Are charity shops really charitable?

In the United States there are several types of thrift stores. You have church-affiliated thrift stores, charitable organization shops, and other for-profit thrift stores. The organization of each is different but the goals of all are to sell goods at low prices. Primarily, the goods are second hand, most having been donated, in the cases of the church-affiliated and charitable organizations. Of course, some of these shops may also sell new items, usually close-outs, irregulars and such.

We shop a lot at thrift stores for various items. It gives us a chance to compare one thrift store against another. In recent times, we have noticed that although places like Salvation Army and the church thrift stores have continued the tradition of selling things very cheap, because they cater to the poor, Goodwill is starting to sell at higher prices and are pickier about what they sell. No longer are they selling everything that is donated. It seems they sort through the donations, keeping only the very best. This is good news to some, who do not like going through “junk”, but it does mean that their prices are higher.

Coming to England, I have found that there are numerous charity shops, each affiliated with one charity or another. However, I can’t say that their prices are very charitable. These charity shops sell “good” second-hand goods as well as new items. “Thrift” is not the term I would apply to any of these shops. They remind me of the Goodwills in America, only somewhat costlier. I have seen box-loads of donations outside the doors of these shops, yet the stock does not appear to be much changed nor are the shops packed. My question is, “Are they even keeping these donations or just throwing them out?”

What is the purpose of these charity shops? Are they not there to help those in need? Or are they only out to make money for their specific charities? And how much of their profits actually go to the charity as opposed to the pockets of the administrators? Are people donating to these places thinking they are contributing to a worthwhile cause/organization, while the administration gets rich? Is it right that these organizations receive free donations and turn around and mark them up?

In these days of credit crunch when people are losing jobs and homes and have less money to spend, why are these charities pricing items so that these people cannot even afford to shop in charity shops?

Recently, we entered a shop and bought some books.  There were signs posted stating that certain books were individually priced while the rest were under one umbrella pricing.  When we went to pay, the clerk, who is supposed to be a volunteer, took it upon herself to decide the books were too good to be under the blanket pricing and repriced them especially for us.  Was that fair?  Was that charitable?  It’s like bait-and-switch.  Why should consumers have to pay more because one clerk thinks the price should be higher than what another clerk determined?

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