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February 28, 2022

Should thrift stores be limited to people in need?

You make a good salary and can afford to shop and buy new clothes at retail. But you really enjoy shopping at a particular thrift store, where you find great bargains even though you sometimes buy items that you really don’t need.

And there's the rub. If you buy something at that thrift store, and lots of middle class people do,  you’re probably taking it away from someone who needs it more than you ... and can afford it way less than you can.

Tough, a deal is a deal, and should be available to anyone who happens to find it. Or are you putting the screws to someone you don't even know and making their life just a tad more miserable in the process?

If a store positions itself as an aid organization for the underprivileged, you shouldn't be shopping there for pleasure, says Chuck Klosterman in the New York Times: "It’s a little like showing up at a soup kitchen because you think the soup is delicious."

Most thrift stores don’t operate solely in this capacity, however. They may even want your money to finance other good works, as the Salvation Army does. Or simply to turn a profit, as Value Village proudly asserts.

You enjoy the experience of bargain hunting, and there's nothing wrong with that, Klosterman argues. Keep shopping wherever you like.

Although, if you'd like to balance the books a bit when you find yourself buying something you don’t need, give something of greater value to charity. That way, you could turn your bargain-hunting obsession into a civic-minded hobby.

What's your take? Is it unethical to search for bargains when you can easily afford it from other stores? Do you donate in kind to offset your purchases?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...