Disappointment in Victoria

cute monkey pins for my niece. purchased at WIN warehouse for 50 cents each

cute monkey pins for my niece. purchased at WIN warehouse for 50 cents each

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.

tiny candles for a friend with a German Christmas Pyramid. $1 at Sally Ann

tiny candles for a friend with a German Christmas Pyramid. $1.50 at Sally Ann

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.

an eclectic selection of books bought at Beach Community Thrift

an eclectic selection of books bought at Beach Community Thrift

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?

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23 Responses to Disappointment in Victoria

  1. Good Helper Woman says:

    The thrift stores that help the hospices are the ones I try to shop at more now a days. The prices are more reasonable, and the elderly ladies are kinder. The bigger thrift shops like value village and sally ann are more my look around stores, instead of purchasing.

  2. SixBalloons says:

    I noticed slow service at the WIN when I visited Victoria last year too!

    • i think they must be very short on volunteers – that’s a challenge with all thrift shops so i try not to be too critical of that. it’s a good reminder to me how important volunteers are to thrift shops!

  3. Annie says:

    I also have noticed our chilliwack sally ann’s prices…. last time i was there a few weeks ago i was surprised how much they had gone up and their store is crammed full!! it was harder to shop. I also don’t shop at V.V. nearly as often as their prices are so rediculous and i don’t find their staff very friendly. When i ask questions they always seem so annoyed. I recently donated my maternity clothes to a friend and asked her not to give them to V.V. but rather to BFM or MCC when she’s done with them. 🙂

    • Bibles for Missions is another place that has consistently low prices. There actually is a BFM in Victoria but i’ve never visited it – next time! I found my great MEC jacket at the BFM here in Abbotsford for only $4. such a deal!

  4. Jill says:

    Prices have definitely gone up – I don’t usually buy clothing very often so I can’t comment on that, but just yesterday I saw a set of pool balls, still in the plastic package – $29.99 -at Value Village – that’s just a crazy price!

  5. I was very pleased and not disappointed to spend some time with you while you were here:)

  6. Dawn says:

    Prices have been crazy high at the Salvation Army near me lately, but there’s another one a few miles further that still has dollar tag days too, I think that helps thin out the racks when they get too full. The thrift shops near me with the best prices are the Lutheran High School Thrift and A New Day Thrift Store, both run by churches and the volunteers come from the congregations.

    • Sometimes those little church or school run shops are the best. They may not be the best organized but the volunteers are cheerful and dedicated and the prices are usually the best.

  7. Lorie Key says:

    It is disappointing when thrift stores raise their prices to be competitive. I can remember the days when I started to thrift, I could get a brand name for 25 cents! The very issue you bring up here is that smaller stores have less selection which is what takes avid thrifters to VV. VV does still help with the main objective for many of us which is to be environmentally aware. That being said, shopping at VV is like shopping at a “box store” rather than at the local grocer.

    You should come check out the Thrift Shop I volunteer for here in Edmonton. I volunteer for MCC Thrift Shop over on 34 Ave. and 92 street and we have a BLAST together! Many of the people that volunteer there are from my church. You could also check out our Facebook page and maybe even like us if you want to. 🙂 Anyway,… I really, really enjoy your blog!!! Keep it comin’!

    Peace out,

    Lorie

    • i will happily accept your invitation to come and shop at the MCC shop in Edmonton! i have no idea when i’ll get there but i’ll assume the invitation is open. maybe i’ll even come volunteer with you!

      • Lorie Key says:

        Hello! :). It has taken me a while to navigate these blogging waters. LoL! I invite you to come along side us and volunteer…whenever you’ve got the time. I’m still enjoying your posts!

  8. I’ve noticed the rise in prices at VV as well such as $75.00 for a vintage stuffed toy (that wasn’t from a famous maker, it just looked “vintage.”) And Sally Ann isn’t much better. Try $499.99 for a vintage dresser. It’s a bit disheartening especially for people who shop at thrift stores out of necessity. Thankfully, garage sale season is coming soon and I’m really looking forward to that!

  9. I visited a Value Village for the first time when I was in Bellingham, WA last summer. I was absolutely SHOCKED by the prices! Our Goodwills (we don’t have VV) are inching in that direction here, but VV seemed really outrageous. They also didn’t have a huge selection.

  10. Dawn says:

    I really think that everyone should voice their displeasure at the over-inflated prices that many of these thrift shops are charging. Many people are hurting right now, and these stores are supposedly there to help people out. This is certainly not the case. It’s pathetic when you see something at a thrift store that you know came from a dollar store and it’s more expensive than it originally was! These stores seem to forget that all the things they are selling in their stores were DONATED to them. In Edmonton, I have to say that MCC is currently the most reasonably priced place to shop, followed by Goodwill. There was another one, The Bargain Shoppe that started out good, but their prices have gone way up ~ part of their problem is that they are located in an affluent part of the city which doesn’t make any sense at all. Who are they trying to help?? Please talk to the thrift store managers and complain (politely). Maybe, just maybe, they’ll listen.

    • ya, that donation thing is tricky too. i also volunteer at an MCC thrift shop and sometimes people who donate are discouraged when we put low prices on the items they have donated because they wanted their item to make money for MCC. for the most part, i really do think that most volunteers and even store managers have the best of intentions – it’s just really tricky to know what’s going to make money for your shop/charity and what is going to piss customers off.

  11. Laura says:

    I find it really surprising that thrift shops raise their prices to be competitive. Really? Shouldn’t lowering their prices bring in more customers and therefore create more turnover? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    Here in Winnipeg I’ve noticed the same thing. VV is always a last resort for me now, but the Sally Ann and the Goodwill prices have definitely been going up. I’m grateful we have a few MCC thrift stores as an alternative. Our favourite thrift shop though (my teenage girls and I) is still one particular Sally Ann because the girls consistently find clothes they like and that fit and they wear everyday. Can’t beat that, and it’s more fun than shopping at the mall!

    • i’m not so sure that thrift shops raise their prices to be competitive, i think they do it to raise more money for their charity. i really do believe that most charity thrift shops are simply looking for more ways to raise funds for the charity that they are supporting and so if they can charge a dollar more for something, they will. since they see places like VV or Sally Ann get away with it, they try to do the same.

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