“Money often costs too much.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Value Village is no value. At least if you expect most of your donated items to result in money going to local charities.
Value Village, along with it’s sister company Savers, are for-profit entities, which take your donated items, give you a tax write-off, then put them on a shelf and resell them at a substantial profit.
When I went to the store tonight, along with my kids and their friend, I had intended to write a post up about donating some clothes to Value Village and how that, and my purchase of a light-up flamingo, would send some money back to charities. And it does. Just not very much.
I couldn’t find much information, but I did find this article from the Los Angeles Times, dating back to 1987. According the Times, Value Village can do this by accepting donations under the names of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, California Council of the Blind, the Arc, many veterans charities, and associations for mentally-challenged children, then giving back a percentage to the charity. Often Value Village gets well over 60%, sometimes up to 90% of the value of the donated goods.
This article, from March of 2012 in the New York Post, says that Savers is poised to record over $900 million dollars in revenue this year. Touting investors on Wall Street, it’s even trying to poise itself as the more charitable between itself and Goodwill.
Another article here, sadly without any source material links, talks about how many charities which accept your donations of goods, simply are letting Value Village and Savers use their name. The charities make money, but the vast majority of the profits go to the private thrift corporation.
Still, it’s not at all bad. From what I read in this article on the Charity Review Council website, a lot of shoppers are just happy the clothes are recycled and that they get lower prices than at Goodwill or Salvation Army. And to be fair, some money does go to the charities that work with Value Village and Savers.
The bottom line for donating goods seems to be –
- If you want the most charitable bang for the buck, drop your goods off at Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
- If you just want the goods to be reused by someone else, and don’t mind someone profiting from your donation, take them to Value Village or Savers.
The bottom line for shopping at thrift stores seems to be –
- If you want more of your purchase to go towards charitable activities, go to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. It does cost more.
- If you’re more concerned with the price, go to Value Village or Savers. They are generally cheaper than Goodwill, and a small portion does go to charity.
I won’t argue that one should or should not shop at Value Village or Goodwill. That’s your choice. But if your expectation was that your donation or purchase at a for-profit thrift store was going mostly to charity, then that is a mistake. As for me, the next time I go to Value Village, I will go knowing full well who I am buying from.
I was hoping this post would be how buying a light up flamingo was going to help a charity put some clothes on the back of a person who needed it.
Instead, I’m pretty sure I bought a flamingo for some rich guy.
Today’s gift of time … Bought a flamingo for a rich guy, but learned a lot about charity and for-profit thrift stores.
Update (11/9/14) – A reader employed by Value Village who has asked to remain anonymous provided me with some anecdotal evidence that charities who provide goods to Value Village often will receive a full percentage by weight of a donation even if that donation is not re-sellable.