While in Victoria earlier this month, I revisited a few thrift shops I visited in previous trips there. It was largely disappointing.
I visited three shops: The Salvation Army on Johnson St., the Beacon Community Services thrift shop on Pandora, and the WIN Warehouse also on Pandora. I wrote about all of these here in 2011. When I revisited the Sally Ann and the WIN Warehouse this time, I was very disappointed. Both shops are ridiculously overpriced – something I blame on Value Village because it seems to me that other thrift shops follow their lead. I base this on a few observations, the most recent obvious one was when VV started hanging their pants and jeans differently, Sally Ann and other thrift shops immediately followed suit. I think that as soon as other thrift shops see VV increasing their prices, they do the same. The frustrating thing here is that Value Village is NOT a charity – it is a for-profit retail store that donates a small portion of its profit to charity (for which they are to be commended, as most retail stores don’t do that.) Thrift shops should recognize that.
The WIN warehouse was the worst. I realize that lululemon items are very expensive – you can pay $100 for a pair of new yoga pants – but even so, I don’t want to pay $30 for a used pair of lululemons in a thrift shop. I don’t care that they’re lululemon! They’re used! It’s a thrift shop, for cryin’ out loud! Hear me roar! As I work for a non-profit that uses thrift shops to raise money, I understand fully that shops want to make the most money possible for their cause. Yet there is a fine line between what is enough and what’s asking too much. I think Sally Ann and WIN have crossed that line.
The other super frustrating thing at WIN this time round was that their racks were jam packed full with items. You could not look at a piece of clothing without removing it from the rack, that’s how full they were. Two minutes of that and I’m giving up – and I observed that with a number of customers around me. If you make it that hard for us to look at your stuff, we’re movin’ on.
My final observation at WIN – and this is an observation, not a criticism – was that staff/volunteers seemed frazzled and unhappy. The girl at the front counter was really doing her best to answer phones, serve customers, answer questions and try to get someone from the back room to help her with any one of those things but it was obvious that she was finding it challenging – as I would have too. I say this is not a criticism because I know how challenging it is for any thrift shop to find volunteers and when you’re overwhelmed, it’s also challenging to keep a smile on your face and pretend you’re not. But as a customer, I certainly noticed it. It’s a good reminder to me as a volunteer to remember how much customers pick up on that.
The Beacon Community thrift shop, on the other hand, was better on both display and pricing. The shop was full of folks when I was there, cheerfully chatting with staff. The shop is much, much smaller than either WIN or Sally Ann – I don’t know if that has anything to do with it or not. Maybe a smaller shop is more manageable on all levels, who knows? The drawback of a smaller shop is that you don’t get as much immediate selection as you do in a larger one but that’s all the more reason to visit your smaller shops more often.
As you can see from my pics, I did find something to spend my money on at each shop but I was mostly disappointed. Luckily, I found a treasure in Victoria that I’ll share with you next week.
What’s your opinion on full clothing racks and higher prices in thrift shops?