by Alex Masse, Peak Associate
I’ve thrifted all my life, my mom got me into it. I always loved going to Value Village as a kid, and was thrilled at any excuse to go into Vancouver. I still remember my first find: a pair of floral-print converse I literally wore to death.
Before quarantine, I thrifted on the regular. Last month, I went to my first thrift shop in six months, and it felt like coming home. I got a Tchaikovsky vinyl and some delightfully weird clothing, including a sailor-style dress that was $20.
But is thrifting really the harmless hobby many see it as? These are valuable things at low prices, and oftentimes, that affordability is the main appeal. When I was younger, thrifting was looked down upon. It was one of those things poor people did.
And like many things poor people did and were mocked for, eventually rich people did it and suddenly it was cool.
There are definitely points against thrifting if you don’t have to. For example, you’re not only taking resources from the less fortunate, but potentially ruining the industry for them. As stated in a Varsity article, many worry about thrift stores being gentrified, and having their prices go up.
“I’ve seen a big difference especially in their stores, like jackets used to be $7.99. And no-name brands are nowadays 17 dollars,” student Meghan Garvida stated in the 2018 piece.
To many, it’s an open-and-shut case: if you have the means, you should buy elsewhere. If you have money and you want to fight fast fashion, buy a sustainable brand instead of taking from a wholesome local resource that does nothing but give to the community.
But it’s never that simple.
First of all, many thrift chains have issues. Value Village was accused last year of deceptive advertising, and the Salvation Army is still struggling to move past its allegations of homophobia. Not to mention they’re huge companies that probably don’t need the extra money.
On the other hand, local foundations, like the volunteer-run Peace Arch Hospice Society Thrift Store, are quite transparent and need all the help they can get.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want in thrift stores. There’s a reason prices are going up. One common suspect? Thrift-flippers.
For those not in the know, thrift-flipping is the act of thrifting something cheap and reselling it at a higher price. It’s very popular right now, with many flipping full-time. I’d say if anyone’s to blame for thrift store prices going up, it’s the people buying stuff for $10 and selling it for $60. Stores realize they could be making more off what they sell, and act accordingly.
There’s no way to know for sure that’s what’s going on, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Not to mention the unfortunate implications of taking things from a public resource that many rely on just to make a profit.
In short, no one’s saying you need to stop thrifting forever. But it’s important to remember any privileges you may have and try to partake in thrifting mindfully.
Sustainable Thrifting Tips:
- Don’t buy winter clothing or accessories if you can help it. Priority should go to those who otherwise can’t afford to keep warm.
- Don’t buy plus-size clothing if you’re skinny. Larger people already have limited buying options.
- Don’t buy baby clothes, strollers, or anything that one might need in childcare.
- Try to support local, genuine thrift stores over the chains.