Ethical Question

topic posted Wed, August 10, 2005 - 12:45 PM by  Nate
Ok, here's an ethical question for discussion.

What are your feeling about stuff that is left out for thrift stores?

Often times people will dump stuff by Thrift store drop sites or in the thrift store back lot after hours.

So what is your oppinion?
posted by:
SF Bay Area
  • Unsu...

    stuff that is left out for thrift stores?

    Wed, August 10, 2005 - 5:38 PM
    I am thinking it would depend on how tight I was. If I was plush, I wouldn't grab this stuff without asking the donor (which is hard, if they aren't around). If I was as broke as those the store was meant to help, and the item in question was something I really needed, I might shortcut the system.
  • Re: Ethical Question

    Wed, August 10, 2005 - 5:53 PM
    I once took a book from a goodwill drop-off site.
    the only reason I didn't stop is because you aren't supposed to leave stuff after hours anyway..soo...
    I didn't feel bad about it. And I've gotten TONS of use out of the book (herbal healing stuff), so it wasn't that bad.

    I think, though, if I had more money or it was something I wouldn't really use much anyway, then I would not take it.
  • Unsu...

    Re: Ethical Question

    Fri, August 12, 2005 - 12:27 AM
    I leave this stuff alone. I like to encorage re-useing and recyceling, and taking stuff from a buisness like this does not feel right to me.
  • Re: Ethical Question

    Sat, August 13, 2005 - 5:47 PM
    no ethical qualms here for me.

    1) a lot of thrift stores have sketchy ethics, while i support their charitible work, the salvation army, for example, is an incredibly offensive sexist and homophobic institution.

    2) if its sitting in a parking lot, its fair game.

    3) the people who are donating are doing it to find a way to re-use their castoffs and help someone in need out - if i take it, mission accomplished!

    4) the thrift store is an inefficient distribution mechanism b/c of the need to divert funds towards paying rent and salaries of staff.

    i could go on...
    • Re: Ethical Question

      Sat, August 13, 2005 - 5:51 PM
      ok, two more -

      1) a thrift store is different from a business - they are not for profit, their stated goal is to re-distrubute items to people in need.

      2) a store that doesnt pay for its inventory is not harmed by the occasional loss of inventory. everything they sell is pure profit for the organization.
      • Unsu...

        "I echo andy"

        Sat, August 13, 2005 - 10:59 PM
        Right, so you are not harming the store, per se. Are you harming the store's employees? shoppers? Some stores (e.g. Goodwill) specialize in hiring 'unhirables' - people who don't have an acceptable work history and need a fresh start. Some shoppers are welfare moms, or similar, scratching to get by and take care of their kids.

        If you're poor and need what you see, I say you're entitled. If you're plush and just turned on by getting free shit, I say let it go cause you don't really need it.
        • Re: "I echo andy"

          Sun, August 14, 2005 - 8:21 AM
          <<Are you harming the store's employees? shoppers? Some stores (e.g. Goodwill) specialize in hiring 'unhirables' - people who don't have an acceptable work history and need a fresh start. Some shoppers are welfare moms, or similar, scratching to get by and take care of their kids. >>

          do you actually shop at thrift stores? even where i am living now, in new mexico (one of the poorest states in the country) most thrift stores go out of their way to market to hipsters, not welfare moms. what did you think the high price tags on 'vintage' clothes and name brands are about? most of the groups that do charity work use the stores as fundraisers for their charity work, not as the charity itself.

          as long as the store is making enough to stay open and pay employees (which isnt hard when you get tax breakes and donated inventory) im not hurting the employees. they get paid the same hourly wage - my taking stuff out of the parking lot (where most stores ask you _not_ to leave donations, and some even threaten to prosecute if you do) simply means less of a mess for employees to clean up while on shift. shoppers? by your logic, thrift stores should income check people at the door and only sell to poor folks. if someone who lives (even just a little bit) above the poverty line shops in a thrift store, first, whatever they buy is something your 'welfare mom' doesnt get to buy, and second, it drives up prices because thicker pockets can pay more for retro kitsch. taking stuff from the parking lot almost seems more humane.

          • Unsu...

            Re: "I echo andy"

            Wed, August 17, 2005 - 7:32 PM
            The way I see it is that it's up to the individual store.

            By going on their property and taking items from it, you're trespassing, according to the law.

            Personally, I don't see it as a bad thing. And I have a feeling that if stores felt they were being wronged when people walked off with stuff, they would take more measures to make sure it was more difficult to remove unclaimed items.

            On the whole "marketing to hipsters" argument: there are plenty of stores that "prey" on hipsters, like you say, but there are certainly an equal number of examples of stores that help needy people subsist. I live in the northeast section of Baltimore city in Maryland, and shit's hard here for a lot of people. Goodwill is _really_ doing them a good service, and most of those 'hipsters' you're talking about wouldn't dare set their foot in the Goodwill I frequent, just because "Oh my god it's on Harford Road in the City...No WAY would you catch me there."

            Some stores are just trying to make a buck. I say let them. If it bothers you that much, then just don't shop there. There are other stores that exist that will be there for the needy population.

            I'm not trying to put you down, but I'm trying to point out that relying on generalizations just doesn't make sense across the board...especially when it comes to those in need. And it's been a long day; sorry if I seem crabby.
            • Re: "I echo andy"

              Thu, August 18, 2005 - 9:42 AM
              Here's another bit of information that Sarah briefly mentioned. It is actually illegal for people to leave stuff outside of drop zones after hours as it is considered "unlawful dumping." So it could be argued that the scavenger is actually helping society by preventing such a heinous crime.

              "Oh no officer, I'm not dumpster diving. My friend left this here for me to pick up."
              • Re: "I echo andy"

                Wed, March 7, 2007 - 4:07 PM
                so long as something else is left in exchange 4 what has been taken...I think it's all good
                • Unsu...

                  Re: "I echo andy"

                  Wed, March 7, 2007 - 7:48 PM
                  me and my buddy found a little girls bmx outside of a thrift store and we ripped around it all day and then brought it back that night :P
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.

                    Re: "I echo andy"

                    Mon, April 30, 2007 - 10:36 AM
                    • Re: "I echo andy"

                      Sun, May 6, 2007 - 2:10 PM
                      Hey, I am new here, live in Richmond,VA. i am about 3 blocks from a Goodwill store, and I agree with the person who was commenting on the overpricing - it seems way out of control!
                      I also participate in Freecycle, which is very active here - there is almost nothing you can't find if wanted/needed - provided you have the gas to go pick it up! But - i regularly see posts there stating "whatever will be taken to Goodwill if not taken today" etc - so i don't feel bad about the idea of someone relieving these guys of an item for the shelves. I suspect the donor doesn't care what happens to it, as long as it isn't in their 2 car garage anymore!
                      Happy diving everyone, good to be here!
            • Re: "I echo andy"

              Thu, August 18, 2005 - 9:51 PM
              first, the 'marketing to hipsters' arguement was not intended to imply that thrift stores dont also serve less priviledged elements of society well. of course they do. beleive me i shop in a lot of them (yes, even in the 'bad' neighborhoods) and see all elements of the population represented. my point was simply that a thrift store is not the moral equivalent of say, a soup kitchen for the homeless. all are welcome in pretty much every thrift store ive ever been to. they dont check to verify welfare enrollment at the door.

              secondly, yes, im talking about taking stuff off the ground, so called 'donations' dumped in the night when the store is closed. i suppose a few stores still use outdoor donation bins, but i almost never see them. my understanding is that the cause a lot of 'problems', from unwanted donations to homeless folks sleeping in them. most stores post very specific signs about when and how you can donate. the stuff im talking about is stuff left on the ground by people who wouldnt follow those rules. taking something someone else dumped on the ground, in explicit violation on a nearby sign asking them not to do so? if anything, youre doing the store a favor.. like i said, no ethical problems for me here.

              honestly, im suprised theres an issue over this - this is the 'dumpster diving' tribe, no? ive seen threads here that went beyond stuff i feel comfortable with (like breaking locks and gates to get to garbage) but this issue just seems so... milquetoast.
              • Unsu...

                Re: "I echo andy"

                Fri, August 19, 2005 - 12:45 AM

                I think this thread just invited us to think through and post our own thoughts on something we might not have thought through before. And it feels like some of us are feeling our way through while we're posting.

                I agree this isn't the biggest issue in the world, but it is kind of cool that lots of dumpster divers seem interested in thinking about it.

                Ethics is ethics. Thinking through the little issues is just good mental exercise for tackling the big ones.
  • Re: Ethical Question

    Wed, August 24, 2005 - 9:57 PM
    aha! just realized (after a closer look at profiles, and a read of the other new post about ethics) that both suzanne and darkling are from / have lived in olympia, wa. now thats a whole different story... for those of you who dont already know, oly hosts a fair share of opportunistic young folks with what suzanne calls 'culturally appropriated hairstyles' who, despite (or perhaps in response to) overwhelming evidence of privilege, choose to rifle through the trash, largely in a search for anti-establishment cred.

    anyhow, yeah, those guys are annoying, i can see how their presence could piss you off. i think i understand where your guys are coming from a little better now. (of course, correct me if im wrong) still, while i would imagine wouldnt find a lot to admire in some of the life choices these kids make, and wouldnt make them myself, i also would never suggest that they dont have a right to dig in the dumpsters... perhaps suggest some ettiquette, offer guidance, but if they dont want it, fine... no-one owns garbage - thats the whole point.
    • Unsu...

      Re: Ethical Question

      Wed, August 24, 2005 - 10:26 PM

      I agree they have a right to DD.

      My point is that I see two main reasons to DD:
      1) economic necessity
      2) reusing resources (preventing waste)

      I don't make a lot of money, but rarely need to DD for reason #1. I do however, believe strongly in DDing for reason #2. **Unless** I believe that someone else will be hitting said dumpster for reason #1.

      As for those kids - they may be minimizing their resource use to be cool, rather than out of ethical conviction, but isn't that still better than having them drive 2ton SUVs to be cool? Or wearing sweat-shop clothes? Give me the rich kid anarchists riding bikes in their thrift store clothes anyday.
      • Re: Ethical Question

        Wed, August 24, 2005 - 10:39 PM
        hiya darks..

        many i hate discussions about people you can call 'they'.. still, i started it, i guess.

        your two reasons for diving dont really resonate for me - my interest is more like:
        3) its fun!
        4) hey, free stuff!
        5) interesting reflection on the nature of industrial capitalism to see a pricetag on something useful you just pulled out the the trash
        6) i like to re-circulate resoureces to people who will use them(ok, thats kinda like 'preventing waste', but in a more 'i have a cool present for you' kinda way)
        7) im interested in the lens on a person or place that rifling through the garbage gives, even if i find nothing useful.

        <<Give me the rich kid anarchists riding bikes in their thrift store clothes anyday. >>

        definitely agreed.

        still, doesnt negate the fact they can be annoying..
        • Unsu...

          "people you can call 'they'"

          Thu, August 25, 2005 - 2:47 PM

          *VERY* good point. I was just thinking last night (long after my post above) that generalizing about 'hipsters' is no better than any other kind of profiling, stereotyping, or discrimination in general. Young people of *any* socio-economic background are struggling to figure out who they are and what they are about.

          Growing up with lots of money may mean lots of priveledge, but it certainly does not guarantee enlightenment, so why should we expect 20yo trust fund kids to be any less mixed up than the rest of us? At that age? And certainly they are all individuals, even if they follow normal human instincts in conforming to social norms of their friends.

          Kerouac would remind us that we are all equally beautiful, all equally full of shit, and all equally becoming the Buddha.
          • "THEY" people

            Sat, August 27, 2005 - 11:06 AM

            ahhh. We must be careful not to be age-discriminating either.

            There are people, both old and young, that may feel lost, confused, and/or finding themselves- culturally and otherwise.

            So, I say dumpster-diving is appropriate, ethical, and something to be celebrated by all walks of life. Poor, rich, old, young, crusty, clean, homeless, homefree, or any other label we can think of! :)

            Just my thoughts on the subject....

          • Re: "people you can call 'they'"

            Sat, August 27, 2005 - 10:08 PM

            "Kerouac would remind us that we are all equally beautiful, all equally full of shit, and all equally becoming the Buddha."

            i love you jim
            • ~M
              offline 8

              Re: "people you can call 'they'"

              Sun, August 28, 2005 - 8:36 AM

              Now that is one quote that I will have to turn into a bumpersticker or plaque!


              • Re: "people you can call 'they'"

                Sun, August 28, 2005 - 4:50 PM
                i personally think that if you need the stuff then take it. i can't afford everything i need when re-establishing my life in a home from the world of travel and this has helped. talk to any goodwill employee and they will tell you how overcrowded the stores are and how much goes to waste. go in a goodwill dumpster and you can see also. you aren't hurting anyone and if you are really worried about the legality of it. you're trespassing everytime you get in a dumpster. that is private property and criminal trespass is 30 days in texas i don't know about other places. so you're all criminals. there...
  • Re: Ethical Question

    Thu, March 1, 2007 - 11:44 AM
    take it! thrift stored get "FREE" stuff and sell it to poor people fuck that! take it and what you don't want donate to the free store or free box it on your porch....thrift stores! ha!
    • Re: Ethical Question

      Thu, March 1, 2007 - 1:53 PM
      I say take it too, if it is after hours and the door is closed. I'm headed out to dive right now, and 2 thrifts are on my regular route.
      I have found *many* excellent things in thrift store dumpsters too! Looking through those gives you a sense of how much donated stuff they just throw out, and how they cycle things off the shelves if they don't sell fast. A vast portion of what people give them is basically garbage anyway.
      • Re: Ethical Question

        Fri, March 2, 2007 - 9:28 PM
        Excuse me. I might be able to clear up one misconception here. I volunteer at two different thrift stores. Goodwill and a Woman's shelter thrift store.
        BOTH agencies GIVE emergency clothes, beds, furniture to those in need. And yes, they will charge whatever they think the market will bear for "vintage" or collectibles. They pay rent and sometimes barely cover it. The profit from the woman's center goes to pay rent for a battered woman's shelter, emergency fuel, counseling and more.

        They do throw away a lot of stuff that they don't expect to sell. Some gets boxed up and sent to South America. I'd say go ahead and dumpster dive. But taking their donations before they have a chance to decide if they want them is stealing from the poor. If you are "not flush" feel free to apply for emergency items, they will probably be happy to help you out.

        Another charity in our town gives away ALL of its thrift donations. They also give away money for dental care, rent, heating, car repairs etc. I'd never steal from them, of course you wouldn't have to , everything is free.

        It is true that they do not want items dropped off after hours but it also does NOT mean they don't want it.
        You are free to do what you want but just don't rationalize that you are being noble.

        I'm all for taking stuff that would end up in a landfill ...but not for taking from the battered moms.
        • Re: Ethical Question

          Wed, March 7, 2007 - 1:51 PM
          I don't dip into the donations bin UNLESS the thriftstore is a goodwill.

          As far as i can tell Goodwill is more of a corporate scam posing as a charity. They skim profits. Their only "charity" is their hiring policy. Everyone i talk to has told me that goodwill sucks to work for.

          plus goodwill has a tenancy of tenaciously guarding their dumpsters with locks razorwire and video cameras. they don't even let their own employees keep items headed for the landfill.

          • Re: Ethical Question

            Wed, March 7, 2007 - 2:18 PM
            and value village is owned by a millionaire who only became so because he embesseled money from charities.
            • Re: Ethical Question

              Wed, March 7, 2007 - 8:12 PM
              Well, You may be right, but the Goodwill in our community built two homeless shelters that house about 200 people> we have about 700 homelessin our town..and its in northen Michigan, so the homeless die in the winter. I figure Goodwill keeps about 200 of those from freezing to death. I don't want that on my conscience.

              Like I said, if you are in great need , just will probably recieve what you need....the Goodwill here also gives emergency items to those who apply for them....

              I dunno why none of them let people take the stuff that's thrown away..probably liability ....I'd have no qualms about dumpster diving ....
  • Re: Ethical Question

    Sun, March 18, 2007 - 10:08 PM
    I have no issue with taking stuff from the parking lot of a thrift store, before it hits the shelves. If it's that*** valuable, the donor wouldn't have (shouldn't have) left it outside after hours, which is against store policy anyway (Soccer Mom in Hummer: "Oh too bad, Goodwill's closed. Guess I'll just leave the two year old MAC and Grandma's $1000 antique china sitting here in the parking lot"). Most of my thrifting experience has been with the larger chains--- Goodwill, Thrift World, Savers. They send tons of shit to the landfill. Goodwill and Thrift World (and a store called Thrift Town-- does it still exist?) are NOTORIOUS for overpricing common, everyday shit that a truly poor person wouldn't buy there plastic dishes that are $1 at the Dollar Store or Walmart, but "$1.99" , used, at the so-called "thrift store". Used boxer shorts with stretched-out elastic--- wow, what a bargain at only $2 ! A ratty bath towel with holes, that cost $3 new twelve years ago--- wow, what a coincidence-- now $3. I really want to smack the people who price shit along these lines (why the fuck not price the damn towel like what it is-- a rag with holes--- for 10 cents. It would actually sell, then, rather than ending up in the landfill). If I had time, I'd probably prefer to "leave a note" each time I took something from the donations area after hours: "I helped myself to a chair and three teaspoons---- I'll stop taking shit from here if you stop overpricing ".

    I really can't recall ever taking anything from a thrift store donations area (though I recall cruising through to see if there was anything worth taking, decades ago). But I don't have an ethical problem with it. I agree with the people who said the goal of donating unwanted stuff was to avoid sending it to landfills, and to help someone else. If you need it and you take it, makes sense to me.
  • Re: Ethical Question

    Sun, April 22, 2007 - 11:10 AM
    This is a great thread.
    I agree with a lot of the varied views expressed here - even some contrasting ones, partly because I can't make up my mind about the ethics of it.

    1st: Yeah, I would take something if I genuinely needed it. The question of determining whether my "need" is genuine is tricky for me. I mean, yeah, if I'm broke, then the answer's clear. But I work part time, live below the poverty level. Can't buy new clothes or dine out, but I've always got threads (...mostly from thrifts, but some free box scores occasionally) and something in the cupboard.

    - - - I'm a product of that old protestant guilt, or whatever it is. So, in my mind, taking it if I don't truly need it is wrong, though I do just apply this standard to myself. I apply it only to myself because that's all the answers I have at the moment - I don't have one big swinging fist of righteousness that covers every situation and that I think everyone else should adhere to.

    And I realize that I could just be conditioned to believe what I believe: not necessarily that I chose to believe what I believe because it is the best choice.

    I consider taking stuff from the donation spot stealing because;
    A) the donor intended it go to the store,
    B) even tho it's after hours dumping, I bet the manager wouldn't just let me have it if I asked them.

    But it's a minor sort of stealing, since the harm it does, if any, is pretty diluted, and the re-use is, at least marginally, aligned with the mission of the thrift store.

    Also, I think this is different from dumpster diving in the following way: I was told it's illegal to dive in some dumpster's because it's still the owner's property until it's taken to the dump. In this case, like the thrift store parking lot example above;
    A) the owner intended it go to the dump,
    B) Nobody would grant permission to take stuff, even if there were someone to ask.

    This is different for me though, since if you really are intending it for the dump, you relinquish any vested interest in it at that point (aside from questions of privacy protection stuff), so get over yourself.

    But anyway, thanks for the thought provoking post.
    • Re: Ethical Question

      Sun, May 6, 2007 - 11:55 PM
      i still say take that shit if you need it. i ws in goodwill's dumoster the other day and that guy that frives ther delivery truck was on lunch drinking a bottle of peach cisco. i talked to him for a second and he asked me if i wanted anything in the truck, take it. but only if you need it.
      • Re: Ethical Question

        Tue, August 14, 2007 - 10:03 PM
        if something is on the street and you need it you should take it
        why apply they would never know it was gone
        In your town i might not take from goodwill but here, I say take it if you want it or know someone that does because
        the prices have tripled in the last years, the owners a millionaire, and they never knew it was there in the first place
        also they dont do that much for the community around here as far as I know
        if they did im not sure how it would change because if the millionaire owner thing
        However, I would no take something of high value from a small thrift store or any other small store unless it was in the dumpster
        ....ive never seen anything I "needed" at a thrift store dro poff so Id have to choose that as it came
        need is something we abuse too much around this hear country I think anyway
        maybe I might need a tent or sleeping bag real bad sometime and I would take it especially if it were me n my girl
        but we haven;t been homeless for a while......
  • Unsu...

    Re: Ethical Question

    Tue, August 14, 2007 - 11:16 PM
    Thrift shops are often unethical in their M.O. A person in need taking goods from them is perfectly reasonable and quite ethical, more ethical in fact, than buying from the shop.

    Andy, what you're saying is a problem all over the (western, at least) world.
  • Re: Ethical Question

    Tue, May 4, 2010 - 6:32 PM
    Hello everyone! I want to speak to this issue from 2 separate points of view- 1. As a person who, for several years, was so financially challenged that I ate the crusts off of the sandwiches while my kids ate the "hearts" and 2. As someone who now works for a nonprofit which literally relies on the thrift store sales in order to provide our services.

    In the past, there were many days that I could not afford items even at the "discounted" thrift store prices. If you, today, are truly not able to afford the 16 oz can of beans which you need to feed your family, then I may choose to look the other way when things disappear from our store. However, if you claim to be broke but have a cell phone with you, I may borrow it to call the police. Why? Because you are stealing. The items that you take, when sold, pay for Mr. Jones' home delivered meal or the other services he desperately needs. When you take an item, I cannot sell it. Therefore, I cannot pay for services.

    I know it sounds corny, but right now there are many, many 80-year olds who are having difficulty fixing their own meals or who fall when they take a shower, and I can't help them because I just don't have the money; thrift store thefts are a major reason that I cannot take people off of my waiting list. Our organization is a good, honest group which has been around for over 30 years and is loved and respected in our community. People donate their items to our store because they want to make certain that we have enough money to provide our services to those who need it. So please, next time you are tempted to take something that was left at our store after hours, think of what effect your actions have on our clients. Is it worth it?
    • Re: Ethical Question

      Wed, May 5, 2010 - 10:49 PM
      I was at a Salvation Army this week, on Devon in Chicago, and saw people going through the stuff left out when they were closed, on a Sunday.
      • Re: Ethical Question

        Thu, May 6, 2010 - 4:19 PM
        My experience is people always go thru the stuff dumped outside the thrift stores when they are closed. Maybe no one has mentinoed it yet, but some of those places, esp the Salvation Army, can be rather picky about what they take, which is why people are leaving it there when they are closed. Divers may easily be relieving the store of what they believe to be trash, items that they would not accept for resale or redistribution. I say go for it.

        However, if someone left something curbside for a thrift store pickup, that might be different. The thrift store is expecting that item, and the person getting rid of it may require a receipt for a tax deduction. That's a more difficult ethical question. If you see something you like curbside that's labeled for pickup, do you take it? Techinically you're interfereing with a private transaction, but reasonable care is not being taken to secure the item.
        • Re: Ethical Question

          Fri, May 7, 2010 - 10:15 AM
          Plain and simple; I would say if you really need it than take it. Beware of cameras and such. I've heard of people getting arrested for taking stuff outside of the bins, even though nothing is supposed to be left outside of them.
          • Re: Ethical Question

            Fri, May 7, 2010 - 3:13 PM
            I have a friend who got lectured by a cop when they were diving at a grocery store and the cop said she was stealing from the garbage company. They didn't arrest her though. I personally consider the cops, grocers and garbage companies to be unethical.
            • Re: Ethical Question

              Fri, May 7, 2010 - 3:50 PM
              I can't agree more! after all us dumpster divers are helping reduce the earths waste and whatnot. the cops and grocers dont care. they just do they're job and dont worry about the rest.
              • Re: Ethical Question

                Mon, May 10, 2010 - 1:30 PM
                I worked in a charity shop and most times tried to get the stuff put into storage asp. We had notices up (as do most ) asking not to leave stuff outside. People just want to dejunk and generally don't care as long as they are getting rid.As a donater I would visit the shop during opening hrs. We had so many donations , and have to sort them ....rags, plastic saleable goods etc. I really don't think it matters , as long as they are recycled :)

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