Wedged in between Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, UCLA students have no shortage of places to shop for clothes. However, high price tags can limit shopping options for money-conscious students on a college budget. Each week, columnist Linda Xu explores different secondhand shops in Los Angeles and discusses her thrifty outfits.
BTS Thrift Store feels like a maximum security prison.
In addition to its innumerable signs with passive-aggressive slogans such as “Free Ride in a Police Car if you Shoplift from this Store,” the heavily monitored shop has a flat-screen TV behind the checkout counter displaying 16 different real-time surveillance videos of the parking lot and the shop interior.
Signs that prohibited photography also hung along the walls, which made documenting my experience extremely difficult. One associate scolded a woman for taking a picture of a painting with her phone.
At first I didn’t understand why a secondhand store was so heavily concerned with shoplifting, until I realized clothing was far from the most valuable item inside the place.
The clothing was bland, outdated and reflective of the older crowd that the store seemed to attract with its itchy tweed coats and lumpy sweaters that have lost their shape over the years. However, the clothing section only comprises a fraction of the space; the rest of the store contains homeware goods, collectibles and expensive antique furniture spanning multiple rooms.
BTS is more like an overstuffed warehouse than a store – exposed brick walls and concrete floors generate a feeling of coldness, while piled furniture and a clutter of chandeliers hanging from wooden roof beams make the space feel crowded.
The thrift shop carries anything you could ever want to furnish your house with. Old porcelain dolls sat on top of checkered picnic blankets, which were in turn draped across $400 baby grand pianos that were horrendously out of tune.
On the other side of the room, metal racks stacked with kitchenware jutted out from the wall, containing treasures such as curving brass teapots, ornate goblets, $1 shot glasses and a misplaced fishbowl.
Venturing into the room farthest from the main area, I found myself edging precariously past polished wooden vanities and oil paintings – highly expensive items that I was bound to knock over.
I stared at a marble bust of the Roman general Cassius with a $1,500 price tag, not daring to touch it.
As I wasn’t planning on buying old leather recliners or dusty pianos, I shifted my attention back to what I came for: the clothes.
I was disappointed by the dull, unflattering shirts and pants I found hanging from the racks. However, the shoe selection featured some nice loafer and kitten heel options from brands such as Dior and Ferragamo, all hovering around $30, which would’ve added a nice vintage pair to my closet. Sadly, I couldn’t find any in my size.
I felt unsatisfied leaving the store without something, so I practically forced myself to buy a plain white button-up and a thin leather belt that I felt pretty indifferent toward.
At the check out, I found myself in line behind a woman purchasing giant mountains of clothing. The overwhelmed cashier asked me how much my items were, to which I responded truthfully; however, I was surprised she took my word for it and punched in the prices.
She then told me that I could have 25 percent off if I signed up for its rewards program, an easy opportunity to save some money, and I received $4.25 off my total of $17.
After paying, I backed out of the door with my clothes, catching a glimpse of myself on the giant monitor documenting my exit through watchful cameras.