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This price ain’t right

Shopping earlier today at a local thrift store–as I do here and there–I spotted this bit of ridiculousness. A cheap, thin, no-big-deal shirt originally priced at $5 got priced by someone at 2nd Avenue Thrift Store at a whopping $11.99. That’s more than double the original retail price of the item.

How does that make any sense?

Crazy, huh?

For as much as I enjoy thrift store shopping, the industry seems to be going in a tailspin in recent years: pricing that makes no sense (the example in this photo is just one of many priced-higher-than-retail-cost items I’ve seen).

Minutes after seeing the $5 item marked up to $11.99, I noticed the robust bank of dressing rooms were cordoned off, lights off, with nearby wall mirrors removed. 2nd Ave has closed their dressing rooms, saying, “Well, you can return your clothes within 14 days but you have to use the refund for a SAME-DAY only purchase. No store credit.” No, somehow, something other retailers have figured out decades ago, this chain store with over 300 locations can’t figure out how to give people store credit they could use on another day.

Really? No. These are predatory practices.

Not on me so much. I’ve got a car. I’m middle-class-and-then-some. I’m U.S.-born and am facile with the ways of stores and retail and policies and procedures. And general prices of items. No, the predation is upon the immigrants, the poor, the newly arrived. Those with fewer resources, maybe not their own car; maybe less likely or able to return some items within 14 days.

OK, yeah, prices are going up here and there, and there and here. OK, thrift store prices (at least at the 2nd Avenue and other thrift stores in my area) have easily gone up 50 percent or more in recent years. I don’t like it, but whatchya gonna do.

But closing the dressing rooms? It rather defeats the value of shopping at thrift stores, especially for women where clothing size is a crapshoot and I can (and have) walked out of a thrift store before buying one item a size 4, one a size 6, one a size 8 and one a size 14 (the latter, a vintage piece).

Oh, look! They’re leadership team and those making the core decision are almost all men. Men with their 16.5-inch neck-sized shirts that will likely fit whether they buy a shirt from A, B or C clothing line … men with their W X L measurements that actually mean something.   Oh, how interesting.

a place to explore

So much of what I like about thrift store shopping is exploring different clothes and cuts. Exploring different patterns and looks and fabrics I might not have given as second look at a retail store. I’ve been known to put 20 or 30 items in my thrift-store cart, try them all on and maybe buy three or four items. There’ve been times when I’ve tried on 20 or so items and purchased none.

Legit. I can’t see myself buying 20 items, taking them all home and returning 15 or 18 or 20, and calling that a good customer experience–especially when I only get store credit usable on THAT day. I can’t imagine closing the dressing rooms is palatable or relationship-building with customers, which–just sayin’–is kind of a cornerstone value in retail.

all about the benjamins

I get thrift stores are a business–more and more of them being private companies that buy donated clothes in bulk from the nonprofits who collect them and provide tax write-offs for the donors. I get they need to make money to survive. I don’t get a business model where  they make more money from people who buy stuff they couldn’t try on, didn’t like the item and then never made it back in time to return the item. Or maybe they wanted to return it but couldn’t find the receipt. (Any company that can’t be bothered to give people store credit they can use at a future date probably isn’t going to be bothered to have a system that can look up purchases by credit card or account number … though I’m sure they could have such features if they wanted to.) That’s just short sighted, at best, and predatory on the more vulnerable, at worst.

I sense what they are doing is about getting people to buy more, getting people to get stuck with meh purchases they don’t love. And I gotta say, it doesn’t sound much like a long-term strategy to me; rather, one likely to backfire on them over time. Let us hope so.


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