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Thu Sept 12 2013 20:39:36

Do Some Thrift Stores Charge Too Much?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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Have you ever been browsing through a thrift shop and come across a price that was less-than-thrifty? I've been seeing more and more sellers complain about this (especially, of course, those who source items at thrifts). I've noticed the phenomenon at a local thrift store I regularly troll, which used to be a good source for golf shirts, but not so much anymore.

My local Goodwill, however, has very reasonable prices, and tends to have one set price for one kind of thing, so you can cherry-pick among a row. But this is not true of all Goodwills; one seller on a forum wrote that the the local Goodwill where he lives raised all the prices on one type of shirts. "They're all at least $5.99-$6.99 regardless of brand," he says. Of course, with the right brand, this can be a very good price. And Goodwills also tend to have regular sales, such as on certain days of the week.

What gets me is when a thrift store prices an item of clothing around what you could get it new at a Forever 21, Wal-mart or Target. On the "Looking Fly on a Dime" blog, Patrice J. Williams also asks, "Are Thrift Store Prices Becoming Too Expensive?" She saw a $19.99 price tag at a Goodwill. "It was a pretty basic label and nothing fancy, so I was baffled at the $20 price tag. Really, $20 for a secondhand dress? For that price, you can get a frock from Forever 21 or the clearance rack at some stores," she points out.

But, she says, she's also seen great deals, such as Casadei pony hair leopard pumps which were just $10, while a pair of Nine West shoes were $15. "Um, the Casadei pumps originally retailed for a little more than 400 bucks!" she writes. "In a situation like this, I understand it a bit more. The longer an item is on the sales floor, the more it’s marked down so maybe the Nine West shoes {though worth less} were just put out on the sales floor so the price hadn’t come down just yet."

In some cases, you just have to be patient and look through a lot of items to find that way-underpriced item. As I tell myself at estate sales, even estate experts can't be experts in *all* areas. One estate sale company whose sales I frequent knows their art and antiques very well, but not much about books. You can guess what I buy more of there.

But even books get overpriced in some places. Yet another thrift I like puts what it considers its pieces-de-resistance in the front. I've seen them ask several hundred dollars for an old set of books. That kind of price is what an online seller would only hope to get from a collector!

What about you? Have you seen a trend in some thrift stores overpricing items, even if it's just some items? Do you think it's just certain kinds of items? If you're still finding treasures at these stores, any scores you care to share? Post a comment here!



Comments (28) | Permalink

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Fri Sep 13 07:32:08 2013

It is their game, and while I might not like it, they can charge what they please.  I of course simply will not purchase items that I think are over priced.  I laugh when I see items that you see in dollar stores marked up to a high price.

Thankfully most of the ones near me are clueless about certain brands so I can still find a deal if I'm willing to spend the time doing so.

The most deceptive tactic they use is taping a print out of an eBay auction or fixed price sale to an item that they have for sale.  This of course is not the "sold for" price, it is just a print out of what some eBay seller is dreaming about getting.

Lately I've noticed racks of high end jeans or shoes that they have marked up too high just collecting dust and not moving for weeks or months.

I'm not sure that you can really call them "thrift" stores anymore. Of course if you think it is bad in the USA, go shopping in some of the  charity shops in central London.  You will walk out laughing.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Fri Sep 13 07:55:28 2013

Oh, and another thought Julia.  I think that it is quite shameful what regional Goodwill CEOs are making when many of their disabled workers make below minimum wage.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Fri Sep 13 08:15:14 2013

Goodwill has been in the news lately - its ownership & profits. I don't shop there but the stores I've been to in the past  were messy & I suspect they cherry pick their items to sell online. Probably a different story in different locations. The high price tags in the photo don't surprise me.


Some of the big name thrifts here have actually responded to criticism & lowered their prices.  

Another local for-profit  thrift has raised their prices beyond that shown in the photos. Dresses, blouses & jackets will be 24.99 & even 29.99. But the easily found brands don't even command near those prices on eBay. Their half-price days are still out of line in price.


Certain thrift stores attract like a magnet - just can't resist. In this area, thrift shopping is done mostly by the thrifty middle class, fixed incomes, bargain hunters and snowbirds. There is no stigma attached to it. Our thrift store lots are full of Canada license plated cars in the winter. So many that I'm developing a lot of respect for Canadian thriftiness!  


BTW - In many cities the low-income and no income poor can get clothing for free, at many well known thrifts including the larger church-run thrifts.

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This user has validated their user name. by: elpereles

Fri Sep 13 08:53:29 2013

To bad for anyone paying $6 for a used t-shirt.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: askalice59

Fri Sep 13 13:25:18 2013

I just paid $99 for a set of dishes at Goodwill and have already made several hundred dollars on them with many pieces left to sell. Whoever does the pricing is sitting at a computer checking eBay. When I find something that has slipped through the cracks it's usually because they can't get a good ID on the item to look it up. They literally don't know what the item is so they tend to underprice it. It's the same at the Salvation Army.

At my consignment store in Michigan I had regular Canadian shoppers. They really liked that stuff.

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by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Sep 13 16:21:44 2013

Yes, its the same here in New Zealand. The thrift shops are no longer cheap and they have people pricing their antiques for what they worth.
So there are very few bargains to be bought and re-sold on auction sites.
Another reason on-line auction are declining ?

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This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Fri Sep 13 18:59:53 2013

You owe it to yourself Julia, absolutely owe it to yourself, to get your paws on a copy of ''Pass It On: The Story of Savers & Value Village''. This is a book put out by Savers in the mid-2000's, intended as a history of the company, but which pulled the curtain back a bit too far.

It delves so deeply into the day to day procurement, warehousing, pricing, and operations that you can use it to start your own thrift chain. The info really is that detailed.

Soeone high up must have realized this because within two months, the book had disappeared. Julia, GET THIS BOOK-- it will provide fodder for the next two dozen columns!!!

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This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Fri Sep 13 19:04:04 2013

Another thought on thrifts getting out of control relates to how much waste, fraud  and abuse can flourish when you pay nothing for your inventory, have too many layers of management and run a monopoly. Sound familiar?  ;)

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by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 14 14:31:27 2013

Not only do they charge too much now, but my SA stores here have decided to never put bric brac on sale. What they have is low end and in terrible shape, many things are broken. They do get higher end items donated, I have donated some of them, but you never see them in the stores I go to. It is mostly junk. I suspect that they have private deals with antique dealers who will pay a little more for better items. I still go to them, since I have a very broad knowledge of collectibles, and I can spot some that they miss and get a fairly good value.

Clothing sales here at SA stores are still a pretty good deal, on sale days.  

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by: hillbilly This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 14 19:38:10 2013

the thing that ''irks'' me about goodwill stores or salvation army is....& i may be wrong but....isnt evrything they sell originally donated to them for free? when i donate my items i donate them. doesnt everyone? im sure goodwill & salvation army have some overhead but selling a used tee shirt they aquired for free to some poor guy that needs it for $6.99???....that just seems wrong to me.

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by: Terry in Texas This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 15 12:25:33 2013

I don't shop at Goodwill or SA anymore. i DO support the smaller, local based thrift stores that give right back to the community. i donate and shop there. their management prices ALL items to MOVE out of the store and generate CASH. i believe their gross sales top $300,000 a year, much of which goes back into the community. find your local-based thrift store and support them!

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This user has validated their user name. by: Hooray.eBay
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Sun Sep 15 17:10:32 2013

I notice a lot more people shopping on the sale days! I see a variety of prices, and several thrift shops have display cases or even entire aisles/racks at the front of the store with pricier items. I have had some good luck checking out the Goodwill Outlet, but it's a very different experience.

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by: trader_chris This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 15 23:54:26 2013

I don't shop in thrift shops that much, but a few times that I have browsed, I've been surprised at the cost of some of the prices that I've seen. I sell a lot of porcelain figurines, so Hummels and Lladros are right up my alley. I remember coming across a Lladro figurine last year at a local thrift shop that was priced at least $60+. I thought "You've got to be kidding me..."

If you want to get eBay prices for your stuff, do the work and sell it on eBay. Do these people really think they're going to get those prices in a thrift shop???

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by: BargainzBabylon This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 16 03:07:32 2013

''I'm not sure that you can really call them ''thrift'' stores anymore. Of course if you think it is bad in the USA, go shopping in some of the  charity shops in central London.  You will walk out laughing. ''

I live in London part of the year.  They charge in charity shops there approximately what they charge in Seattle, Washington (where I also live). Less in some cases. In Seattle I regularly see Chico's jackets for $24-35, leather coats for $90, mart labels for $15-25 in their ''boo-teek'' sections.

What makes ME laugh are people complaining about thrift shop prices in other parts of the country - where a shirt is only $3.99. :-  Or maybe it makes me cry.  I purchase most of my own clothes and misc. junk at thrifts.  I think it's because it's hip now to go. Wait for the next fad to roll in and maybe it'll normalise.  

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by: Cassie This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 16 03:35:51 2013

It's a move more maximize profits. I don't know any independent pawn shop, thrift or retailer now-a-days that aren't using Ebay on the side as a business liquidation resource increase profit or reduce shrinkage. Even some non-profit hospital gift shops are in the action. I noticed the increase selling costs at yard sales and one liquidation estate auctions other then silent bids organized ebay bids on-sight even craig's list items lost out due they sold ebay first. Some privately held storage facilities are forgoing licensed auctions for disposal themselves via Ebay and yes some mechanic shops too for slow to pay service work now extracts limit storage time & fee vehicle rules to make eligible abandoned for right disposal.

As a business I take greater strides confer ownership and right to sell consignment items not placed in another market. Talking with seasoned liquidators thy're feeling the crunch as Ebay is permitting more do-it-yourself liquidations so easy to everyone. One key issue, discovered theft catching pawnshops selling before reclaim date the same with storage facilities. Once traveling sales, estate or antique flea market shows at hotels or convention places where you uncover this -early property seizures sold out a states jurisdiction report stolen property. My local good will you see higher prices it's covering employee theft as seen donations processors use a booth at a local flea market (hmm where did they get all that stuff) now the spouse has moved on to ebay fewer eyes recognizing the source.:D    

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by: Daisy909 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 16 07:18:36 2013

Haha...yeah...those days of paying only a quarter or two for each item are long over! Another thing that Ebay has ruined...

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by: bunnspec This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 16 08:28:37 2013

I stopped going to the Goodwill locally because of abusive customers and them putting everything any good online where trust babies run the auction up into ebay ca. 2005 prices-considering the item doesn't cost anything, the margin for profit is huge.. and yes it is nearly criminal the execs make high 6 figure salaries at the exclusion of the floor help wages...I watch the online sales in a couple of catagories and it makes me wonder at the people with more money than brains... Perhaps they are using their purchases as a tax writeoff (I know, I know, that is illegal)...

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by: Deltamaster This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 16 08:54:44 2013

Hey Rexford... That sounds familiar does it not?  Some corporate executive making a fortune off the backs of the minions that slave away all day doing the actual work?!

I guess these charitable "Thrift" shops are no exception.

Not only are these places inclined to overcharge these days for inventory that they acquired FOR FREE but they are also becoming more selective about what they will take FOR FREE.

The folks working at these places are no longer interested in putting a little time in to cleaning something up a bit or sorting through a box of stuff.   They want the person donating to do all the work... they want ONLY good stuff.

I think it will eventually come to the point that it will be just like the Christmas toy drives where the donated stuff will need to be in the original unopened retail packaging for these places to accept it.


Recently my mother purchased a new electric stove.  She decided to donate the old one (which still worked perfectly) to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.

Sure it needed a good cleaning and had a crack and paint chip here and there.

Well the guys showed up with a truck and summarily refused the donation!  Said it would be too much trouble to sell.

Less than a week later we sold it for $150.00 on Craigslist!

Used to be that a person on a tight budget could outfit an entire household and keep to the budget by shopping thrift stores... not any more.

That same re-store that refused the stove had three in the store with "SOLD" signs on them and the rest of the merchandise in the store was marked only a few dollars below retail.

Since when is USED stuff worth full retail?!?!

These places are getting too big for their britches!!!

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by: Sierra This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 16 09:13:24 2013

There are several Goodwill stores in this area. At least one of them is known for having more boutique-type items. I've only been in that particular store a few times, but always find a nice sweater or jeans for $6.99 or so.

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 16 09:15:29 2013

No longer go to Sa or Goodwill. Prices way too high for one. Goodwill is screwing it's employees. Execs in a non profit should not be in the millionaire category. Do it for the love of the organization. Not saying do not get paid - but do get real.
Local Sa store is not really run by SA. It is owned by 4 gentlemen whp pay SA a percentage of gross sales.
This was told to me by an employee of that store-she as not a janitor or clerk but management. So I wonder how many other stores are like that.
Goodwill, I believe has their own website, High prices. NO Returns and ridiculous shipping. But then you don't need to sell a lot since all merchandise is free.
The only way I get free merchandise is on the curb or dumpster diving.
One local thrift-consignment store is high priced. Drop something off to sell, they will not give you the selling price. Used them once - Good items sold right after I dropped off for 1-2 dollars each. Never went back- Not an ethical store.
Beware of electronic items that have serial numbers removed. 99.9% of the time - stolen merchandise. I found out the hard way.  

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