I hate this week before Christmas.
No, I’m not being Scrooge — it’s just the opposite. I’ve shopped for the regulars on my Christmas list. I have the gifts for my brother, my niece and nephew, my best friend and my mother already wrapped.
But there are always one or two names that linger stubbornly on the “to do” pile, and I’m forever thinking of more people I know whose spirits would be lifted with a gift. Gifts are my love language, much to my wallet’s dismay.
That’s why I’ll be a familiar face at consignment shops this week. It’s a good match from multiple angles: I find quality brand items at a fraction of the cost. The original owner earns some cash at the holidays. The store owner gets a return on her investment on the rent, lights and employee labor. As the shipping company commercials says, “I’m happy.”
But there are a few downsides to be aware of when you take the consignment route for gift-giving, so plan in advance how you will work around these rules:
• You want the gift to be new. Or at least to appear new. Start by shopping in stores with a good reputation for consigning designer brands and insisting clothing items in particular are in good shape (i.e. freshly laundered, no stains or rips, no missing buttons). Chances are good many of the wardrobe pieces on these racks will still have their original tags attached. It doesn’t excuse you from doing a thorough once-over, but it does increase the odds that what looks perfect will, indeed, be perfect.
However, many secondhand stores claim this upscale policy. How can you tell if it’s bunk? I always sniff the air when I walk through the front doors. If there’s a funky smell, something slightly musty/fusty/old to the scent, chances just went up this store isn’t the place to shop for holiday gifts.
• You want the gift to fit. And most consignment stores have a no-return policy, darn your luck. This is why I browse the racks for items that don’t need an exact size. Blazers, for instance, can be a size or two off and still fit. Same with a sweater. A blouse or dress is getting riskier, and pants or shoes are a no-no.