Thursday, May 23, 2013

Goodwill and Salvation Army...Why have you forsaken us?

About ten years ago, I really embraced shopping at thrift stores.  At the time, I was covering the city of Chicago for my company and was able to find not only a great variety of Goodwill stores and Salvation Army stores, but independents like, The Find out in La Grange.  These were a sanctuary for me after a busy day of selling.  I would pop in and browse, and more often than not, I would leave with some coveted blazer by Hickey Freeman, or a Brooks Brothers suit, neither of which I would have paid more than a few bucks.  There almost seemed to be a type of chicness to shopping this way.  And as the word spread, I believe, so did the greed.

With the influx of more affluent, or maybe middle class shoppers shopping in these stores, Goodwill and Salvation Army seem to have changed their mission.  They seem to think that if something is worth more new, than it should be worth more used as well.  Now I won't argue that there is some logic in that.  But these are Not For Profit Charitable organizations and these are the same items that five years ago, were considered generic donations and were accepted without question and put on the shelf.  No price checking to see if they could make a few extra bucks. What I question is the motivation behind this change in policy.  Have things changed for the real needy in America?  Have things gotten better to the point that we can all afford to pay more for used and mostly donated clothing items? Or is it an issue from the other side.  Have Goodwill and Salvation Army adopted a policy of paying their workers a better living wage, hence needing to raise prices?  I kind of doubt that one.

Is there a place in the donated or consignment world for higher end clothing to be priced this way?  Absolutely!  It's called Boutique consignment stores, or Plato's Closet.  They exist, and for the people that are looking for that and prefer not to shop at Goodwill or Salvation Army, you have a home.  

If I'm honest, in my case, I can afford to pay more right now.  A year ago...no.  But what about all of the people that depend on these stores for their clothes and household items exclusively?  I often see people shopping there that I know, really don't have a choice.  Why are we penalizing them for the shopping habits of more affluent people?  Even worse in my opinion, is the fact that I see only two solutions.  The first would be that as a people, we stop shopping at these establishments unless we really can't afford to shop elsewhere.  The second would be for these two NOT FOR PROFIT corporations to get back to doing what they used to do best...Charity.