How Much is Too Much?

might have to visit here next time I'm in New York City.

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.


the purse i saw was similar to this one in shape, but had a white base and turquoise and green wavy striping. i couldn't find the exact image anywhere. note to self: take pics of things even if you don't buy them.

this is called a Wellesley tote - i think the one i saw must have been this design because it had handles like this, although it was a little shallower and more rectangular.

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.


she makes these cool clutch purses out of book covers. Gallery 7 theatre in Abbotsford, is doing "The Importance of Being Earnest" next year.

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.


isn't this a cool one? what is it about purses that makes them so attractive? I could be the Imelda Marcos of handbags...

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.


this one appeals to my love of newsprint. how much would you pay for this at a thrift shop?

Have you ever had thrift shopping regrets?



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13 Responses to How Much is Too Much?

  1. Van says:

    Oh, the newsprint and typeset purse, I would have bought either of those two for $20 if they were in good shape! I know nothing about brands so never would have known Kate Spade was valuable, I like to buy quirky bags instead.

    I think thrift stores price too high these days, no clothing or apparel should be more then $10! I hate encountering apparel for $25-$75. Your post brings up an interesting point though, each charity should have signs clearly telling its story and how funds are distributed- near the register and the entrance to the store. I’m sure it would influence sales!

    • angelika says:

      i’m glad i’m not the only one who feelst his way! (both with regards to quirky bags and thrift shops with high prices) it’s a bit of a dilemna, though, because if something sells at a higher price then the charity makes more money. but i’d probably by 6 things for 10 dollars each (depending on what it was) rather than one thing for $60. seems dumb in a way, but that’s the cheapskate in me!

  2. Dawn says:

    I agree with you ~ insane that 2nd hand stores re-sell DONATED items for ridiculously inflated prices. Isn’t half the fun of shopping in these shops ~ to chance upon “a find” every once in a while? As far as brand names are concerned, I could care less. I much rather find funky items whatever tag comes with it.

    Also it bugs me that these stores are selling clothing for high prices. Pathetic isn’t it, that low income families often can’t afford to shop in these “charity” stores? Yes, I blame Value Village for a lot of this nonsense (part of the reason I don’t shop there anymore), but I wish the other stores would recognize what’s going on, step back and reconsider their pricing policies.

    Another reason to go to garage sales!!

    • angelika says:

      i need to get better at garage sale-ing. my problem is i like to sleep in on saturdays when i can and so by the time i go, the good stuff is gone!

  3. Laura says:

    I try to stay away from brands for brands-sake, and don’t keep up with what might be popular. I had never heard of Kate Spade before your post, but I would have bought that typewriter bag for its originality! The only thrifting regret I can recall is not immediately buying a vintage orange steno chair for my daughter, while shopping with her. I thought I would return later and get it for a gift for her, but when I finally returned it was gone! I had thought that no one else would want something so old and out dated. On the other hand, at the same store a few years earlier, I bought a lovely desk for same daughter just as it was coming in the front door as a donation. They priced it immediately for me, and it went right back out the door! No regrets there.

    • angelika says:

      i had the same experience with a really cool coat that i could have bought for $15 and would have worn to death. it as really funky but i didn’t need it… then i regretted it and by the time i went back it was gone! grrr!

  4. Diane Tucker says:

    Oh my heart HURTS to hear about the Kate Spade bag!! I would have dropped $20 in a minute on it, really. It’s not really just a name — she makes beautifully designed, high quality bags.
    No regrets I can remember. Though you might be interested to know that I once bought a pair of Prada shoes at Value Village for $35. New: $350. And a pair of Fluevog boots from Sally Ann for $15. New, probably a couple hundred. I wore those boots hundreds of times; if you calculate it as price per wear, it comes out to maybe a nickel a wear. Sounds like a good deal to me!

  5. Krista says:

    I have one regret…I once saw a framed picture in the collectible section at the Abby East MCC. It had a picture of a little girl maybe about 2 or 3 years old. The frame was oval and very antiquish looking. It caught my attention as I walked by and then I had to do a double take…the picture reminded me of pictures of me at that age. There was a striking resemblance but I knew it wasn’t me. I wanted the picture so bad but it was $40 and I just couldnt’ afford it at the time. I did end up going back a week or so later because I couldn’t stop thinking about it but it was gone. I still think of that picture every time I go into the collectible section at the Abby East MCC hoping that the someone who bought it has donated it back. No luck so far….

  6. angelika says:

    by the way, love your etsy shop – especially your thoughtful, witty descriptions!

  7. d r e w says:

    i once passed on a really nice sideboard because i wasn’t sure about the size. 2 days later i went back to buy it and it was gone. this was over 10 years ago and i still think about it!

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