Unrestrained generosity to thrift shops
creating a behind-the-scenes difficulty
|Adam Worcester photo
Fabulously Frugal Thrift Shop’s manager Shirley Mock sits among bins and boxes of donations the
store hasn’t sorted yet on Monday, Jan. 20.
SNOHOMISH — Shirley Mock sits on a chair in Fabulously Frugal Thrift Shop surrounded by
There are plastic storage containers piled with clothes. There are large plastic waste bags packed with more clothes and assorted miscellanea.
Every few minutes, someone drops off more stuff. The collection grows.
Many of the donated items will make it to the sales floor of Fabulously Frugal. A surprising amount won’t.
People drop off so much garbage, Mock said, that the store spends about $800 a week for extra pickups.
“They feel it’s cheaper to give it to us rather than pay their own garbage,” said Mock, the thrift shop’s manager. “The sad part of it is that it takes away from what we can offer the senior center.”
The Snohomish Senior Center owns Fabulously Frugal, which dedicates a portion of its sales to support the center.
Thrift shop revenue also helps with capital costs. The store has helped buy the senior center a new van.
So shelling out almost $42,000 annually for garbage removal takes a significant bite of the nonprofit’s income, in turn reducing what it can give to senior center services.
Mock welcomes the donations, but wishes the donors would be more thoughtful.
“A lot of people don’t understand that we’re not able to wash clothes,” said Tami Molitor, one of the shop’s 12 employees.
Eighty percent of the clothing will be picked up by a charity and taken to a larger thrift store that can wash it — or simply dumped in the trash.
Molitor has sorted through baskets of kids’ dirty laundry, garments stained with squished bananas, a basket of clothes that had cooked rice at the bottom.
“The worst thing we got was a sack of clothes filled with human feces,” Mock said.
Sometimes Molitor will take home a nice shirt or dress and wash it herself. A volunteer, Veronica Eaton, launders sheets and pillowcases.
Other volunteers, from the senior center and Snohomish High, frequently come help.
But most days, it’s just Mock and Molitor sorting through the voluminous assortment of stuff in a space next to the main sales floor.
They meet each donor upon arrival, and make a quick assessment of what’s salable and what’s not.
Some people have gotten angry, telling them to take either all of their stuff or none of it. Others don’t wait for an appraisal. They dump their donations outside the front door and drive off.
“I think some people think, ‘Only poor people shop there. This is good enough for them,’” Molitor said. “But it’s not like that.”
To Mock, it’s common sense.
If something is chipped, cracked, broken, or worn out, it won’t sell. Neither will single shoes.
“About 50 percent of the people who donate to thrift stores think, ‘I’ll just clean out my junk drawer,’” said senior center director Sharon Burlison. “They don’t realize the thrift store has to pay for the labor to haul it all away.”
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