Some thrift stores not charitable organizations
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 12:08 pm


To the Editor:

Today, our society places greater demands on resources than ever before. Whether these are your private assets or the resources we gather from the world around us, one can see the signs of strain. It’s no wonder that people are purchasing used items more frequently. It makes financial sense, and it makes environmental sense. This has resulted in a greater interest in second hand stores by both the public and the would-be entrepreneur.

There are many varieties of second hand store, flea market malls, consignment stores, variety stores, and thrift shops just to name a few. Each is specialized to exploit the used merchandise market niche in a specific way. Most different among those strategies is the thrift shop.

A true thrift shop supports a charitable mission, period. Their goals vary. They could be providing a training space for lower functioning employees, or providing inexpensive staples for the poor and money conscious, or financing a parent operation like a charity, teen center, or animal shelter. True thrift shops also rely exclusively on donations of used items for their inventory.

In recent years, the second hand retail sector has grown and attracted new businesses. Some of these newcomers, perhaps making an honest mistake, are referring to themselves as “thrift stores” despite the fact that profits from the enterprise go right into the owner’s pocket.

Whether unwittingly or on purpose, this mis-truth jeopardizes true charity thrift shops in two ways. First, valuable donations can be misdirected to these locations, leaving less potential inventory. And second, purchasing power may be wasted on such locations by shoppers who assume their dollars are serving some public good.

Of course, to some people this distinction is unimportant. But if it matters to you, take the time to make sure the “thrift store” you’re patronizing supports a charity in a clearly verifiable way. Otherwise, you’re just shopping.

Tim Connolly, Potsdam