Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Debunkin' Junkin'

Everyone who knows me well enough, knows I like to haunt thrift stores. Some people call them second-hand stores. In England, they call them charity shops. I like them because I like old things, and I like the idea of recycling perfectly usable stuff. I mean, would you rather buy a set of dishes that was made in China with questionable lead content, or a cool retro 50's set made in the good old USA for pennies on the dollar...er, with questionable lead content?

There are several stores within a few miles of my home. Goodwill has several shops, Salvation Army has one large store on PCH, and there's an assortment of smaller charitable and church thrift shops. I like to shop them all, but, for all you junkers out there, I do have some opinions about them.

1. Goodwill: In the old days, I remember Goodwill Industries being the charity that hired the handicapped to repair and refurbish donated items. Now, they also are committed to job training and placement for the disadvantaged, which is a good thing.

The problem is, their stores stink.

Lately, say, about the last few years, they've been selling items from Target. Target donates their left-over merchandise that doesn't sell, even after it's been marked down.. Most of it is pure unadulterated junk. Unfortunately, this merchandise takes up a lot of wall and floor space at Goodwill. I wonder what Goodwill does with the personal items that people donate, as little of it appears to end up in the store, other than clothing. I hope it's going somewhere, other than an employee's ebay store. Overall, their prices are higher than other thrift stores. In addition, they are unpleasant to deal with when you call them to pick up large items like appliances and furniture. Nothing short of flawless is acceptable and they usually refuse to pick up. But that isn't the worst of their problems.

In one extremely revolting instance, an insider reportedly stole millions from Goodwill. This, combined with all the other issues (and a really gross experience I had at the one on Western Ave.), leads me to choose other organizations to donate to, and I rarely shop at Goodwill stores.

2. The Salvation Army. They don't have as many stores as Goodwill, but they're better. The one store in Torrance on PCH is a pretty good store. It has furniture, clothes, housewares, and appliances. It also has a 'antique' section where the more quality or collectible items are located. You can drop off furniture and donations, but The Army also whines if you ask them to pick up items for donation. In other words, don't bother. If you have to donate, drop it off at the store during store hours.

3. Disabled Veterans: There are no Disabled Veterans thrift stores in the immediate area, but they do have a really good store in Long Beach. I like these guys because they will pick up just about anything, if you have enough of it. My son's basketball team had a rummage sale at our home, and DA picked up everything that didn't sell, except for a computer. Also, what you donate ends up in the Long Beach store (I've seen stuff I've donated in the store.) So you know it's going toward a local charity.

4. Discount Center: By far my favorite is not the most well known. Since I have a booth at the local Memory Lanes, I'm looking for good prices in addition to a great selection. This one is the best - it's FULL, it's CHEAP, it's got VARIETY, and it's relatively neat. The cashiers are usually pretty friendly. I donate items here because the stuff is sold here, and not shipped to another store. I typically drop off items here; I don't know if they pick up.

5. There are a couple of church shops in Lomita. Alpine Attic, on Lomita Blvd. and Palos Verdes Resale. These are a hit and miss because they are small, but I like them for the ambiance and the cute little old church ladies - so honest and neat you know all your donations go into the store. This is something to keep in mind when you're looking for a place to donate. It's difficult (if not impossible) for them to accept large furniture items, and they don't pick up.

6. Habitat for Humanity: This store/warehouse is unique. It sells stuff one might find at a Home Depot, like cabinets, windows, doors, fixtures, sinks, etc. Some of these items are pulled out of homes or businesses that are about to remodel. Some of these are special orders that didn't work out. They also have random household goodies. The good stuff moves fast. Located on Figueroa in Carson.

7. Little Company of Mary Thrift: Lots of stuffed jammed into a tiny store. Where the Hawthorne and Torrance Blvds COLLIDE.

8. Craigslist.com: It's not a thrift store, obviously, and it's not ebay. It's like the Pennysaver, except with photos, and FREE. I'm mentioning it because if you're looking to sell an item, rather than donate it, it's a great option to having a yard sale, or listing an item in the local paper. It's also a great option if you're looking for something specific, and you hate getting your hands dirty. I've sold things and bought things on Craigslist very successfully.

Well, now you know where I find my Gew Gaws. There are other places, but the above is where I shop the most. If you've never gone junking, I'd recommend bringing handwipes and cash, although the two largest chains accept credit cards. Most importantly, keep the smaller shops in mind when looking for a place to donate your gently used items. Oh, and take a look at this blog - I wish I could write so well. Happy hunting!

1 comment:

Industries said...

Just wanted to say I appreciate your page and writing. I am a resident of Torrance for 3 years now and really want to dig in and learn the history. After seeing the video on the broadcast station at North High I wished I would have grown up here during those days. I always wanted to be a radio DJ and received my FCC license in 1993 but haven't ever pursued a career. I think a class like that could have propelled me further and faster in that direction because of the guidance.
Your summary of the local thrift stores is great and I look forward to participating in visits to them soon.
I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA ~ another great city. Overall I think Torrance was the best choice for a town to move to that allows me to feel like I am still at home while being in California:) You can stop by my page anytime: www.myspace.com/ibuildit Thanks ~R~