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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Values and Values: Thrift Store Dilemma?

I LOVE thrift stores: let me count the ways. They are good for the community, good for the environment, and, not least of all, good for my mental and financial health. What's not to like?

As in everything, there is a dark side to thrift stores. I don't think I've ever written about this aspect of the thrifts; perhaps I will one day.

Today, I was reminded of the dark side and reminded too of the potential for conflicting values, even in thrift shopping. Since I had a library book to return, I went to the Food Bank Thrift Store, which is very close. This is an odd place, and has had the oddest series of managers. Still: who could argue with the mission? It funds the Food Bank and also a free dental clinic for the needy. So I like to stop by when I'm in the neighborhood.

As I gathered a few items, I heard one of the volunteers explaining to new recruits the items they discard: Harry Potter and other books of witchcraft. I realize this is a common (mis)belief. They were discussing the books in a jeering tone. I paid and left without saying a word.

What do you do when your values conflict with the values of an organization you patronize?

Poor books! I hope they found a home and were not relegated to the trash heap.


hostess of the humble bungalow said...'s a religious issue..
Harry Potter is not for some people of certain faiths.

I met up with this at the school where I work...not many parents, a's rather challenging but I stand behind the right to buy books and circulate them for all the students...
I am a working in a do not shoot me!

Do tell us more....I feel that I need to know!

Shelley said...

I've often thought that religious organisations that feed people, etc., are potentially performing a form of blackmail: "believe" and we'll feed you. That may be an entirely mistaken viewpoint - perhaps the charity has no strings attached and their work is for the moral good of the givers, not the moral salvation of the recipients. I still contribute to the Salvation Army, etc., because it meets my need to get rid of stuff; and what they do is just what they do, nothing to do with me. If they did something that REALLY offended me, I would not...I don't return to certain restaurants or department stores; I'm very stubborn about that, believe me. If you can tolerate Chicos, I expect you won't have too much trouble with this place. Or is this different?

Frugal Scholar said...

@hostess--About this thrift or the general topic of "the dark side"? A while back, some parents tried to have a book of Louisiana folklore banned from school libraries--because it had voodoo. I can't remember the outcome of the case.

@Shelley--I hardly shop at Chico's (under $50/yr). And thrift stores do good in the community with my money--sometimes I wish I didn't hear so much!

Duchesse said...

I don't patronize them- simply do not wish to support their goals, and make that choice. There are other thrift stores, church associations and charities who do not censor such books.

More dark side: A friend's daughter who worked in the backroom at Goodwill was paid by a hip vintage boutique to skim the good stuff for his shop.

And I've donated items and then seen them in the same kind of boutique with a hefty price tag, when my wish was that they would go to someone in need who could not afford that quality otherwise. SO I had to think, is my donating in fact donating to a business?

Anonymous said...

Just yesterday I noticed a consignment shop with a "Donations" door out back?

When I shop at Salvation Army, I am often treated to Christian music or a radio station. I'm not terribly troubled by this, but I am likely to spend more in a spot that plays classic 60s rock.

Funny about Money said...

Well, these outfits engage in charity as an expression of their operators' religious beliefs, so I suppose you can't be surprised that they have their own little imprimatur lists.

St. Vincent de Paul is the closest thrift to my house. I routinely drop off clothing and household goods there, but recently have been given pause. When the bishop canned the director of St. Joseph's hospital for approving an emergency-room abortion to save a woman's life (this is one of the two major regional medical centers in the state, and it does not restrict its patients to true believers), I became even more permanently disenchanted with the Church than I already was by the endless sex scandal.

Probably there does need to be a point at which you just stop doing business with organizations, good intentions or not, whose ethics conflict with your own. There are lots of charities and thrift stores that aren't associated with religious groups -- shelters for abused women, for example, and veterans' groups. Personally, I'm going to start looking for other places to donate.

Christine Clark said...

I like the Humane Society Thrift Shop. Most workers are volunteers and are happy to have me there to shop. The prices are great and I've never encountered any negativity there. Funny story: At another thrift store, I heard some Scandinavian women complaining about "foreigners" who come to America and don't learn the language. Rather odd foreign discrimination, I thought.

Linda said...

Last summer, I got rid of 800 books, taking them all to a thrift store that funds a food bank. Yes, it is run by a church. When I took in one load of books, I remarked that I hoped this author did not offend--holding up book.

Immediately, the book was pounced upon and declared unfit for the shelves of a Christian run store. The English teacher in me was appalled. The guy went on to explain that they destroyed many of my books!

A young woman I knew said her mother bought many of the books, ones that were not destroyed after one of my donation trips. Now, I don't read trashy books. I mostly donated the classics. I kept the weird titles I probably could never find again, something like--Fleas, rats, and lice in history.

"So, your members can read the books? That's okay?" "It just doesn't look right to have dirty books on our shelves!"

Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence was ripped up and thrown in the trash! Immediately, I went through the books they had already received and rescued similar books. I wanted to cry and scream.

I asked the guy in charge of judging books how he made his determinations--he read the back cover! Yeah, he had taken English 101 during his one semester stay at a junior college and was the most qualified junk receiver.

Now, I hold out books and deliver them directly into the hands of the young woman whose mother will read my classics and not feel like she has soiled her soul.

"Blackmail" remark--absolutely the truth.

I donated and old purse, a special one to me, to a food bank's food closet. Later, one of the volunteers was using it. Yeah, that purse was too good for the poor people. (sarcasm)

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--I've got to share some of my Dark Side tales too.

@Terri--It's the comments I mind more than the music. In my area, ass the thrifts are religion-affiliated--except for one.

@Funny--Sometimes it's better not to know! I can't find an appropriately lefty charity around here.

@Christine--Hmmm. We don't have a Humane Society thrift. Perhaps it's worth moving for the appropriate thrifts. Wonderful anecdote by the way.

@Linda--Very impressive that you got rid of so many books! So generous of you. I give my books to a student organization where I work. That makes it easy. The library booksale is now run by a bookdealer who gives himself first dibs--so, sadly, I don't donate there anymore.

Marcela said...


I had read about people believing that HP is a book of witchcraft but I have never encountered anyone that actually thinks that.

Honestly, I don't think I would buy from someone that holds those beliefs. But I wouldn't judge someone who does either.

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frugal Scholar said...

@Marcela-sorry for the late response. You would be so surprised! Parents tried to get Harry Potter removed from the public library here. Also, a book on Louisiana folklore, which included voodoo, was under attack. This is all very American!