I recently went to a Salvation Army store. Since I lost my job things have been tight and they are the store to go to when you’re down and out. Well, that’s what I thought.
I went to the Salvation Army in search of a computer desk. Nothing fancy. Just something to sit my computer on. The particle board desk I had (since college – 198X) had seen better days and needed to be retired.
After doing some comparison shopping, I realized I couldn’t even afford the lease expensive desk sold at Wal-Mart. It was just $65 and came with a book shelf. But, the lint in my pockets let me know I had to go lower than that. I was willing to get something and turn it into a desk and I had $20 to make it happen.
I had gotten so many good deals from the Salvation Army in the past, they were the first store to come to mind. I went to their large store off of Harry Hines in Dallas. Wow, call it my inner Fred Sanford, but there is something special about buying someone else’s trash. That’s what all of this stuff was. Something someone threw out. Or rather, donated for the good of someone less fortunate.
As I walked through the mÃ?Â©lange of clothes, accessories and trinkets; I finally spied a desk from across the room. Heck, it was the EXACT one I had seen in Wal-Mart. This one didn’t have a bookshelf, but I thought “Eureka!” I was going to get the little desk I needed and wouldn’t have to pay retail.
It was in perfect condition. One little problem. It was priced at $95!!!!!
I took off my glasses. Cleaned them. Put them back on. I turned the price tag upside down; knowing I wasn’t seeing this correctly. Then I started laughing hysterically. I knew it had to be a mistake.
I found a person who was working there and asked if the price was correct. “That’s what’s on there” was her response.
I was floored. An outrageous price and a stank attitude to go with it. It was like a Whiskey and Strawberry milk cocktail. Yuck!
I asked to speak with a manager. Not because of her attitude. I just said a silent prayer for her – minimum wage will make you mad and despondent. I wanted to see the manager because I just knew that price had to be wrong.
Finally a manager found his way over to me. I brought the pricing issue to his attention. He said, “They are priced as is”. I informed him that the EXACT same desk was being sold at Wal-Mart for $65, with a bookcase. “Then go to Wal-Mart and buy it” was his response.
I stood there laughing. I could not believe they were first, selling other people’s trash above retail value; Second, displaying rude and temperamental attitudes when this was brought to their attention; and third, the realization that my situation wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was unemployed and disadvantaged for that moment. They made me thankful that I hadn’t crossed over into the land of bitter and moral bankruptcy.
Unfortunately, as I scoured the area of other thrift stores, I noticed most prices were outrageously close to retail. I began talking with other patrons and asking “was it me”. Most agreed that they were having problems with most thrift stores and the pricing. Mainly for furniture. Clothing and accessories were still at rock bottom prices.
So, what is the real deal with the thrift stores?
I asked a couple of store employees within the Dallas area. These people were nice and were very willing to talk (complain) about management and the fact that most things are made so cheaply, people can get something for new as cheap as they would at a thrift store. They spoke of how shows like “Antique Road show” had an impact on their merchandise. Many people are shopping thrift stores hoping to find the next million dollar item with a $1 price tag. Also, how many small business owners are buying various things in bulk and are using those things for resale. Lastly, and the saddest point being, immigrants who steal from donation bids, in the stores or switch out price tags on items for a lower price. All of these things supposedly drove the prices up.
I’m sure all of the arguments to raise prices in any store are valid. But, where do the poor shop? The legitimately poor. The families who are making $20,000 and less; with children, school fees, housing, food . Those who believe they have to steal because they can’t afford the lowest price. Where do they go? I’m single. It’s not that major a deal for me.
Yes, I got my desk – from Wal-Mart. I waited two more weeks, it was marked down to $45 and I ate rice and oatmeal to save the extra $25 I needed to makeup the difference. But, that’s me. I guess shelters, churches and missions are the answer for everyone else.
The effects of downsizing have also hit the thrift stores. Many Goodwill and Salvation Army stores are closing. Some might say, “Well, we can shop at the Dollar Store.” These stores aren’t all about shopping.
The Salvation Army assists families during national disaster. Goodwill has work release programs for ex-convicts. Out of the Closet donates a large portion of their sales to AIDS research. Collectively, behind the scenes, these stores are restoring lives with their sales, employment and donations.
It’s imperative that the prices remain low so that those who are financially despondent can afford the basics. Especially those people with children. We must patronize these places in order for the bigger tasks they take on can be accomplished. Click on the link to any of the sites and discover what really goes on with thrift stores. Hopefully you’ll know that you’re helping someone else when you donate or shop there.