Last week I passed up a pristine Kate Spade purse at the Salvation Army in Victoria because it was $20. A fellow MCC Volunteer, who works in the boutique section at the MCC Abby East shop, said she almost jumped into her computer when she read that. I know that Kate Spade purses can retail for hundreds of dollars but standing there in the Sally Ann I thought “really? $20 for a purse in a second hand shop?”
I’ve noticed a trend in recent years where thrift shops charge more for name brands. I blame Value Village for this. They have always been brand conscious and it is increasingly common for them to charge large sums of money for brand name items. I recently put a beautiful leather Esprit cross-body bag back on the rack because they wanted $60. I’ve seen jeans there priced at $75. Charity shops have caught on to this and are starting to do the same, although not to the extreme that Value Village has gone. They do it because they can! People will pay those prices, which means the rest of us cheapskates have to decide whether or not it’s still a deal. It just feels wrong to pay $75 for jeans – or even $20 for a Kate Spade purse – at a thrift shop.
As my colleague and I chatted about this I realized something: if I had seen the same purse at MCC, I probably would have bought it and I’d now be blogging about this amazing steal of a deal. So why is that? Well, because I work for MCC, I have an obvious loyalty to the organization. It also means I have a more intimate knowledge of how the organization works and I know that my donation dollars at MCC go a long way. (In BC, MCC’s overhead costs are about 15% – sometimes less. You can read about MCC’s financial accountability here). I know that the Salvation Army also does good work but because I don’t work or volunteer there, I’m not as familiar with its administrative costs.
This matters to me. If an organization says it’s going to help those in need, then I want my dollars to go to those in need. I know that a portion of my giving has to go to administrative costs – and should do so: I want that money to be spent responsibly and so it pays to make sure that happens! But if an organization spends so much on its overhead that the people they purport to help don’t benefit, then what’s the point? Perhaps all thrift shops need to have financial information and program information easily available to their shoppers so that they can see where their money goes and who is benefitting from it. Then maybe we’d be willing to pay more for those unique items.
So back to the Kate Spade purse. What is too much? If it had been priced at $10, I might have bought it – even then, it would have bugged me because all the other purses there were between $2 and $5 and since this is what I’m used to paying, it pains me to pay more. But now that I’ve researched what they sell for retail and on ebay (anywhere from $25 – $500) I’m thinking I should have bought it. Sigh.
Have you ever had thrift shopping regrets?