When my brother and sister and I were little, our family was quite poor. When Julian was born, and people at church asked where I got this cute little brother, I, two-year-old Charity, proudly gave my standard reply: “Atta yard sale.”
Except for some new toys at Christmas and our birthdays, almost everything we had came from yard sales and thrift stores. (And it still does — old habits die hard!) Once when I was in high school, and my mom and I were perusing the racks at the local Goodwill, Moomer made a startling observation. “You know, when y’all were little, there’s no way I would have been able to afford anything in here.”
Goodwill, along with several of the other thrift stores here in Nashville, has a good mission. Yes, they give money to the poor. But they’re lacking something major: The poor can’t necessarily afford to shop there. And not all the poor ask for handouts; most decent people would be embarrassed to do so. These people need a way to provide clothes, books, and household goods for their families without having to beg for them.
This is where the big thrift stores are going off on the wrong track. While it’s great that the proceeds go to the less fortunate, thrift stores also have the responsibility to serve the poor by providing less expensive alternatives for those who can’t afford to buy clothes new. When I donate a $3 clearance Wal-Mart shirt, and Megathrift* charges $4 for it, there’s something wrong (and yes, this did actually happen — several times). Sure, they’ll eventually mark it down to $2, but that’s still ridiculous for a shirt that was $3 brand new.
And that’s why, whenever possible, I send all my old stuff — via my mom, whenever she comes up here to visit — to Attic Outlet, a little thrift store in my hometown 70 miles away. Not only does Attic Outlet benefit the poor with its proceeds, but it also helps the poor by actually having features like a 10-cent rack. Try finding THAT at Megathrift. You may not get the most glamorous clothes there (you’ll find mostly old church retreat shirts and very scary 1980’s clothing on the 10-cent rack), but you can be clothed for a few pennies, and save the rest of that money to get your groceries and stay off food stamps.
So, next time you’re donating your outgrown/outmoded/unwanted goods, think about both sides of the thrift store, and send it where it will do good on both ends.
* Names changed to protect the guilty. But you all probably know who I mean.