Thrifting is stealing from the needy

Zoe Cruz, Columnist

Macklemore made thrift shops trendy in 2012, but does anyone remember their initial purpose? It seems like now, everyone goes to the Salvation Army or Goodwill to buy a pair of high waisted jeans or a vintage sweater, but thrift stores aren’t meant for the stylish middle class.

TV series like the “Carrie Diaries” are bringing back the 80s and the trends we thought were gone for good. We can either flock to the department stores or take the cheap route and go to our local thrift shop.Bunny Jager via Creative Commons

According to the Salvation Army website, William Booth created Salvation Army to help “the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.” Booth felt compelled by God to serve these people because they were looked down upon by society. He gave the inopportune opportunity and we have started to slowly take it away.

I know I’m writing a column that’s going to be read by “broke college kids”, but are we really broke?

According to a study done by Citigroup and Seventeen Magazine, “nearly four out of five U.S. students between the ages of 16-24 work while in school”. I am one of those four out of five, and I made the decision to save all of my money to join a sorority; others saved it to go to the Ariana Grande concert.

We all choose how we’re going to spend our money, and I’m admittedly guilty of bringing home bags of clothes after a day of “thrifting” and being proud of my purchases. However, I work and have the ability to buy clothes full price.

We’ve all seen a person not dressed by “today’s standards” or wearing something that doesn’t seem posh, but perhaps that shirt you think is hideous was one of the ones you snickered at along the rack where you found your sweater.

Many people wonder, “Why would I pay $40 for a fake vintage sweater when I could pay two dollars for a real vintage sweater?” The answer is that someone actually needs that vintage sweater to be warm. You just want it to look fashionable, and that’s really what this boils down to.

We want to be in with the newest trends, and because they come and go faster than we can swipe our credit cards, we don’t want to pay full price for something that will be out in two unfashionable seconds.

We shouldn’t continue sorting through thrift shop racks without a care in the world when there are people with heavier burdens than our desires to stay fashionable.

According to the U.S. Census Highlights, 47 million people in this country meet the qualifications for poverty. We can’t singlehandedly solve this problem by not shopping at thrift stores, but think twice about whether you need to add those jeans to your wardrobe.


  1. grizzled old editor says:

    I don’t know anything about you, Ms. Cruz, other than what I an surmise about you after reading his column. So please take this with the kindest intentions: This column should not have been written. At least with the information you seem to have had at hand. Your editor should not have accepted it and it certainly should not have published it.

    Your premise, that when financially able students (or anyone, for that matter) shop at a thrift store, they are “stealing” from the more unfortunate. How did you form this premise? Observation? Logic? I’m guessing that for you to have become a columnist for this publication, you have taken at least a couple of reporting classes, correct? But you did not do any reporting before writing this piece. Other than pulling that one irrelevant census stat.

    If you were to go to that thrift shop that you mentioned and talked to some people there — not necessarily interview them, but just talk — you would have learned that there are several goals for charity thrift stores, and clothing poor people is nowhere near the top. If you had spoken to one of the clerks or other employees restocking the shelves, you would have learned that the very job they hold at the thrift shop and the accompanying salary is supported by the sales of thrift shop items. If only poor folk were allowed to shop at the thrift stores, do you believe there would be enough money to hire all those employees? Additionally, whatever thrift store profits that are not used for overhead (electricity, rent, etc.) and employee salaries, is forwarded to the umbrella charity, which no doubt has plans for whatever money comes in. So by my buying a sweater, whether it is fashionable or not, for $5 instead of going to a retail store is stealing from the poor? Are there not dozens of other sweaters still on the rack that a poor person can purchase? Will that poor person be angry that he is now forced to purchase another $5 sweater that is not as trendy?

    The point of this long note is that your piece reads like something written on deadline without a clear thought about what you wanted to say. If you really wanted to write about thrift shops, get down there and ask some questions. Columnist, despite what many people believe, need to have a secure grasp of the facts before venturing out to write an opinion column. Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, but you know what they say about opinions being like… well, you know (the rest of the statement is that everybody has one).

    Because you are given a public platform like this, you should want to make sure that your opinion is based on facts and provides something of value to your readers.

    Your piece was a vapid, ill-considered 450-word nothing column that would have been better used for horoscopes or some other space filler. The next time you have the opportunity to write another opinion, make sure you do not waste the time of your readers.


    — A grizzled old editor who was once in your shoes

    • Ben Haggerty says:

      Editor –
      This article is an OPINION piece, not a full journalistic endeavor with interviews and tons of research. Cruz had an idea and spoke her mind, and we should really think about how lightly we look at thrifting. What some think is fun and hip is some people’s dreaded necessity. There’s no reason to why it “should not have been written” unless people shouldn’t have opinions. I think it’s making us think, and whether or not we agree, we should think about these strange trends in our society.

  2. HonestAsTrump says:

    Wow, looks like your article really hit home for someone, Ms. Cruz.
    And while it never hurts to have more evidence, your article did provide evidence based on personal observation. A little more opinionated, but not incorrect.
    Plus, the article itself was very well written.
    Looks like grizzled old editors should stick to editing what they are asked to edit. Or at least get someone to edit their own comments. Examples: “what I an surmise”, “your editor should not have taken it and it certainly should not have published it”. Is your editor an “it”, Ms. Cruz?
    Just take what people say with a grain of salt, just because they write it does not mean it’s true. While someone may say this is th case in regards to your article, Lord knows it also pertains to their comment.
    I liked the article a lot.

  3. Spanky says:

    Why can’t the Crimson do a real story? Like, why is the school in violation of the Clery act? hmm? where are the crime stats they are supposed to have published? Answer that.

  4. Walter Cronkite says:

    An embarrassment for Samford

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