite” or “mosquito bite”. On porcelain, pottery, and glass, both terms refer to the smallest break – not too broken, but still visible.


miimagephotography / Shutterstock.com

Pronounced wai-SEE-bee, the acronym WYSIBI stands for “when you see it, buy it.” Second hand shoppers use the term to describe any item that is rare, unusual, or highly sought after. Another way of saying, “don’t miss this”, WYSIBI is a verb, a noun, and a mantra rolled into one.

7. WAS

Senior man playing chess
Carlos_Pascual / Shutterstock.com

Borrowed from law enforcement, “BOLO” is short for “alert”. But instead of hard-core criminals, second-hand buyers are looking for treasure that is hard to find.

All of the products covered in my “Thrift Shop Like a Pro” series qualify as BOLO, either for their outstanding quality or their impressive resale value.

8. Start-the-car moment

Happy male car driver
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

Found amazing items at absolutely incredible prices? Congratulations, you are having a “car starting moment.” This adrenaline-pumping experience makes you want to check quickly and get to the car before someone notices their mistake.

9. Aunt Sally and Vinny

Salvation Army sign
Young Margaritas / Shutterstock.com

This endearment term stands for two beloved thrift store chains – The Salvation Army and St. Louis. Vincent de Paul, respectively. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a bargain hunter say something like, “Oh you like this jacket? I found it at my favorite boutique — Vinny’s!”

Resell terms

Woman looking at box of old items to donate or sell

Not all second-hand buyers resell what they find, but those who speak a different dialect do. Most of the terms were coined to help sellers communicate more clearly with online buyers.

But other words and phrases are just verbal shorthand in what is a fast-moving and highly competitive field.

1. Choose


In the world of resale, “picking” is akin to salvaging — pulling valuable items from environments where they might otherwise end up in landfills. Selecting a successful one requires a keen eye and a keen understanding of trends, market demands and values.

Pickers make their money by “flipping” – selling their finds at a profit (often, several hundred times over the original “election” price).

2. Meat on the bone

The confused senior shrugged his shoulders
Cakes / Shutterstock.com

Another expression popularized by “American Pickers,” this term refers to the profit potential of the item. If there is no “flesh on the bones” there is no space between the purchase price and the resale value to make a profit.

3. Dead stock

DVDs for sale
Tonelson Productions / Shutterstock.com

When retail products sit on shelves and don’t sell, they eventually become “deadstock”..” Also called “New Old Stock” (NOS), these items are vintage, but pristine and still in their original packaging.

When businesses closed, their deadstock items were often donated to thrift stores or sold in bulk at flea markets.

4. EU

Woman with antiques
Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.com

Antique finds in their best form are considered to be in “EUC” (very good used condition). This term refers to any item that shows no signs of use, wear, or damage.

5. Spell-out

North Face jacket
Everything You Need / Shutterstock.com

Remember the GAP t-shirt with the super-sized GAP logo on the front? That is a perfect example of “spelling”. The term describes any clothing or luggage with a prominent brand, team, or franchise name, well… spelled out.

6. OAK

collectible statues
Ugis Riba / Shutterstock.com

This acronym means “one of a kind.” Retailers usually reserve “OOAK” to describe handmade items, artwork, and items that have been customized in some way.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *