I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

On the one hand, finally my peers see the wisdom of shopping at thrift stores. No longer must I endure the fish eye when they find out the gorgeous dress I'm wearing wasn't bought at Bloomie's for $400, but rather pulled from a pile of newly-donated clothes down at the local Presbyterian thrift. Price: $4.

On the other hand, thrift stores might not be the treasure troves they usually are much longer. And I don't like the sound of that at all.As this article in the New York Times says, thrift stores around the country have suddenly found themselves in the strange position of increasing sales...with decreasing donations.

The Salvation Army, which runs 1,300 thrift stores around the country, says its sales have spiked 5-15% in recent months, compared to the same period last year, but the corresponding donation rate is down 10-15%. With the rough economy, people are holding onto their clothes longer, or selling their clothes on eBay or Craigslist first.

To respond to shrinking inventory, The Salvation Army is launching an ad campaign to remind people that money generated through its thrift stores goes to fund its drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. With any luck this will prompt people to donate more. Otherwise, the Salvation Army, along with Goodwill Industries and other charities that run thrift stores, worry that inventory will run thin.

The beauty of thrift store shopping is the seemingly endless mountain of cast-offs from fellow shopaholic Americans. So much surplus inventory means cheap prices and lots of choice. Obviously this won't be the case if racks are picked clean.

So I'd like you all to go in today and check out all the superfluous stuff cluttering your closet. Surely there are items you never wear, or no longer fit into. Won't you please make a donation to the thrift store of your choice today? And then (ahem), ping me and let me know which one. I'll be right over.


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