Op shop till you drop
If you have anyone on your present list who is happy to receive second-hand presents, here are some things you can reasonably expect to find at op shops:
- Books… if they’re keen readers of a genre that people whip through at a rate of knots (detective novels and romances being key examples) you may be able to snap up as many as twenty with little effort and minimal cost.
- China and glassware… if they like quirky, individual pieces. (Again you need to know their tastes here.)
- Jigsaws… if you like jigsaws yourself (Because it’s a real gamble buying these from op shops so it’s best if you do the puzzle yourself first to make sure you have all the pieces. Again, at op shop prices, you can probably afford to buy a few of these and there will be plenty so don’t just grab the first you see: wait till you find one with a particularly good picture.)
- Toys… avoid cheap plastic toys and nasty soft toys but you can usually find good quality toys too (In particular, it’s a buyer’s market for second hand bears, so you can get high quality teddies in near mint condition for just a few dollars which would be perfect for small children…. except that small children receive their bodyweight in teddy bears every year and really don’t need any more.)
The thing about op shops is that you can’t rely on them having anything in particular so if you go to just one, the chances are they won’t have what you want. So instead you can do an op shop crusade and go to every op shop in your area or you can go back to your closest op shop at regular intervals to check the new arrivals.
So if you’re planning to give people op shop presents, start early and go often.
My office is on the verge of an uprising because Donna has mucked up three people’s birthday cakes in a row. (I don’t know why she insists on being in charge when she couldn’t organise a round of applause. She should accept her weaknesses and stick to her strengths. (Surely she has some, although snarky comments and bitter jibes are the only ones that come to my mind immediately.))
 My sister Wendy once found a large cache of current whodunnits at her local op shop but, before she paid for them, she discovered that the last chapter had been ripped out of each. “There are vandals who disrespect property by tagging people’s fences,” she said with disgust, “There are vandals who endanger our safety by ruining road signs, but the most despicable of all is this person who has destroyed the innocent pleasure of a teacher who educates other people’s little darlings all day and just wants to unwind at night with murder, criminals and buckets of blood”.
 You also need to know how to wrap breakables or else you might be giving them a handful of shards.
 My mother liked jigsaws but she once put the last piece into a dull picture of a grey church on a winter’s day and said “Why did I bother?”
 My son Jeremy had a plush bandicoot with a disturbing squint and an evil leer. If you live near me, you may find it in your closest op shop because it didn’t last long at my place and I doubt anyone would have ever taken it home to theirs.
 Once a month, my friend Jill does an op shop tour with her pal Bernadette. They treat it as a catch-up and they have lunch at their favourite café and they both now have very impressive collections of twentieth century literature but Jill’s children have banned her from bringing home any more ornamental owls.