Ruining It for the Rest of Us

March 21, 2009 at 6:49 am | Posted in Philosophy | 1 Comment

tagTrue story. Yesterday I went to my local Salvation Army, which was having its monthly half-off-clothing sale. (These are always worth finding out about.) Thinking to perhaps alter my wardrobe a bit, I looked for dresses along the east wall of the store, where on all my many previous visits I had seen rack upon rack of every kind of dress a dress-wearer could want. But this time … none. The east wall was now occupied by … bookshelves.

Approaching a cashier, I asked where they had moved the dresses. Another customer was at the counter wondering the exact same thing. 

“We don’t sell dresses anymore,” the cashier said.

“What?” the other customer spluttered. “How can you not sell a basic thing like that?”

“We had to stop selling dresses,” the cashier said flatly, “because too many people were stealing them.”

The other customer looked perplexed. Having been a crime reporter (and still writing a book-review column every few months for Crime Magazine), I figured out the M.O. at once. Mind you, I never steal, have never stolen, and despise anything that even resembles theft. But I could picture this: Thief enters store wearing form-fitting top and pants or shorts. Thief removes dress from rack. Thief brings dress into fitting room, removes price tag, slips dress over head. The dress-over-pants look is everywhere these days. It’s not a good look, as the folks at GoFugYourself wisely point out. But it’s ubiquitous enough that thieves could casually walk into stores not wearing dresses over their pants and then walk out of those stores wearing dresses over their pants without arousing notice. I mean, if they weren’t being watched. And thrift shops aren’t big on surveillance or store security.

So yeah. Thieves have ruined it for decent law-abiding shoppers in at least one Salvation Army store. Because they stole dresses, none of us can shop for dresses anymore. It hurts the store as well. While that Salvation Army used to price its dresses at around $7 each, now it gets none of those sales and its east wall is occupied by books, which are priced at $1 each and, more importantly, are very slow sellers. 

Rule #1 of our Scavenging Code of Ethics is: Don’t steal. Which is part of Rule #12: Don’t bring shame upon fellow scavengers. Stealing from thrift shops is pathetic. Plus it makes us all look bad. Prices are so low at Salvation Army. Pay them.

(Later, when trying on items in the fitting room, I glanced at the floor. It was littered with torn-off price tags. Grrrrrrrr.)

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  1. I can never understand people stealing from secondhand stores, especially charity shops. One of my locals has DVDs with a big sign saying “Please don’t try to steal these – the boxes are empty!” In another store lately the little old lady undercharged me when she forgot to ring up one of my items. I reminded her and she was flabberghasted that someone would be so honest – they have so many thefts! It disgusted me to think that anyone could steal from charity.


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