The Rise of Thrifting: Why no One’s at Fault

Growing up, my mom would explain to me why she would take me shopping every school year and the reason was: “I want you to be on trend, I don’t want you to get teased at school.”

The sentiment was sweet, but it was rooted in the idea that secondhand clothing isn’t nice or trendy.

This is ironic because nowadays, shopping at thrift stores is the trendiest way to get the most unique styling necessities. And honestly, I blame Macklemore for this phase.

Yeah, “Thrift Shop,” the song from 2012 that reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. That’s the cause of our thrifting problem.

Okay maybe not, but it does pose the question of who is to blame for the spike in Goodwill prices and the trend as a whole?

“It started out cool, but now you have all of these resellers selling a regular t-shirt they got out of a bin for twice or three times as much,” Sebastian Perez, who has been thrifting for a number of years, said.

The argument that Goodwill is to blame is very plausible, as a non-profit organization they should be catering their prices to low-income communities, because thrifting is supposed to be affordable and accessible.

Goodwill’s mission statement says that their goal is to help enhance the quality of life of people by building up communities and helping individuals in those communities reach their full potential.

This statement is great on the surface, but with the combination of an increase in store prices and average sales associates only making an average $12.75 an hour, Goodwill isn’t exactly living up to their own mission statement.

Now, growing popularity of online reselling has thrift stores adjusting to the changing demographic of who shops at their stores. Now, it’s higher-income customers who are willing to pay a slightly higher price, because to them it’s still a fairly reasonable one.

“I don’t see a problem with it though,” Perez said. “If a buyer is willing to pay the asking price, then they have agreed to that value. It’s not like resellers are taking all of the good stuff, there is more to go around.”

You can identify this change best in the Goodwill donation value guide. For example women’s coats and jackets in 2010 cost $8. Fast forward to 2020, and the value varies between $7 and $40.

Gentrification can be defined as the process of wealthier people moving into poorer urban areas, and adjusting the area to become more refined and reputable, leading to the displacement of the current community.

Thrifting was traditionally meant to be affordable and accessible to lower income communities, but during this surge of popularity, online resellers now buy in bulk and take all the good items to their stores.

But I have realized that this issue has many moving parts and complexities, that everyone and no one is to blame; because there isn’t just one issue.

Online resellers will buy a distressed shirt at a Goodwill for $3 then market it on their Depop as a pre-loved distressed tee, for $40. This is something I’ve actually seen on the app before.

Which to me is fine, a customer bought the shirt, gave the store their money, now they can make a profit by putting it in their own store(s). If they end up selling that shirt that means that a buyer has agreed to that value and is willing to pay that much.

I don’t agree with the idea that Depop sellers are going to Goodwill stores and buying the better items, when there is a constant influx of clothing being donated every day.

Go to any thrift store, the isles are always full, then go to the back where employees are sorting through donation bins. There will always be more clothes.

Fast fashion is the big problem, so, with that people are always going to donating items to their local thrift shop. Trends are constantly coming and going, and people always want to stay on trend so they will buy through Shein, Forever21, Brandy Melville, etc., and when the trend is over, off to the donation pile it will go.

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