I work in a large thrift store about 40 miles outside of Birmingham AL. It's a Christian run organization that has several ministries that it gives to and the one we give to helps battered women and children. Each location has it's own that it gives to. I think last year is was somewhere around 51% of our net profit that we gave them. Several million dollars easily. And while I am not Christian, I love what the store does and the people who work there are awesome.
Now on to the real meat of the story. Our basic operations is run through donations. People can come to the store and drop off their junk where it's taken to the back, weighed, counted, processed, graded, labeled, and then finally put onto the sales floor. One piece of clothing will pass between four to five people before reaching the customer. And we also do what we call 'specials' which is when we send our trucks to your house to pick stuff up. Mostly furniture.
Now, when all is said and done, we have invested labor, space, time, and fuel into getting these items to sell at our store. But this is semi rural Alabama. To say people are cheap would be charitable and there is always someone who wants to haggle and barter. We don't do either. And they will throw out a line like "But you got it for free!"
No...no we didn't. But out of all of those times I have been told this, one in particular sticks out and still makes me rage a little.
I was helping out the front end while the main lady was taking her break. No big deal. It's not busy, we have all our cashiers in, and there hasn't been many calls for specials. Overall a pleasant morning. That is until Miss Alabama walks up to the counter decked out in hounds-tooth and red, carrying a very nice handbag, with a such a sour expression on her baboon ass lips that you might begin to wonder if baboon ass wasn't what she was tasting.
In her hand she is holding a small statue that I had helped my assistant manager research online just that morning. It was a smallish sculpture by some famous artist that was worth a good $200. It depicted a man being held up by angel Jesus set on a wooden base. Campy and old, but we are firmly planted in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Jesus sells here. We had a sticker on it for $24.99.
It took me a moment to formulate an answer. "We price our items based on their value."
"Well it's missing a finger!" Yes, Jesus did not have a right index finger anymore.
"That's why it's only $25."
"That's outrageous. And look at it! It's dirty!"
"Oh, the dirt is free." It was a bad attempt at making her smile or at least bring the reigns in a bit, but no dice. If anything it just pissed her off more.
"This is a thrift store! Not an antique shop! You can't sell other people's junk and charge this much!"
"We do give half of what we make to [Charity's name]. And they have to pay us somehow."
"I'm not paying thirty dollars for a broken knick knack."
"That's actually [Insert name of piece] by [artist's name]. One just like it sold on ebay for $200 last week." (I've long since forgotten both pieces of information).
Baboon lips intensify and her eyes narrowed. Now I know her scheme. We have plenty of people who come to buy stuff and resell it on ebay. It's not new, we don't discourage it, and in fact most of them are valued customers.
One guy I'll call Joe comes in and buys up to $400 worth of shoes at a time to repair and resell. He's awesome.
This lady? I don't like her.
"I'll give you $4."
"Well then I don't want it!"
She plants the statue down on the service desk and stands there expectantly.
"Alright," I said and put it in the 'go back' box. Her face morphed through several varieties of indignant rage before she marched off. The regular service lady returns from lunch and I am free. A few minutes later I see Miss Alabama walking around with the statue again and she approaches the floor supervisor. The floor supervisor is a sweet older lady who is devoutly Christian, but with just enough sass to make her one of my favorite coworkers.
"This didn't have a price on it," she says sweetly. "How much would you say this is? I found it over near the knick knacks."
So much lies. But I've been in retail long enough to know going up there to declare her a liar is all forms of nope. So I just sit and listen.
"Oh yes, I remember this piece! Such beautiful work!. You know, I love me some Jesus!" She says this all the time, but it's still funny when she says it to customers. "Too bad it's busted and so dirty. So I'll say..."
She hummed and thought about it for a few seconds before turning back to the lady and saying, "$34.99."
The face of Miss Alabama baboon lips was so delicious. She looked like she wanted to start in on the floor supervisor the way she did me, but bit back her bile and simply said, "Oh...well thank you."
She marched up to the register and by the time she got up to check out, the original "$24.99" sticker had miraculously returned! I waited till she had left before going up to my supervisor and telling her about what had transpired between Miss Alabama Baboon lips and myself.
"Oh, I know. Best way to get people trying to scam you out of paying the sticker price is to quote them a higher one when the sticker goes 'missing'. If there's one thing I won't tolerate, it's stealing from those trying to do God's work!"