Salvation Army Family Thrift Stores are dirty, cluttered, and somewhat disgusting places – especially if you like your thrift clean, classy, and tidy. At least the stores in metro Chicago – I cannot speak to other regions of the country. If you identify with the characters played by Dale Dickey in My Name is Earl and Breaking Bad, or any of Jesse Pinkman’s skanky friends for that matter, then you will dig these stores. While the clothes are sorted with some semblance of order, the knick knacks and housewares tend to be scattered around and in pretty decrepit shape. The shoes are abysmal for the most part – so beat up and gross that I would be embarrassed to donate them to charity, much less resell them!There have been a few notable exceptions – I found new Christian Louboutin sandals a few months ago as well as Prada boots and MBT shoes, but I consider this an anomaly.
Since losing my job, I have patronized resale and thrift shops with more frequency – not for clothes for myself but for new housewares or vintage items to resell on eBay. I have also been on a mission to purge our house of unworn clothing and bric-a-brac purchased on a whim or left over from my days as an antique mall merchant. If we ever want to move, this activity is essential. Goodwill has been my thrift store charity of choice over the last six months. Goodwill has a good mission and their prices are generally reasonable, although some of their Chicagoland stores suffer from the same illogical pricing as other thrift stores we have blogged about. The store in Carpentersville near Woodman’s has deteriorated – both in cleanliness and prices, while the two stores in Arlington Heights and the West Loop are for the most part reasonable.
It may be a bit of a stretch to declare that Community Thrift Store in East Dundee, Ill. is the worst thrift store in America – I haven’t shopped at all of them! But I have patronized no less than 200 thrift/resale stores in states including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. This place epitomizes the worst in thrift – grossly inflated prices, dingy old clothes, chipped dishes and figurines, filthy displays, screaming kids – all to benefit the avarice of a grungy for-profit business. I suspect that the location in Gurnee is owned by the same person given the reviews on Yelp. This place really brought out my inner grouch. Every time I spotted a rip-off, which pretty much applied to everything in the store, I grumbled so loudly to Jeff that I am surprised one of the clerks didn’t kick us out. This thrift store does NOT benefit any charitable cause, making it even more deplorable. Most of the patrons looked like people who have to shop at thrift stores. I hate when people less fortunate are ripped off.
It has become increasingly difficult for me to donate to thrift stores because they have gotten increasingly greedy with highly inflated prices. The purpose of most thrift stores is to benefit a cause and programs for disadvantaged, disabled, or other people in need. Most of these causes are very worthy. However, many of these thrift stores seem to have lost sight of this, as well as the fact that many of their patrons are on limited budgets. Sure, some shoppers are antique pickers like myself, but the vast majority shop thrift because they cannot afford retail. Alas, it is extremely discouraging when one sees that thrift store prices have exceeded retail in many cases, albeit with one important difference. These thrift stores are selling USED items for more than one can buy them NEW retail – what? Case in point, one of my favorite thrift stores – WINGS has a great cause, and I feel for them since their original Palatine location burned to the ground. The mission of WINGS is to provide a continuum of integrated services in an effort to end domestic violence and homelessness one family at a time. They used to have really good prices and on occassion, still have some bargains, but their pricing is random. Jeff and I recently donated a huge array of our prized possessions to WINGS after our garage sale was rained out totally on its second day. Many of these items were antiques and collectibles left over from the days when I had a booth at an antique mall. So not junk, by any means. Much to my consternation, when we were in there on Saturday, I saw that many of my items had been underpriced! Yet right next to some of my antiques were ordinary items that retail new for a small fraction…