Thrift Store Love

Huffington Post reported yesterday:

Macklemore’s iTunes Sales Impressive; Seattle Rapper Reaches No. 1 On Download Chart

You can read the story here. Now, the reason this got my attention is not because I’m a rabid fan, listening to Ben Haggerty’s music day and night. Truth be told, I have only listened at the insistence of friends half my age, and only when Junior is out of ear shot. I did fall in love, though, with the attitude of Macklemore X Ryan Lewis when I saw this (disclaimer: the song may get stuck in your head and Haggerty seems to love what we learned as kids to be the ‘F Word’). I love thrift stores. This was a rap about thrift stores. Faneffingtastic!

I am not an ironic hipster. I am not a bohemian, loft-living artist. I am someone who wants to shorten the distance between product and consumer. When I think of shopping, my first thought is what day of the week it is, and then, how can I fit one of two nearby Goodwills into my errands. If I can buy something used, I do.  Goodwill is my go-to for clothing my family, for odd-sized unused envelopes and other office supplies, sports equipment, glassware, small appliances, candles, linens, curtains, the list goes on. I have a stash of baking stones. Since they break and I haul them around when need be, I buy them whenever I see them at a thrift store. Since the advent of eBay, some items like Lego’s have become a Holy Grail of sort, but I did find them once. Another prize I picked up was a vintage Le Creuset pot for less than ten dollars. It’s fun, like a scavenger hunt, with my dollars supporting various charitable organizations.

If I went to Wall-Mart or even Ikea, I could find similar items for less money. Buying new, buying super cheap new, encourages companies that produce these items to continue using child labor, to continue providing unsafe working conditions where workers have no recourse, no voice. These workers are happy to get a job, sewing jeans for 18 hours a day, getting paid pennies to our dollar, but for what? So that I can have a closet full of low-priced, cheaply made clothes that I only wear a few times before getting more? What’s worse are high-priced items, produced at the same facilities, shipped halfway around the world, sporting a particular label, which entitles the parent company to rake in cash because of the cheap, cheap labor.

I know there is some irony at play here. Someone has to donate items to a thrift store for the cycle to work. Someone has to have or procure items before I can buy them.  While as much as possible I remove myself from the cycle, and encourage others to do the same, people are going to buy things new, tire of them, donate them to a charity, then buy more new things. I have no fear or worry about thrift stores running out of donated items. Reducing the quantity would mean more demand, more income for these non-profit businesses. My first choice is Go Without, second choice is Search Thrift Stores, last choice, and at times necessary, is Buy New. Buying new also provides challenge in sourcing items that are as out of the mainstream as possible. Some things Spouse and I have found:

There are many others, none of the products considered a bargain, the purchases being made from careful consideration, and some financial sacrifice. I know these choices, this lifestyle is not for everyone. I think, though, that making an informed decision about what we buy is for all. Seattle, while a mixture of many lifestyles, goes a long way in supporting my consumer choices. Perhaps only in Seattle can a duo write a song about thrift store purchases and end up the most downloaded group on iTunes.


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