Working at Value Village was one of the few jobs I held down in my early 20s that I actually quite liked. Mainly because all I had to do was walk around a giant, mostly empty store and hang shirts up. Minimal human interaction. Just the way I like it.
Needless to say, I daydreamed a lot. However, while working at my local Mississauga Value Village, I did notice that a shocking number of customers purchased items that were essentially garbage with a price tag, simply because they were cheap.
It’s a mentality I’ve never quite understood. It didn’t help that I was also a part of the team that helped unload some of these items off the delivery trucks. So, I knew what condition they were in when they arrived.
To help you avoid making similar mistakes, or at the very least, entertain you, I’ve decided to compile a list of the six items I would never take home from the Value Village near me.
You may disagree, but as someone who worked there, I feel I can, at the very least, make a slightly more informed decision
Look, if you're a collector of all things vintage, fair enough, scoop up whatever electronics from the '80s or '90s you can find. But, I still wouldn't recommend getting them at Value Village, where the quality can range from destroyed-by-time to half-eaten.
I spent hours roaming the store each and every shift, and I couldn't tell you how many times I had to pick up a VHS tape or toaster that had either been knocked down or dropped onto the floor. Those babies were banged up.
Here's my advice to you — if you find an Xbox game there, check the disk first to make sure it's not scratched beyond repair.
Headphones? Test them out and be prepared to listen to your favourite tunes in mono. And, for God's sake, don't try to buy any sort of phone or laptop charger there.
I used to urge people to make sure whatever they were buying was working by plugging it into a power outlet, which always seemed to confuse them.
So, that's what I also now recommend you do when dealing with the janky world of Value Village electronics.
Before you start telling me about how many great boots and slippers you've found at Value Village over the years — let me share this tidbit. Out of all the sections I cleaned up during my time working there, none ever got as bad as the shoe section.
I would watch daily as grown men and women would put their stinky feet into a pair of work boots or heels only to just toss them aside when they were done. Almost every pair ended up on the ground at some point, scuffed up and full of whatever sweat and odour had just been stuffed into it. It was nasty, to say the least.
Maybe different stores have better sections and selections. But I simply cannot get that imagery out of my head.
To this day, I see a messy Value Village shoe section and feel compelled to start trying to clean it up. I think, in general, we all deserve to walk around with stuff on our feet that feels a little less cursed. But hey, perhaps this one is just on me.
Parents, don't feel guilty about wanting to buy toys on a budget. We're living in challenging times, but consider shopping at Dollarama. Why? Because there, at least you're assured that whatever you purchase won't be missing crucial pieces.
During my time at Value Village, I encountered numerous return attempts from well-intentioned parents who, after purchasing an item for their child, found that the quality of the dream house or Transformer was subpar.
I still have nightmares about having conversations with customers who'd bought a game of Monopoly from us, only to later discover essential pieces, like the money, were missing.
And don’t even get me started on the puzzles. My own grandma once told me that she had spent hours working on a puzzle of Monet's Garden that she had bought from Value Village only to discover the last five pieces weren't in the box.
It broke my heart then; it breaks it now.
This, admittedly, feels a bit sacrilegious to write, as I love collecting vintage vinyl records when I can, and Value Village certainly has some of the best deals when it comes to that.
However, having taken home plenty of records during my time working there, I can tell you that only about half of them ever worked.
I remember picking up the first Police record from my store, only to discover that most of the songs were warped by the many scratches and dings the vinyl had accrued over the years.
It was my first time hearing it and even now, when I listen to it on Spotify, I can tell you exactly where those fateful skips happened.
It's almost weird listening to Sting belt out Roxanne without a manufactured stutter.
Yes, some Value Villages do, in fact, have underwear sections. Including the one I worked at.
How worn were those panties and boxers? I have no idea.
I certainly didn't go around checking. I believe, for obvious reasons, you should never get undergarments from a place known for selling items that people have previously worn. I mean, how can you live your life in a normal way when you're wearing a stranger's discarded Fruit of the Loom? You simply cannot.
I don't think this one needs much more explaining.
I understand the desire to buy formal wear from Value Village when times are tough. Hell, I've done it, too. But, I also learned from working there that while grabbing various suits from everyone's go-to bargain bin will save you money, it always looks a bit wonky.
Even if you get the outfit tailored to your measurements, you'll still feel like you're wearing someone else's clothes, which is a feeling I've never once gotten from shopping at Value Village when I've bought a less-formal item of clothing, like a t-shirt or pair of shorts.
I could never stop thinking about how many funerals or weddings someone had attended in the thing I was trying to make my own. As weird as it may sound, I always felt haunted wearing someone else's suit.
So, there you have it. My humble guide to shopping at Value Village. Hopefully, it's given you a bit of a look behind the curtain, and a chance to make some slightly more informed decisions going forward.
Also, as much as all of these things are on my do-not-buy list, there are a plethora of items I'd enthusiastically recommend purchasing from Value Village to save some cash.
For example, throughout my time working there, I stumbled upon loads of designer items that were often much cheaper than their brand-new counterparts. Additionally, I frequently picked up fun mugs and glasses; they're not only easy to clean but also consistently priced at a bargain.
And let's not forget about the books! There's an abundance of them available, making it an excellent place for literature enthusiasts.