Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A serious question

Yesterday, there was a discussion at our house.  Discussions happen fairly often lot but usually we come to a consensus quite quickly.  As of last night we're agreeing to disagree.

As most of you know, we volunteer at a thrift shop.  Me with my hundreds of dolls to clean and dress while Anne plays with toys, Legos and other interesting items to research, price and sell. I love the idea of recycling and reducing waste.  Most are restored to almost new condition and quickly find new homes with people who  also want to reduce our consumer footprint. You can't always find what you want in a thrift store but you usually want something that you find. 

So, the discussion revolved around thrift shops and food banks and whether donating money is better than donating stuff.  Institutions like the food bank (and I hate that it's an institution) ask for food donations because that's how people can be encouraged to give - every little bit helps.  But, money is far more useful and goes farther.   The idea that caused the ruckus was that of the thrift shop giving out gift certificates to needy families.  The recipient could go in and buy anything up to the value of the gift card.  It's part of the 'money is better' concept.

My issue revolves around choices and who makes them.  If we choose to buy from a thrift store, then it's exactly that: a choice.  I am fortunate to have many opportunities.  There are people with fewer options and by confining them to a thrift store I've limited them.  They can only buy used  because that's all I'm giving.  After all, it's better than going without.

To me , that's somewhat offensive.  What do you think of the idea? 


Unknown said...

For the last few years, I've shied away from any kind of gift certificate. Giving cash means giving choice. The choice of where to spend it, and the choice of whether to spend it.

Gift certificates are great for the store selling them. They are free marketing, and they are a bonus for the store if somebody forgets to spend them. This doesn't seem appropriate for a thrift shop.

That said, the thrift shop probably doesn't have the money backing these gift certificates. They have the luxury of printing their own money, as long as you are willing to spend it in their store.

If it's a question of giving something and being offensive versus not giving anything at all, I think giving is better.

Alex Varju said...

(I am "Unknown")

Andrea said...

I agree with Alex's last statement; however, I do have an issue with giving someone a gift certificate from a thrift store.

You may know that someone shops regularly at a thrift store (either due to the pleasure of finding a unique used item, or from necessity), but by getting them a gift certificate to that store, seems offensive to me. If I were in their position, it might make me feel that the giver of the gift thought that I did not appreciate (or deserve) something unused for Christmas.\

Just my 2 cents!

Stephanie V said...

The gift certificate would be a gift from the thrift shop. The idea wasn't for customers to buy them as gifts. It was a charitable act.

Andrea said...

OK, well that's different. No longer offensive, but odd... I don't really understand the point.

deb said...

I like the idea of a gift certificate to the thrift store to a person in need. They then have the choice of what to "buy". I think the food bank offers choices of what people take home. Who wants cans of peas if everyone in your home hates peas. Hungry or not it would be nicer to chose the can of corn if that is what you prefer.

I overheard someone in our thrift store asking for a discount on a really nice jacket that was priced fairly high. He claimed he didn't have much money so the clerk said he could go and choose a free jacket from the non-store part where they gave away clothes to those in need. But he liked & wanted to buy this jacket. Would have been nicer, I think, for him to have an open choice and not be forced to take what others deemed appropriate for his needs.

I don't think you are confining people to shop at the thrift store, especially if there isn't anything else that would have been given to them otherwise. Instead if they have to opportunity to save a bit of money buying some of the things they need or want from the thrift store they now have extra money to spend on something not available from the thrift store.

EmptyNester said...

I know what you mean. It's like when we used to help with the angel tree at school and the teacher in charge had some people who only gave used things. We never gave those things to the kids. We always went out and bought new stuff. The new person in charge has finally ceased the angel tree. The first year she had it she told the families whose kids asked for bikes that that was too much and they couldn't have them. The teacher who used to do it would get the bikes donated or buy them herself. Just because someone is needy means they should only have used things? Not in my book.

Paws on the Run said...

If the gift certificate is from the thrift store then I see no problem with it at all. Let's face it - it doesn't cost the thrift store as much to give a $50 credit to their store as it does for them to give $50 cash. The store's "cost of goods" is less than $50, so technically the thrift store should be able to give out more than they would be able to if it was just cash.

So for example, if I give away a toy from our store, the client gets a toy valued at $20 but it costs me less than that. If I gave them the cash value (of my cost) instead, they wouldn't even be able to afford the toy I was giving them.

And I get what Alex is saying about gift certificates being good for the store and not necessarily the receiver but I feel a gift certificate to someone's favourite store means you've put some thought into the gift (you were just unsure on the final item), unlike cash, which isn't very personal at all. But I realize we are digressing here...

Madeleine said...

I reckon donating what you can whether it be items or money or buying the charity Christmas cards to send to friends is all grist to the mill as they say. I try to do a bit of everything.

Happy Christmas

Rudee said...

I see nothing wrong with the thrift store giving out its own certificates. I would think if one was buying at that store out of need, one would not be offended by the gift.

Julia said...

Interesting conversation today and thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. Much appreciated.

I'm not a needy person but a thrifty one. I learned long ago that a penny saved is a penny earned. I choose to shop at thrift shops and I can pick and choose what tickles my fancy for a mere fraction of the cost that I would pay in a retail store. I find amazing buys and it makes me feel good to know that instead of spending hundred of dollars I get most of my purchases at a fraction of the cost it would normally cost. Sometimes I have to go several times before I come home with a cart full of pricey items that I would never have bought otherwise.

So my point I think that it's OK for Thrift Shops to make gift Certificate available. A buck goes farther at a thrift shop.

Have a Merry Christmas. JB

Stephanie V said...

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments. I think that I just may have been persuaded over to the other side.


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