If you haven’t yet had a chance to get in on the bin store phenomenon and you’re the type of person who loves a good deal, you’re definitely missing out. These stores have been popping up in every city across the country, and chances are if you’ve spent any amount of time on TikTok or Facebook in the past year, you’re at least peripherally aware of the trend.
What is a bin store?
You’ve probably come across a video or several of influencers purchasing large orders of returned products from Amazon and other sites. Some sellers will purchase these by the box or crateload and then take the time to look every item up and list what they can on sites like Facebook Market or Mercari for sale. It’s a tedious job, and there’s no guarantee that the overall selling price will be worth the time and money invested in the products, but sometimes it can be worthwhile, especially for folks who do this as their primary source of income.
Bin store owners purchase these returned products by the truckload. Rather than painstakingly list and ship every individual item online, they open up their bin store to allow shoppers to dig through the items themselves, pricing everything at the same price no matter what it is. This gives shoppers an incentive to get things early before they’re gone and makes it easier for all involved to complete the deal.
Generally speaking, bin stores operate with the same overall structure. They choose one day a week to set out their new products. This is the highest priced day of the cycle, but it is also the day when you can expect to pick up the best items.
Here’s an example of how this works:
- Thursday: $7
- Friday: $5
- Saturday: $3
- Sunday: Everything is a buck
This also incentivizes shoppers to come by and browse for items that might not be worth $5 to them, but they’re happy to pay a buck for them, and it clears out the inventory for the store owners. One of the bin stores I frequent has a 3 for $1 rack for this very purpose, and my kids can always find something they want. On the last visit, it was a pair of small ceramic gnomes for our garden. Did they need them? No. But the kids were thrilled to be getting the cute little gnomes, and it didn’t cut into our grocery fund.
What type of items will I find?
The pallets that are purchased by bin stores generally come from companies like Amazon or Target, and they tend to be made up of returned products, overstock, and clearance items that didn’t sell. What this means is that some different bin stores can tend to have different types of items based on where the owners are purchasing their truckloads from, while on the other hand you might encounter some of the same types of items at every bin store you visit.
Our family buys items to resell, to gift, and to keep. Sometimes we buy things we have been wanting for around our home but otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
Here are just a few examples of some things we have actually purchased at the bin store for $5 or less:
- Pillows valued at $60 each
- A cosplay costume
- Doorbell cameras
- Car parts and accessories
- Christmas lights
- Lawn ornaments and lighting
- High-end board games
- Spendy as heck art supplies
- High-end beauty products
Which stores should I go to?
Every person’s bin store experience is a personal one. The thing to know is that one bin store experience isn’t like all bin store experiences, so check out a few before you decide on a favorite or dismiss the whole thing. Shopping at the same store can also be different from day to day or week to week, so it’s also worth routing your way back to one you previously checked out.
I generally go to the same three bin stores for different reasons. Because I’m superstitious about sharing my shopping secrets, I won’t explicitly share which stores I’ve been visiting. But I will break down the differences between my shopping experience at these three stores:
Higher Price Point Bin Store
I usually go to HPPBS with my bin store-loving friends Sara and Matt. As my nickname implies, this bin store starts out at a higher price point than the other stores I go to, but it is worth the trip for a few reasons:
- They put out new items several times a day. There’s a whole ritual where they roll out new tables that are covered with a black sheet. Folks line up, and the employees count down to pull off the sheets, revealing the items. This means if you’re slick enough, you can get some sweet scores like the queen size double-high airbed I got for $4 last week.
- It’s a huge store. There’s a ton to see – so much that I seriously recommend going fully hydrated and ready to spend some time.
- You’re just as likely to come across buried treasures that got overlooked earlier in the week.
Crazy Thursday Bin Store
This is my go-to bin store. It’s fairly close to where I live, which certainly helps. But it’s also a fantastic bin store for getting a variety of great items if you have the gumption and wherewithal to get up early as heck and participate in the new item rollout at opening on Thursday morning.
Every bin store handles their opening day a little differently, but you can generally expect to stand in line. CTBS hands out numbers when you arrive, and moments before the store opens, everyone shuffles themselves into order. It might look crazy on camera, but it’s honestly one of the most civilized things I have ever beheld and quite literally gives me a tiny glimmer of hope for humanity’s future.
If you get a high number or you arrive right at opening, there’s really no reason to be glum about it because there’s still plenty of room in the store on most days, and it’s going to be fairly crowded either way.
Discount Clothing Bin Store
I don’t usually find a ton of things I go bananas over in the bins here, but one of the stores I visit sells all clothing items for $3 every day. And most of those items are from a season or two ago at Target. While not everything is great, some of the items are from some of the trendier Target store brands like Wild Fable. With three teenagers and my own clothing obsession, this has proven a great way to get everyone stocked up on all the threads they want at less than it would cost us to buy them secondhand. While I certainly have some thoughts about fast fashion that could fill a whole book, the harsh reality is that these clothing are overstocked items that have already been made, and for struggling families, the ability to purchase them cheaply can quite literally change their quality of life.
What else should I know before I go?
The first thing to understand before you go is that these stores have regulars who are there every week, many of whom are picking up items to resell and in some cases have gotten to know some of the other regulars. Although the experience overall is pretty hectic, the overall bin store culture makes it a pretty freaking cool time, since most of the folks are really quite polite. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at my CTBS and heard someone say to another shopper, “Hey, weren’t you looking for travel mugs? Here you go!” or some variation thereof.
That said, manners and rules are everything when it comes to the pure unadulterated chaos of the bin store experience. Here are some tips that will get you far:
1. Review the rules (and mind them).
Every store has different rules. Some bin stores don’t mind you opening up “mystery boxes,” while others have a very specific process for handling these. Most stores are particular about not hoarding items as well – which is frankly a pretty uncool thing to do anyway. Check out the rules ahead of time so you understand what to expect and don’t generate any bad vibes with the shoppers and store employees.
2. Leave the kids at home if you can.
As the mom of three kids, I totally appreciate that for some people, going shopping without the kids just isn’t a possibility. And as far as I’m concerned, people who can’t tolerate a frustrated kid for a few minutes are just sour people to begin with – I’ve seen far worse from adults. But this suggestion is for your benefit, not the benefit of others. The overall bin store experience is something of a sensory smorgasbord, and it can hit hard when you’ve got a kid to be looking out for at the same time. If you have the chance to ditch the littles beforehand, you might have a more enjoyable time.
3. Find a discreet spot to use Google Lens.
Most stores really don’t care if you use Google Lens to price check your items – or find out what they are, for that matter. But it’s generally not a good idea to be doing this on other folks’ time or taking up valuable binside real estate for this. If the store is crowded, just grab the items you think you want and then find a less crazy corner to look them up.
4. Don’t be a Grabby McGrabberson.
Hopefully this requires no explanation.
Let me know about all your favorite bin store tips and scores in the comments, and have a thrifty week in your lovely little nebula!