Friday, September 24, 2010

Welcome to fall

I'm sitting here, scratching my head, wondering how it got to be September 24 already. I returned to CA from Taos a little more than a week ago, and the days have just flown. Two days after returning home, my DVR committed suicide (digital video recorder, for the uninitiated) and I could not watch television at I bought myself this sunflower jig saw puzzle. That was great entertainment until I realized that I was completely possessed by it, and losing sleep, so on the third evening I just stayed up until the wee hours to get it finished. So much for the idea of having it just be there to work on here and there...but then, doing things in moderation has never been my strong suit.

I also decided to wash all my quilt fabrics, instead of just using them as is. That was great entertainment for several days: washing, pulling off wads of threads, folding, stacking, refolding, restacking again...kind of like the hours I spent playing with crayons as a kid. Then I spent some evenings reading blogs about quilters who are using men's shirts from thrift stores for their fabrics. Ta da! What a great idea. Lots of stripes and plaids (which seem in short supply in quilting fabrics), plus the fun of cutting things up to reuse them. How could I go wrong?

First stop: my local hospice thrift store. Bingo! A great rack of men's Hawaiian shirts, most in size 3XL, so more fabric for the buck. But wait...the price tags...$8.00. $8.00 for a shirt in a thrift store? I can buy yardage cheaper than that. Must be the shop. Next plan: find the Salvation Army store in San Diego.

Well...that's exactly where I went today. I am still fuming from the experience. The men's shirts on the racks there were anywhere from 5.99-8.99, and let me assure you, they were nothing to write home about. But wait! I saw another spot with more men's clothes, more in the center of the store. Off I went. Guess what it was? The designer shop! Not truly designated as such, but it quickly became apparent, by reading labels. What about the prices? Well...the shirts there were starting at 20.00 each and many were in the 32.00 price range.

WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT??? I don't care if it IS a designer label. I thought these stores were there to help people who need to shop on limited budgets. As a former shop owner, I'm the first one to understand the costs the customers don't often consider, beginning with rent, employees, and the horrendous liability insurance costs, to name just a few. However...I feel like I'm missing something here. I thought, when I donate to these organizations, I'm making things that are in usable, if not great, condition available to folks on limited budgets. Will someone please help me understand this?

It reminded me of a year or two ago, when I started rug hooking. Following the advice of other hookers, I decided to cruise the Taos thrift shop for wool clothes to dismantle and use. One trip to the thrift shop there gave me the same feeling I had today...after find a not so wonderful wool coat on the rack for the not so thrifty price of $45.00. I was so disgusted, I have not donated to these folks again...preferring, instead, to take things to the town free box, where the folks who need things can "afford" to shop.

If you have anything to tell me to calm me down on this matter, I'd sure appreciate another perspective.


Orange Sink said...

I'm so glad you brought this up! Our thrift stores around here are gradually raising their prices on everything! That being said they are still heavily shopped. Can't figure that out either. I know there are people who can't afford to shop any of the so called "thrift stores". One church in our area holds an annual "free to all event". That is where I think I will start donating my items from here on in! I'm also interested in what other bloggers have to say on this matter.
Cathy G

Kim said...

I agree. That is ridiculous for a thrift shop. For the past year and a half I have been donated bags full of clothes to a local charity shop that benefits handicapped people. They work in the shop etc. Now I'm going to look around the shop and check the prices. I they are climbing up to that range I'm going to find another way.

Taos Sunflower said...

Cathy: Interesting to hear this from you. I got to thinking last night...are they raising the prices to keep up with on-line places like eBay? I mean, are they trying to make more money vs. helping folks at the bottom?

Taos Sunflower said...

Kim: Please do let me know what you find out...

Tonya Ricucci said...

I live in Southern Florida. The best prices are at the Medical Center thrift shop - $3 for a long-sleeved shirt, $2.75 for a short-sleeve shirt. Goodwill is $3.59 for all shirts, but every week older shirts go on sale for half price. Salvation Army is more expensive and they don't have sales. All the places have boutiques and you can spend a lot more than that.

I guess it depends on if you think the shirts are for people who can't afford much to buy OR are the shirts income generators for the charities which then use that money to help the poor... I do think that high quality shirts SHOULD cost more.

Good luck!

Valerie said...

I don't know about the hospice store you went to, but I do know that in Michigan the money earned in the Salvation Army stores goes directly to their residential drug and alcohol treatment programs. One of my good friends is a social worker for the Salvation Army.

If their complete stated objective in the stores was just to provide a place where people in need could shop, then they would have to require proof of need for people to shop there. That would exclude the kind of shopping talked about in your post.

We have a very active Salvation Army in our community. They do have a store front/donation center in a strip mall. However they also have a separate pantry and "essential items" (diapers, toiletries, laundry soap, etc.) in the Salvation Army building. In order to "shop" in the pantry, there does have to proof of need via one of their social workers.

So, when I want to clear my closets the stuff goes to the store/donation center. When I want to help the hungry, I donate to the pantry.

Incidentally, the Salvation Army has provided a monthly meeting place free of charge, including use of kitchen, to the local knitting guild. In return the guild provides a great deal of charity knitted items for a special holiday program that the Salvation Army runs for individuals and families that qualify for assistance.

They also run a domestic violence shelter in the next town over. I'm not sure what programs fund that. But I do know that our church has "adopted" a room there. The senior high youth went in and gave it a fresh coat of paint. And we provided the furnishings for the room to house a parent and two children.

So....these things are not simple pass through organizations. They are creatively trying to make the most out of very little.

Taos Sunflower said...


Thanks so much for your lengthy and very thoughtful reply to my posting. Over the weekend, I had more discussions with friends about this, and we realized, as you pointed out, that there is no way to know whether folks who shop in thrift stores truly have a need or not. In my sticker shock last Friday, I was not considering the many other services organizations like these offer, and yes, you are so right....they are not simply a pass through organization.

I have known, over the years, that the S.A. is an organization that has a very great track history of spending its money on its causes, and isn't top heavy with management expenses, which is to be applauded all on its own. I also realized, over the weekend, that their employees in that store were people on their way up, most likely, and that, alone, was uplifting.

Your reply is one of the reasons I keep this blog. Being able to put something out there and have discussions with others across the internet is a great way for me to be able to widen my perspective and learn from all of you. Again, I thank you so much for taking the time to give me all your thoughts and experiences. Best, Martie

Taos Sunflower said...


Thanks for answering my e-mail to you about shirt prices in your area. I am pleased to hear from both you Valerie, who really gave me a lot to think about on this subject...and clarity to bring me out of my sticker shock fog. Now, if I choose to shop these stores for any of the reasons I might, I'll have a wider perspective than my own (selfish) concerns about spending too much on something. ---Martie

Valerie said...

Hi Martie..
Thanks for "listening" in my previous comment. One other thought....the place where you can get fabrics cheaply are the various church rummage sales. The womens' organization of our church holds one in the spring and another in the fall. Items are priced to sell. The sale starts Thurs. PM and continues through Saturday. Most of the day on Saturday is a "bag" sale....a paper grocery bag filled with items is $1. If you can find a church that has a quilting ministry, you will likely find members doing stash reduction.

Again, depending on the church, the proceeds go to help those in need. Our church divides it up....30% goes overseas (last sale it was for a school for the deaf in Jerusalem..this fall will probably go to Haiti), 30% stays in the U.S.(last couple years to New Orleans), and 30% stays locally.

Taos Sunflower said...

Valerie: A great suggestion. My little town where I normally live (Taos) has few of those events each year, so I'll need to be watching more carefully, probably starting again after winter has passed. I have also heard that the Taos thrift store has sale days, so I need to tap into that and see what's available. Martie PS: I love that your church sends relief around the world.

Ter'e said...

Way to go Valerie. Thank you for educating us. I loved both your posts.

Oh Martie..............see what your blog teaches us?

I'm going to check into our Salvation Army, here in FL. I bet there are alot of things I could be doing other than cleaning house and fretting, in these tough times. I hope we have a strong ministry here and I can find some way I can volunteer.

Last Friday my husband and I hit our local GW. We had an absolute ball. Came out with some Ralph Lauren shirts, several pair of wonderful shorts, and brand new pair of Aigner shoes (for my dau in KC) and a beautiful piece of pewter. I used a discount coupon and bought all for $32. Where else can you do this? We had a wonderful outing. (I even printed out several extra $5 off coupons and distribulted them throughout the store to unsuspecting shoppers) What a great thing that was to see the happy faces!

Loved this post! Go Martie!!!! What will you come up with next???? xoxoxoxo from Florida