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Do you feel guilty shopping at thrift stores?

One reader said she even removes her diamond ring before entering the store.

By Karen Datko Dec 14, 2009 2:28PM

When you shop at thrift stores, do you feel guilt for depriving poorer folks of the items you purchased at bargain-basement prices?


Julia at Bargain Babe confessed that she does. She's felt bad about “sucking up a limited resource,” she wrote. “I can afford to pay more for clothes," her thinking goes. "Therefore I should, leaving the Salvation Army and Goodwill selection to the poor.”


Most readers advised her to get over it, and at least one thought Julia had lost her lid -- “You cannot be serious about this question,” Mimi said -- but others understood exactly what she was talking about.


Reader Laura said that although she loves to shop at thrift stores, “I must admit, though, I do feel a bit guilty. I take off my diamond ring before I go in, and I park my Volvo down the street!”


An anonymous reader wrote: “Totally legit, but to balance your karma, you should not waste your purchase, and you should donate items back for others to use.”


Over at Ultimate Money Blog, "Mrs. Money" said she’s felt a bit guilty too. “I can afford to shop for new clothes if I want to, and am I hurting all these other people that may need the clothes worse than me?” "Mrs. Accountability" confessed to feeling embarrassed -- but not guilty -- when she shopped in thrift stores as a teen.


What do you think? Do you feel guilt, or perhaps a bit out of place? As Julia said, you often can divide thrift shoppers into two categories: those looking for bargains and those who can’t afford anything else.


If you feel even a twinge of guilt, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You’re helping others when you shop there. “If these organizations depended on the needy to sustain them, they’d have a difficult time of it. It’s the rest of us who shop there by choice who contribute enough funds to let them do what they do,” reader Hilary wrote.
  • You’re being green when you shop and when you donate perfectly useable items to thrift stores, rather than throwing them out.
  • Don’t be greedy. Reader Lisa said that on half-priced clothing day, “I admit to getting irked at the people who throw armfuls of kids’ clothes into a cart -- leaving nothing on the rack for the moms who are shopping -- and then bragging at the checkout about selling them for a profit on eBay.”
  • Volunteer. The Salvation Army is always looking for people to staff the kettles and ring the bell at this time of year. It's fun, but dress for the weather.

Cody Switzer, a spokesman for Goodwill Industries International, put his stamp on this discussion. The organization, he said at Bargain Babe, helped more than 1.5 million people last year, mostly with money earned by its stores.

Our larger mission is to provide job training, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have a disability, lack education or experience or have other barriers to employment. So, actually, by shopping at Goodwill you aren’t taking an opportunity away from people in need, but you are helping us give them opportunities to find meaningful work and economic independence.

Related reading:

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