While thrift stores can be a great way to grab some awesome clothes for cheap, many people also enjoy the fact that they help out a local charity. But not all thrift stores donate their profits, and even if they do, the charity may receive only a minute amount of the proceeds.
The website Charitable Review Council discusses the increasing trend of for-profit thrift stores that often confuse customers about their relationship to a charity.
“When you make donations or buy clothing at Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Silver Angel or Bibles for Missions, you’re supporting a charitable mission that helps the homeless, the poor, or job training programs. When you shop Savers, Unique Thrift or Valu Thrift, you’re supporting a for-profit business similar to consignment or antique shops,” the site reads.
But many stores do have a charitable aspect in that they often purchase merchandise from charity organizations, alongside what they receive as donations, which some companies weigh and then donate money, per pound, to organizations.
As someone who enjoys shopping at thrifts stores and helping out the community, I am cautious about where I shop because of the crazy stories I have heard of stores falsifying how much merchandise they receive or acting as centers for money laundering.
But one way to ensure the charity receives donations is by simply cutting out the middle-man, just like Lutheran High School has done with the Lutheran High Thrift Store, on 2125 Bonita Ave. in La Verne. Connected to a school, the school directly receives the store’s profits.
Employee Angelo Dilberto said that while the economy has caused a decrease in the donations they receive, their sales have increased, resulting in more profits for the high school.
“More people are actually shopping at thrift stores not just for their wants,” he said. “It’s more about their needs because of the economy.”
Employee Desiree Fossett assured me that all the donated items go to someone who needs them, whether they are sold or donated to a local homeless shelter.
Although their profits do make it to a local organization, their wares are not the greatest. Their clothes and accessories are not of this decade (and not in a cool vintage way). But this store is a great place to purchase used books, Christmas mugs or a unique antique.
One store I had never been to before was the American Way Thrift Store on 232 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pomona. I saw no signs displayed about their connection to a charity and figured they were a for-profit, until I combed through their site, at which point I discovered one reference to their support of Helping Hands for the Blind and the Cancer Foundation.
I had heard good things about the store online, but felt let down when I got there.
Not only does the store not provide changing rooms, their clothing products are barely organized. Sure they were separated by pants, dresses and shirts, but they were not separated by color, style or anything else that would make it easier for their customers to find something.
Although the clothing racks were bare, the store did have a lot of new furniture and household items that a local store was most likely unable to sell.
Plus, they had some perfect Christmas sweaters for an ugly sweater party.
But in the end, you can’t argue with their prices and discounts. I ended up getting a beautiful scarf, a book I had been looking for and a sweater for $7.60, it is kind of hard to be upset with that price.
I also decided to visit the Bargain Boutique, located at the David and Margaret Youth and Family Services home at 1350 Third St. in La Verne, after hearing a lot of positive things about the store.
What makes the Bargain Boutique different from traditional thrift stores is that they focus on food and household items.
Not necessarily a bad thing for broke students who somehow need to eat.
The store’s amazing prices for name brand foodstuffs impressed me, especially since I ended up purchasing a bag of Starbucks coffee beans for half its value.
The wide variety of items offered and the store’s tidy atmosphere made it a pleasant trip, plus I was able to purchase items I needed.
What makes the store even better is the proceeds go directly to the David and Margaret center to help take care of the residents, girls aged 12 to 18 who have been removed from their homes and are then raised at the center, providing for better environment than what they often experienced at home.
The products they have are constantly rotating, making for a new shopping experience every time you visit.
But always check the expiration dates, while most of the items I checked still had half a year shelf life left, some items were The Valley Thrift Store on 777 W. Foothill Blvd. in Azusa on the other hand, was one of the worst stores I visited.
While they had an enormous selection of over-priced clothing neatly displayed, I was surprised that they called themselves off as a thrift store.
Valley Thrift Store is owned by Red, White and Blue Thrift Store, a chain who partners with Vietnam Veterans for America. The non-profit has recently fallen under scrutiny from Charity Watch, who claims the organization lied about where their money goes.
According to a CBS local news report, only 18 percent of the organization’s profits make it to the organization. The CBS story, “Some Organizations Under Scrutiny Over For-Profit Thrift Stores” posted on the news station’s site, pittsburgh.cbslocal.com, also claimed that of those they observed driving the trucks, nearly all were too young to have served in the war.
So before you go poppin’ tags, check out your local thrift stores to see if the profits are going back into your community and not into someone’s pocket.
Amanda Larsh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.