Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thrift store selling its donations online

August 23, 2012


As Internet auctions have become a more common way of buying and selling goods, a volunteer with the Social Service League Thrift Store has found a way to benefit the local community by starting an online branch of the store.

The volunteer, Meg Davis, got the idea to sell items online after she donated to larger thrift store chains and noticed that her higher-quality items weren’t being put on the stores’ shelves. When she asked what was happening, an employee told her the items were being sold online from a national database and that the money was benefiting national programs.

Davis wanted to support members of the local community instead of big programs, so she proposed to the Social Service League board to start an online presence of the local thrift store, 905 R.I., with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting the needy in Lawrence.

Some of the services the Social Service League offers are a program for children whose families can’t afford glasses, a program for children who need new shoes and a program where high school girls can get a prom dress from the store if they can’t afford one. The Social Service League thrift store also accepts vouchers so underprivileged community members can come to the store for items they need.

The thrift store on Rhode Island will still accept donations, but the higher-dollar items will be kept off the shelves and sold online. The donor will get a receipt for the donation and can check that the item is in fact being sold online. After the item sells, the Social Service League will send a receipt with its selling price so the donor can get a tax deduction. If something doesn’t sell, the donor can take back the item, allow the league to drop the price, or repost it for sale.

Davis decided to use eBay as the sales site because, although the Social Service League hopes to develop its own thrift store website, she wanted to use an already popular venue with a national customer-base.

Items for sale will include antiques, dishes, jewelry and collectibles, but there will also be opportunities to buy original art.

Artists do not receive a tax deduction on donated artwork, so if they donate a piece to be sold, the Social Service League will offer them a write-up on eBay and a photo gallery, plus a mention on the Social Service League Facebook page as a way to direct potential buyers to the artists.

“Many artists want to donate to the community but don’t want 20 hours of their work to be thrown or given away,” said Mac-Kenzie Rose, who is handling the artist portion of the store.

If the artwork does not sell, the artist has the option to take back the piece or help the league decide on a way to sell it.

Davis and Rose hope these incentives will result in more art donations.

“This would not only benefit locals in need, but it would also benefit local artists,” Davis said.

The online store will launch at the annual Friends of the League party on Nov. 5 at Free State Glass, 307 E. Ninth St. The Social Service League Thrift Store is still accepting donations and will continue to operate as usual. To donate higher-priced items, contact Meg Davis at


traveler12 5 years, 6 months ago

How about a website or link for the store?

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

We do not have a website yet. We willing be opening it on November 5th to coincide with our "Friends of the League" year end party. To start a store like this, you need a lot of very good donations, all of which have to be cleaned, photographed, cataloged, priced etc. Both I and MacKenzie Rose (who is doing the artist community donations) have been working for months on this. The reason the LJW is doing an article now is that we need more donations to make the store large enough and attractive enough to a wide variety of Lawrence citizens. We have quite a few nice antiques in our database right now: depression glass, some bone china, Lucite, Antiquarian books etc, but we don't want to be just an antique store - we need to have heavy traffic, which means people of all kinds of interests looking for anything from tools, sports equipment, designer clothes, jewelry, artwork, household items (all high quality so they are viably salable online). If we can pull that off and offer the Lawrence community high-quality, lightly recycled items which they simply pay for online and pick up (or view) locally - we think we could do good things for the community with the revenue.

Lawrence Morgan 5 years, 6 months ago

This is a great idea!

If you can keep it local, and make it work, all power to you!

LeBo 5 years, 6 months ago

How about donating them to the needy?

Janet Cinelli 5 years, 6 months ago

You should stop by the League sometime! The thrift store, its manager and board put a lot of time into the store with every penny of profit going back to our community's lowest income families.

Ragingbear 5 years, 6 months ago

Most of the stuff at the SSL is clothing. People are limited as to how much clothing they can use. After all, if you wear a size 30, a size 22 is not going to do you any good. This will help them thin out the bulk of their stuff.

Other items are things that the "needy" do not necessarily need. Like small appliances, games, books etc. They are a good organization, but when you have inventory that has been there for literally years, you have to find new ways to move it.

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

We are trying to expand our inventory and remove anything that isn't up to par from the shelves and racks. Volunteers have been working very hard to this end. Thanks to these wonderful volunteers the store is looking pretty nice now.

As far as having items that are not "necessary" to the needy, we are hoping that those types of items will be purchased by people who aren't necessarily needy, but could use a good deal on decent recycled things. The revenue from those sales allows us to keep core prices down on the items the needy truly do require, and it helps support other worthy programs. So, all donations help.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 6 months ago

I quit using ebay as a place to sell as the last time I used it, seller fees were upwards of 15% of the sale ($300 on a 2K item). Good luck to the Thrift Store, I thought the fees were robbery.

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

I hear you. I've sold on Ebay for 12 years. The reason I am using Ebay for the online segment of our store is strictly because we cannot afford to start our own website yet, and we do not have an online following. If we get the people of Lawrence to think of us regularly as a place to donate and buy we will move out of Ebay and get our own website, which should allow us to drop the prices. It's a tough call and a huge amount of work: we are just trying to find a way for donations made by Lawrence citizens to stay in and benefit the community of Lawrence as a whole.

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago

I used to enjoy going to thrift stores looking for interesting stuff, but since they have started auctioning their stuff online I don't bother. All they leave in the store is garbage and I have no desire to make fedex et al richer.

Thrift stores have become greedy and stopped serving the community. They can all lock their doors for good as far as I'm concerned. None of you should give them even the time of day.

somedude20 5 years, 6 months ago

I get what you are saying and reading your post made me think of Snarf from Thundercats. I wonder if he has aged well and if there is a Mrs. Snarf in his life. He seems like the type of cat to make a sex tape, ah, who knows. Anyway, live strong and cheat well!!!

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago

I never watched thundercats so I don't know if snarf has a sex tape. Accoding to rule 34 of the internet, there is porn of it. Look on furry sites and you'll probably find some.

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago

I'll take your word for it on the identity.

LOL. Furries.

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

Hello: This is Meg Davis from the article. I assure you we are not trying to be greedy. We are trying to put donated items to use LOCALLY in programs that help the ever-increasing needy. If we put the expensive things in our store, they won't get the traffic to sell them or they could even be stolen. What we really want to do is have Lawrence people think of the online store as a remote extension to the store on 905 Rhode Island. They can buy on line and pick up locally. Everything is 100% money-back guaranteed. I'm not sure how else we can raise the money to keep our store running AND devote funds to worthy local causes. As for Ebay, I really wish we didn't have to use them and pay their fees; but until we are established there is no other way. I'm am always open to suggestions.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

If your intent is to sell the items locally, why not use Craigslist? The purchasers could pick the items up at the store, and pay for them on the spot. No need for the Ebay middleman and fee.

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

Craigslist has terrible problems with scamming. For instance, we posted our Artist Community Flyer on Craigslist two weeks ago and have had not less than 30 scammers respond, and not one viable donor-artist. I don't know what Craiglist's probem is, but they attract a plethora of unsavory types that make dealing through that venue very difficult.

Also, one doesn't know who they are dealing with on Craigslist, there's no way to check whether the person who contacts you is legitimate. At least with Ebay and Paypal you know the person has been screened and is a real person with a bank account. Sigh...I do wish it wasn't this way.

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

The only way to avoid Ebay would be a website of our own...and that is (hopefully - if we are successful) in the future.

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

Sorry it this was unclear. Our store doesn't open on Ebay until November 5th. We are trying to let people know about it now in hopes they will donate. To get the items prepared, photographed, cataloged and into the database is a huge job. But, you can't have a real store with just a few items, you need hundreds if not thousands for a viable store. We currently have over 400 items in our database and are hoping to open with 1,000. We need quality donations of all kinds of things.

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago

"We are trying to put donated items to use LOCALLY in programs that help the ever-increasing needy."

Did ever occur to you that some of the people that you could be helping would be paying you money for stuff instead of just asking for stuff? As an undergrad I lived pretty sparse and bought most of what I had from thrift stores. I paid, and thrift stores sold me things I could afford. Now some other poor undergrad isn't going to have that opportunity because dollar signs mean more than helping people.

The last time I saw a thrift store site, they were selling a 60s Japanese guitar for $40. The shipping was $50. The guy with $90 got the guitar, the guy a block from the store would have paid the same $40. The thrift store got their $40, the guy with more money got the guitar and Fed Ex made out like bandits.

You can do with your property as you wish, but you are neglecting a portion of those you claim to help. Sell as you wish. You won't get my money for anything.

verity 5 years, 6 months ago

L275, usually I just ignore you, but this comment is so offensive and so wrong. You obviously have no idea what thrift stores do and how much work, usually much of it volunteer, goes into the successful running of one. Before you spout off such nonsense, I suggest you volunteer at one and find out what actually happens.

It takes a lot of time and effort to do what the Social Service League Thrift Store is doing to help the community.

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago

"obviously have no idea what thrift stores do and how much work"

This is how it used to work:

I walk in, find an old pair of Bose speakers, pay cash and walk away with my speakers. Now if I want those speakers, I have to pay shipping.

As for your petty insults, in the end, it's my money. They won't get it. None of your thrift store insight makes any difference. Don't let the door hit you on the backside on your way back out to ignoring me.

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

No one likes change; it's human nature. As for those Bose speakers, you don't have to pay shipping if you buy them online at our Thrift Store. There are many ways to look at things. One person might think a thrift store should offer everything dirt cheap to local customers (and I mean, not only the necessary everyday living items, but frivolous items too). On the other hand, you have to make money in order to pay bills and to have money to give away. How can you help the truly needy by funding programs if you don't have any money? Would the community be better off if the thrift store sold those hypothetical Bose speaker for $5.00 to one person if they were worth $20? Or would it be better to ask $10 (still a great deal) and have $10 to pass on to the truly needy? Nothing is ever black and white. If we had a way to raise money and still run our store at a loss we would do it. Right now, we are trying to reach a happy medium--keep the essential items dirt cheap and let the non-essentials try to pay the bills and fund the programs. We are open to ideas.

guppypunkhead 5 years, 6 months ago

Since LJW can't seem to do it, here is the link for the Social Service League's Facebook page, anyway:

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

This is an example of some of the things we currently have in our online database: Paintings, jewelry, coins, bone china, antique drill, hand carved vintage mask, silver spoons etc. We are seeking more donations so we will have enough for opening a viable store.

patkindle 5 years, 6 months ago

i think this is great for the thrift store, i am sure some unhappy ebay sellers income has been affected, they used to buy items for dollars or pennies from the thrift store .. and peddle them on ebay for 100 bucks or more too bad, so sad..

they have to go back to cheating old folks at garage sales out of their treasures

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

LOL. I probably shouldn't laugh; that was just a little harsh. But, I agree things have completely changed since you know who G.W. has taken to moving all their good stuff online. To be fair, a lot of little mom and pop places that used to buy local at garage and estate sales and sell online (stuff like costume jewelry vintage odds and ends) have been decimated by G.W.. It actually takes a ton of work to buy things, clean them, photograph them and put them in an Ebay store, and 80% of Ebay stuff does NOT sell, so you're stuck with it if you bought it and you can't move it. The only way we are hoping to buck the statistics is by getting enough people thinking of us as not some Ebay store, but an Online arm of our 905 Rhode Island store where you pay online and pick up locally. It's a different idea - KEEP IT LOCAL - it benefits the community and the buyer has no shipping cost.

patkindle 5 years, 6 months ago

fretster, sorry, but cheating is cheating, no matter how much you justify yourself for taking adavantage of folks who are unaware of the real value i have seen dealers in lawrence for years cheating old people out of their valuables a cheat is still a cheat , no mattr how much education they have. unless of course ,you think an education, makes if ok to cheat

PhilChiles 5 years, 6 months ago

I like it! This is a really important charity, and they deserve the best. They can get a buck or two for most of the clothing they sell; if they can make a significant amount more off a select number of pieces and then put it back into their mission, then good for them. eBay fees may seem like a lot but compared to the cost of running an actual store, they're an amazing value. There just isn't a cheaper way to sell to a global marketplace. If I donate something to them then I want them to make the most of it, and this plan makes sense.

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

One more photo of some things we have in our database. I set these up for the newspaper reporter; but they didn't give her room to add photos to the article.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 6 months ago

I have purchased three books on Ebay from Salvation Army thrift stores so far. Two were from San Fransisco, CA, and one was from Tuscon, AZ. There may have been more, I'm not really sure, to tell the truth. My Ebay rating is 255, but that is over ten year's worth of purchases.

You do not need to have many items to start selling on Ebay, you only need one item to get started. The biggest problem that an Ebay seller has to overcome is the fact that buyers are leery of purchasing items from sellers that do not have a high feedback yet. That takes a while to build up, and until it is built up, you can expect your items to sell for much lower prices.

I know a couple people that would not even consider purchasing from sellers that have a feedback less than 100. And, I feel the same way.

It's mentioned that the Social Service League thrift store would like to sell items to people locally. That really doesn't make any sense if you want to get the highest prices for the items. It's a numbers thing, there are 300,000,000 Americans and many more international people that are potential customers if you are selling on Ebay.

And locally? I'm sure it's much less than 1,000,000, that is, one million local customers. But even if there were one million local customers, that would still be only about 1/300 = 0.3% of the potential customers that the store or seller would have on Ebay.

Although, you wouldn't need to pack and ship items, that is an advantage.

I think it would be wise to emulate what the other thrift store charities, such as the Salvation Army, are doing. They use Ebay, and yes, there are fees. But you will get much higher prices for the items because your customer base is not only all of the citizens of the USA, but also international customers, so it's worth it.

And, there is the "saved search" option on Ebay. No one is going to bother to sign up for a saved search on a local store, it takes hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of sales in order to get that one esoteric item that you are looking for. It's usually an obscure book that represents a one in 10,000,000, that is, one in ten million, find.

When one shows up, and it's only once every few years, bingo, I'm on it and using

Sure, you can try to have an online local thrift store. But then, only local people are going to look, and there's hardly any point even looking there if you are a serious shopper looking for that one thing. That is, something that is only one out of 10,000,000, that is, one in 10 million items. It just might show up on a local thrift store website, which would require checking the website every single day, if there is no "saved search" option on the website.

It could possibly show up, if you're willing to wait 100 years.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 6 months ago

Oh, I did forget one, and it's a purchase I made only last month! I bought a book from Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties. Their Ebay store name is goodwillexpress, and they have a feedback rating of 75,903. That's a lot of sales!

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

As far as starting a store with just a one item, I'd have to disagree. You can certainly sell one item, or two or ten on Ebay, but that does not constitute a "store". Furthermore, Ebay would not allow you to start an actually store with one item. And, I have to think, if people came to look and saw one or two items they wouldn't be very likely to come back. The key to success on Ebay IMHO, is getting a following - people who regularly check to see what you have AND to have a diversity of items (at least in a thrift type store).

I realize there is the issue of being a nubie on Ebay. I've been there over 12 years and have about 850 100% transactions. The good news is that Ebay offers a special section where non-profits can register, and I think people will have less difficulty trusting a non-profit (because our status will be confirmed by Ebay when we start the account). Plus we will offer 100% satisfaction.

I agree it is necessary on many things to have a national presence. There are some items that Lawrence simply doesn't have a large enough audience to absorb. For instance we have quite a bit of fantastic depression era glass, but there is only so much you could sell in this small a market, so having the national presence will be helpful. That said, lots of things could be sold locally too. As far as international sales, I am not interested in the hassle. Ebay has changed the rules lately and all international sales will be supported by the Ebay in the country the product is sold in--good luck with any dispute. I've done enough international sales to know they are "usually" not worth the added hassle: custom forms, and lack of ability to insure, (in many instances). Plus it can take a very long time for shipments to arrive at their destination. For now, we'll stay entirely in North America.

Rae Hudspeth 5 years, 6 months ago

I not only like the SSLTS... now I LOVE you even more. Come prom time next year, I have a couple of lovely vintage dresses that are earmarked for you. Also.. pm me if you have a need for a few pairs of pretty, small shoes. My mum is cleaning out her closet. s a buyer, I like the idea that I can browse items in my interest online from the store, because I often don't have time to come in.

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

Thank you for your encouragement. A lot of work is going into this and we are all 100% volunteers doing it. SSL only has one (albeit wonderful) employee, Jean Anne. I really don't know if this is going to work or not, but I thought it was worth the effort. We'd love to have those shoes.

verity 5 years, 6 months ago

You and those helping you are truly wonderful and caring people to do this on a volunteer basis. It takes a LOT of time, energy and imagination. I know it's worked for other thrift stores and I'm sure it can work for the League.

PhilChiles 5 years, 6 months ago

I hope you'll eventually consider international sales, I can't imagine selling on Ebay without them. There are a surprising number of people in other countries that collect Americana, exactly the kind of stuff that you'll be selling. There can be complications, sure, but you also lose a lot of highly motivated bidders. Thanks for helping out the League, this should do them a lot of good.

megabear44 5 years, 6 months ago

The problem is, Ebay just changed the rules. Now, when you sell internationally, if you have any type of problem you have to hash it out with the Ebay in the country the buyer lives in (and in their language). The hassle factor has increased enormously.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.