I have been going to Thrift Stores since I was 19 years old. All different kinds of people go to Thrift Stores, for many different reasons. In my 30 years of experience shopping at Thrift Stores, I would say that at least half of the shoppers are not poor.
My older sister, is a much more frequent Thrift Store shopper than me, and she always has been. She used to search for vintage jeans when she was younger. She used to like to find mechanic’s shirts or service people’s shirts that had their name embroidered on them. She liked to buy evening dresses from the 1960s and 1970s. But most of all, she liked furniture from the 1970s.
Many Thrift Stores had my sister’s telephone number, and they would call her right away whenever they received furniture from the 1970s, because she would get so excited and come and buy it. My sister is not poor, she lives in a three-story, 5,000 square foot house with an elevator, on a river in Florida.
Many women who are not poor, shop at Thrift Stores. They are looking for vintage jeans, vintage dresses, retro clothing, off-beat T-Shirts, classic shoes and boots, old belts, interesting knick-knacks, and paintings. I have met women who buy old paintings, not for the paintings, but for the frames. Good quality painting frames are expensive. For low, low prices, you can buy an ugly painting, but get a good quality picture frame.
I used to like to go to Thrift Stores, to buy funny, interesting T-shirts for $4 to $5. But sometimes in very affluent areas, I found that for some reason, very expensive clothes would get donated, that had never or seldom been worn. Very expensive, high quality, pants, shirts, shorts, jackets, and coats would get donated. Some of the best and nicest clothes that I had, came from Thrifts Stores.
On Monday in Dickinson, I went shopping at Runnings, Tractor Supply, Menards, Wal-Mart, Arc Aid Thrift Store, ABLE Inc. Thrift Store, Family Dollar, and the House of Manna. There were many different things that I was looking for, and I bought something from each of the stores that I went to, except the Arc Aid Thrift Store, and the House of Manna.
The Arc Aid Thrift Store, had moved to where it is now across the street from Anytime Fitness, behind the Prairie Hills Mall. This store was fairly nice inside, and the store clerks were nice. I was looking for an old heavy sleeping bag to keep in my truck to use in an emergency. This store had a lot of camouflage and hunters clothing, but no sleeping bags.
Next, I went to the ABLE Inc. Thrift Store. Right when I walked in the door, there was a three foot tall stuffed frog, for $1.98, so I took him to the counter and told them not to let anyone take him, I wanted him. Next, I found a very heavy, good quality sleeping bag for $8.00, which I took to the counter and put on top of the frog. Then I found a nice black leather attache case for $2.50, which I put on top of the sleeping bag, on top of the frog, at the counter. Then I found a nice pair of Ranger water-proof winter snow boots for $8.99, and then I didn’t find anything else that I wanted.
The ABLE Inc. Thrift Store receives donations of goods from individuals and businesses. Then they sort through the donations, put a price on each item, and place the item in their store in the appropriate area: clothing, housewares, furniture, electronics, tools, sporting goods, office supplies, jewelry, books, etc. They sell this merchandise in order to pay for the operation of their store and to give the remainder of the proceeds to the charity that they support. They are happy for customers to buy as much as possible, this pays for their store and it supports their charity.
Lastly, I went to the House of Manna, and I wish that I hadn’t. Within approximately one second of walking in the door of the House of Manna, a man sitting at a desk with a registration book, said to me that I needed to register and show him my driver’s license. I was in disbelief, and I didn’t like this. I said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought that this was a Thrift Store.”
The man at the desk said that this was a Thrift Store, but that I would be required to register, sign in, and show my identification. I asked him, why would I be required to register and and show my identification. He replied, “We need to check to make sure that people are not coming in more often than they should.”
I didn’t like this at all. I felt like saying, whoa, wait a minute, I’m not poor, I was just looking to buy things, I don’t want anything for free. I didn’t like that just walking in the door, they immediately assumed five things about me that weren’t true: that I was poor; that I was needing help; that I was looking for something for free; that I was dishonest and untrustworthy; and that I needed to be monitored and regulated by them.
I didn’t say, whoa, hold on, I’m not poor or looking for charity, because there were other people in there shopping, who may have been in financial need. Yes, I got the idea that somehow the House of Manna felt that their merchandise was for people in financial need, but I didn’t know this before I went to their store. I thought that is was a normal Thrift Store.
I felt like, a better way to address people who arrived at their store would be, “Hello, have you been a customer here before? No? We are not a typical Thrift Store, our intention is to provide our merchandise to people who are in financial need and unable to afford very much. Are you in financial need? No? There are other Thrift Stores in Dickinson where everyone is welcome to buy as much as they want, but here, this merchandise is strictly for people who have a financial need.”
When I got home, I looked up the House of Manna on the internet, and I read their store website. I read the origin, history, philosophy, and purpose of the store. Then, I read reviews of the store on Google. It turns out, that the majority of the reviewers felt the same way that I did. That the store was hostile and overbearing.
It turns out, that the people who were in financial need, they didn’t like being treated the way that they were treated. No one likes bad things being assumed about them, being talked down to, leveled, and demeaned, whether they need help, or not. No one, not even the poor people who need help, like it being assumed that they are so dishonest and untrustworthy, that they need to register and present their identification in order to be monitored and tracked.
The House of Manna, is supposedly run by a group of non-denominational “Christians”. How would this group of non-denominational Christians like it, if when they went to the bank, the grocery store, the gas station, Runnings, or Menards, someone met them at the door, every time they came to these businesses, and said, “You have to register, sign in, and show your identification. We know you are up to no good, and you will probably try to take advantage of us some way.” This is basically what they are doing at the House of Manna.
I ask readers to please not donate to the House of Manna, or offer assistance to the House of Manna, until the Board of Directors can recognize the importance of treating all people with respect and dignity, especially, especially people who are poor and in financial need.
I have seen this before, and probably every adult has seen this before, where a gift, help, or assistance, is not offered graciously, but there are strings attached or some kind of other accompanying nastiness. People who receive a gift or help, expect that the giver has good intentions, but they are sometimes shocked to see that it is accompanied by condescension, belittlement, resentment, a put down, a jab, insult, or some other kind of hostility. True Christians don’t offer help, assistance, or charity on the condition that the receiver acknowledge that they are no good and not trustworthy.