Thrift Store Shopping Challenges
for Booksellers

By Joe Waynick
December 7, 2014

When engaged in thrift store shopping one important lesson you must learn and accept if you want to be a book scout is that things change.

I was once again reminded of this lesson when I walked into one of my favorite thrift stores in search of quality inventory.

It was a location that I had become accustomed to regularly finding books worth $50 to $200 on every visit. These are really cheap used books that I could buy for $2.99 to $9.99 any day of the week.

All I had to do was get to know the stocking clerk and understand her schedule for rolling the book cart that contained fresh inventory. Almost without fail, I would find current textbooks that college students are forced to pay $200 or more if purchased new. But they could buy them from me for $75-$150 depending upon the condition.

The Winds of Change Are Blowing

Buying used books for college from a third-party seller like me saves struggling college students a great deal of money every semester. And of course the bookseller wins because there’s always a ready market for high-priced inventory.

However, as the saying goes “all good things must come to an end.” Today, I walked into this particular location to do a little thrift store shopping and found more than half of the bookshelves bare. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed at this store.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed a steady deterioration in the quality and quantity of books available for sale. This makes it very difficult for making fast money online.

The reason for the decline of the book displays is clear and as uncomplicated as a simple change in personnel.

The woman who had previously been put in charge of stocking the bookshelves was very picky about only putting out the best inventory she received in donations or from the corporate office.

Thrift Store Shopping At It’s Best

She was also very precise about when she rolled the cart. Twice a day she rolled, once at 12 noon and a second time at 3:30 PM like clockwork.

You could set your watch on her schedule. That made book scouting at her store a snap. Of course, such reliability also attracted numerous other scouters.

We would all show up approximately 15 to 30 minutes before the scheduled role and mill around either randomly scanning the cherry picked books on the shelf or chatting with each other about topics in which neither party had any particular interest.

When the stocking clerk appeared with the book cart there would be a mad frenzy of activity as we all scrambled to scan as much as we could in as little time as possible in an effort to grab the used reference books and new nonfiction books.

But those days seem to be over at this store. It’s really sad when you see prime locations like Goodwill thrift stores fall into disarray because new personnel simply don’t care enough about their department to want to do an excellent job.

Find a Better Way

I’ve always said that if you dislike your job so much that you don’t want to excel while doing it, then you should seriously think about getting a new job. It’s too bad that for many people a job is merely a paycheck and not an activity in which they take extreme pride.

As a self-employed entrepreneur making money at home your job is to adapt to changing market conditions (such as a formerly lucrative source of inventory drying up) and replace that source with another lucrative one.

It’s up to you as a small business owner who sells used books on line to make that happen because no one is going to do it for you.

There’s no supervisor to motivate and ride shotgun over you. You’re your own supervisor and motivator.

That’s why you’re in business for yourself isn’t it? To make your own decisions; to live and work on your own terms. Of course it is! Better yet, pass your knowledge onto your family by showing them how they can control their own lives through entrepreneurship and hard work. So don’t sweat it. Use your experience to teach your children how kids make money online through smart thrift store shopping.

Stay Light on Your Feet

Adapt, change, innovate and simply roll with the punches. There’s plenty of some of the absolutely cheapest used books around. All you have to do is be clever enough to find them. As for me, there just happened to be a grand opening of a new store not too far away that promised to be another excellent source for buying used college books. I simply added that new store to my route and continued on my merry way.

I’ll still visit this once lucrative location every once in a while. Who knows? Maybe this new person won’t last and will be replaced with someone more dedicated. That way, the new store added to my route becomes a bonus money making opportunity from thrift store shopping and everybody wins once again.

Good hunting.

There are many great books chock full of ideas about how to profit from selling used books online. To find them just click the “GO” link next to the Search box below and you’ll be shown hundreds of titles like the sample books you see pictured:

Joe Waynick is author of several eCommerce books covering the bookselling and publishing industry. His books are available on can also follow him on Twitter @JoeWaynick.

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