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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What to do if you don't want a picker to resell your donation?

This is in response to Duchesse's comment on the post about my past life as a picker. She has seen her chic donations to charity end up in boutique windows. That is a tribute to her fab taste, but also....errrrr...annoying.

I won't get into the ethics of reselling (except I do talk about it below--oops). I did read something on the issue that pointed out that charity shops were in business to make money for their charity, not to provide cheap goods for the needy (though this is a by-product). Also--trust me--if people didn't buy for resale, the charity shops wouldn't make much money. Seriously, most of the people I see are resellers. In the USA and perhaps Canada today, many of the needy have too much clothing--just like the rest of us.

There are reselling practices that I find unethical. Example: my area Friends of the Library has a huge book sale every month. A book reseller is now in charge of the sale. THAT is unethical. The reason it's unethical is because he LOWERED all the book prices (to a dollar for hb and 50 cents for pb) and now has first dibs on everything. I used to see him with his price scanner at Goodwill all the time. Now I suppose he just works his book sale. I spoke to the former prez of the organization on this : he said "It's ok because he puts a lot of hours in." I replied, "He's not donating his time. He's being compensated." Whatever. Now he can scan the donations.

Another example: the former manager of an area thrift store (who was not very alert due to health issues) had daughters who sold on Ebay. You could see the daughters take things directly from the donation area to their cars--without even paying a paltry thrift store price! That's even worse than the above example.

But what can YOU do with your chic donations if you want them to go to a needy person who would be thrilled to get them? Sadly, not much. Pickers are EVERYWHERE (perhaps I'll do another post on this). I would suggest donating directly to orgs like "Dress for Success" if you have interview-worthy items.

OR take the item to a consignment store yourself. Then donate the cash proceeds to a charity of your choice.

OR find a bunch of worthy recipients. One of Frugal Son's friends--a grad student-- wanted cashmere sweaters for the cold winter. I gave her some of my overstock.

Any other ideas?


Gam Kau said...

I had no idea there was any stigma with being a picker, nor did I have an inkling that was a name for this activity. Even 22 years ago when I used to buy childrens clothes at a thrift store there were many many pickers.
I agree, thrift stores exist to make money for charity and it is only a secondary benefit that many provide reasonably priced items to those less fortunate. It really never occurred to me that an individual might profit from of my donations, but if they do I feel it's a good thing. Money goes to charity, money goes to an industrious individual and back into the economy - it's all good. These days many of the larger charities have an online presence and volunteers who identify the more profitable items and list them online.
Another aspect to consider if you feel the donations should end up in the hands of the less fortunate - if pickers are unethical, are middle class people who shop at charity shops also being unethical?
Though not financially necessary, I have shopped at thrift stores for a variety of reasons, but I have never felt it unethical to do so.

dotsybabe said...

Not-for-profits can get into a lot of trouble with donors, the IRS, state government, and other entities unless the follow the rules. The library and the charity shop that allow non-client individuals to skim the best stuff are could be in serious trouble. A letter of complaint to ALL the board members might help correct the situation. However, if a charity shop has a policy and a fair process by which they try to sell couture clothes or other goodies through a boutique to generate greater income for the programs and services that support their clients -- well, that sounds ethical. (one may not care to see the purse one just donated in the boutique's window, but once an item is donated the recipient can do anything they want with it -- within their established policies and procedures.) The other 2 instances sound unethical and maybe actionable.

Duchesse said...

While I see your point that charity shops are in fact suppliers to resellers, their advertising urging people to donate certainly does not present that as their chief purpose.

Now, I take my designer clothes to an organization like Dress for Success or Windfall, who work with women's shelters to provide a work wardrobe for those re-entering the workforce. (They especially want business casual clothes.)

My wish as a donor is to provide someting nice for someone who could not otherwise afford it. I realize that's putting a condition on a donation, and one that pickers do not want to hear about.

Gam Kau: Anyone can shop at a charity store, it is the •profit• angle that I find distasteful. But my father forbade my mother to shop in them, as he felt she could afford to pay full price, and to take things from those who genuinely needed a cheap winter coat, for example, was abhorrent to him.

She used to sneak into them anyway!

Anonymous said...

I used to run a charity book sale. It was an annual thing which lasted a few days. We stopped advertising because we found that the pickers would actually drive in from out of town, swoop through the sale during the first few hours, and pick out all the good stuff, leaving us with all the hum-drum books for the remainder of the sale days. This actually reduced our revenues, because the sale gained a reputation for being "boring" and people stopped coming to browse after the first day.

And yes, we also had a few "volunteers" who spent more time picking books than they did setting up the sale tables. I put a stop to that by limiting the number of books they could purchase before the sale.

I don't think charity boutiques are necessarily the answer, because I would think that it would cause a similar problem: making the selection at the regular stores more "boring" and less interesting to browse. If I were running a thrift shop I'd probably keep the nicer stuff in a back room and just put a little of it out each day (and vary the times of day, to avoid the "swooping" effect).

Anonymous said...

P.S. Another thing we did which drastically increased our revenues was to price everything individually instead of having flat pricing. The "boring" things were priced extremely cheap and the more interesting, new, or valuable items were priced appropriately. Everything sold faster, too.

Come to think of it, the most successful thrift store in my city also prices all their merchandise individually.

Frugal Scholar said...

@GamKau--I really admire your mellow attitude.
@dotsybabe--The charity shop has different management now. As for the library group--I have overheard the guy talking about his finds and what they are worth, but I would also guess there is no "record" of anything. I donate my books to other places now and seldom shop at the library sale. There must be a lot for other pickers though, because most people shop there with phone scanners that indicate the price!
@Duchesse-I don't think charity shops conceive of themselves that way, but many, many people use them for that purpose. I generally donate back to the places I buy from (esp the food bank thrift), but if I had nice workwear, I would definitely give to Dress for Success.

@bettina--I love what you describe!

Gam Kau said...

Just a thought, but on quite a few occasions I've handed out my would be donations directly to individuals. One time I had a bag full of childrens clothes and noticed a woman with children who looked down and out and asked her if she wanted them. Another time winter clothes handed directly to a homeless couple. This might not work with designer goods though, maybe for more practical items. We also have homeless shelters in our city that are very happy to take clothing to distribute. I suppose by asking someone directly you risk offending them, but I always figure it's worth the risk. I wouldn't mind someone asking me, but my perceptions are probably not the best gauge for normal behaviour. :)

Duchesse said...

Gem Kau: Yes, shelters are a good place to donate directly, f they are equipped to handle the goods. Many here have drives to collect winter coats and boots.

Fugal: As a result of your comment, I have looked at local ads for the best-known charity stores; Sally Ann and Goodwill's say that people can find usable, low-cost clothes there and Value Village's state that people "can make their dollars go further" and "shop smart" by finding "current styles for far less"; the ads say nothing about supplying resellers.

Perhaps the American ads are worded differently.

Rosa said...

There was one of these "pickers" (ugh, such an unattractive term, like "nose pickers") who used to hit up the university's used bookstore on Mondays when donated stock went out (twenty-five cents for paperbacks, fifty cents for hardbacks), come in and buy everything worthwhile, leaving the garbage, and then set up a table on campus and charge students $5 to $7 dollars per book. (Why he was allowed to do any of this was beyond me.) Of course, the used bookstore ended up closing down--not profitable enough, I assume.

Jet Kuhn said...

As a former flea market vendor, shop owner & picker, I sympathise with all of you. Pickers are some of the rudest people around, book sellers top of the list. When I picked I always was polite & if someone really wanted an item I had, they got it. There is plenty to go around and often I'd find an even better item.

Book sellers (and yes I was a book seller too in the days before those blasted scanners) are the absolute worst -- touch something they haven't scanned yet and they act like you're stealing from them. Plus they often work in pairs or more so shouting across the sale is the norm while you're trying to read, ugh. Our local book sale stopped this by having a "preview" night, which you must show your library card to show you are local & bring a non-perishable food item to fill the local food bank. Its cut down on the rudeness tremendously.

I honestly believe a little kindness goes a long way when it comes to shopping secondhand regardless of what you are purchasing. There are also online "watchdog" sites that tell you the exact percentage of where the money generated goes; Goodwill and Salvation Army being the worst. I now donate everything to various Veteran orgs., they not only will take ANYTHING (I have a beautiful antique china closet in my garage that will be going to the Vets, as the Goodwill wouldn't take it) in any condition (though I will not donate broken or stained items) and will come & pick up! Not to mention 100% of goods donated go to Veterans. Most are living below poverty level & don't care if its a flat screen telly, having a working telly is a luxury!

Sadly many of us who were once upper middle class now can't afford to purchase new only to have items fall apart, not lasting even one season, so yes its become a real need for those of all walks of life.

Frugal Scholar said...

@jet--Thanks as always for your wise words. Re scanners: I haven't seen too many people scanning of late. I think so many people started doing it that the prices of books plummeted.