Is Thrift Shopping *Actually* Ethical?
There's been a recent boom in the popularity of vintage style looks and up-cycling thrifted finds to sell at, usually, an outrageous price. Is this ethical? Or does it defeat the whole purpose of thrifting in the first place?
One day, I was scrolling through Twitter and came across a tweet about upper-middle-class class people thrift shopping. I personally was against the up cycling/re-selling trend because I thought it to be greedy. Then, I began to see more and more tweets, and then stated to see ones about those who buy thrifted, name brand items and sell them for what they're actually worth instead of the very low price they got them for.
The debate is that thrift stores are for those who are economically disadvantaged; upper to middle class folks have increasingly become interested in thrifting, which leaves little options for those who could are actually struggling to find affordable clothing. As a middle class serial thrifter, I was interested. I wondered if all my previous thrifting was actually doing more harm to others than it was expanding my closet and saving me money. So I researched a little bit and have found a few different viewpoints on the issue to consider.
The first I'll touch on the fact that when a store gets so much business, and a demand is seen for their items, they raise prices. So, obviously, this is detrimental for the less advantaged people who actually need and depend on those thrift stores and their low prices. I've actually witnessed this happen in my own town.
As I said before, I was a serial thrifter with a love for vintage tee's and sweaters. So when I pop into my favorite thrift store and see that prices have changed from $1.25 to $1.75 (and sometimes more depending on the item) I was a bit upset. I even noticed a specific section in the center of the store with all the more expensive, and consequently, name brand items.
A name brand item can make all the difference for someone who is poor and needs a nice shirt for a job interview. It can be the difference in getting the job or not. It can be the difference that takes them out of poverty. Or a little girl or boy in school. I used to see kids getting made fun of for their clothes and being poor, and not provided with the same opportunities as the richer kids. So, it was disheartening for me to realize that something like this could stop them from improving their confidence and quality of life.
Most middle to upper class people have more than enough clothes, and just want new ones. I'm guilty of this. When I figured out that I could go on huge shopping spree's with a mere $20.00, I was all over it. This presented me with a problem though; I was never buying anything I actually needed. I was much more apt to buying something just because it was super cheap and I thought I *might* wear it. But more importantly, I was taking advantage of a system and taking away opportunities for people who didn't have it as well as I did.
Then, there's the argument that there's plenty of clothing to go around. And for big cities, this may be the case... but think about smaller towns and communities. If there's a small portion of poor people who need the thrifted clothing, and a moderate amount of richer folks who are buying up all the good clothes, that just doesn't seem fair to me. But, there's also lots of bigger thrift stores who donate to service projects, and it's great that they're profiting off this trend of thrifting.
This isn't to say that middle class people don't sometimes find themselves in a place where they need to thrift. It's also not to say that no one who has money should thrift shop- ever. I'm writing this as more of a reminder to be conscious with our purchases and when bargain shopping. Yes, you found it for a steal- but, do you really think you'll put it to use? Yes, it's a killer shirt for a low price, but can't you find another decently priced shirt elsewhere and perhaps give someone else an opportunity to be trendy and stylish? Just food for thought.
I only lightly touched on the thrift shopping debate. If you'd like to look more into this issue, I'd suggest checking out this, this, and this, website!!