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Do you think shopping at charity shops is an 'ethical' consumption? Why/ why not?

Do you have any favourite charity shops? (Yes, mine is Oxfam!)
I'm currently conducting a dissertation research about consumption of second-hand clothes at charity shops.
People around me gave me some opinions about the question, including...
-YES because the part of money I spend goes to poor people in Africa
-NO because charity shops sell those fast fashion brands and by buying those clothes, consumers are reproducing the whole evil system of clothing industry

So, what do YOU think? It would be most helpful if you could give me some opinions with a bit of your charity shopping experience :)


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    Jul 6 2013: I love charity shops! I love donating unwanted books or clothes to charity shops, and I love getting hold of a bargain as well. I especially like buying good quality clothes that are not the same old boring stuff in the usual high street chain stores.

    I tend to donate unwanted goods to my local hospice shop, but the British Heart Foundation and Oxfam have very good local charity bookshops where you can pick up some fantastic titles. It's difficult sometimes not to come out with as many books than I've donated! :-)
    • Jul 7 2013: Thanks for the reply with your exciting experience, Heather :)
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    Jul 6 2013: It is a good thing to keep usable merchandise in use and out of the land fill.
    • Jul 7 2013: Thank you Edward! Yes it is true that running charity shops is a good idea in terms of recycling. I just noticed being "ethical" is another story...
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        Jul 7 2013: In my view an idea cannot be both good and unethical. An idea can be bad and ethical, but not good and unethical. Do you disagree? Can an idea be good in one particular respect (recycling) even though it is essentially unethical?
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    Jul 6 2013: Nothing ethical or unethical in it. It's one's individual choice from where s/he will buy her / his consumables. People's buying choices depends on different motive , in your case motive can be Charity but I am not sure, how much money from the profit of that shop goes for Charity?
    Last not least " charity begins in home"
    • Jul 7 2013: Thank you for the answer Salim. I was curious to know if "ethical" use of money by charity shops would slightly affect customers' behaviour.
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        Jul 7 2013: Hi Miriam
        While choosing a store to buy things different customer may have different motive. Say some customer have motive to buy things cheap , some others may have motive of having a sense of prestige or pride while buying , so these two groups will choose completely different sorts of stores.
        Here comes the strategy how a store wants to position itself in the eye of its target segment. The store of your example may have targeted the segment who wants to have a feeling of helping others while buying. For that particular segment definitely that kind positioning will may influence behavior of its target segment .
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        Jul 8 2013: For this question, you might look at a related literature. I have noticed over the last decade or so, the popularity at for-profit stores of advertising that some stated amount out of each purchase is contributed to some worthy cause- water in Africa, heart disease, research into women's cancers, supplies for foster children...

        I understand that attaching a charitable purpose is a marketing strategy business schools teach.

        There ought to be some research, then, on the effect on consumption decisions or sales from appending a charitable cause to purchases.

        On a separate matter related to your research, where I live the charity shops selling second-hand merchandise are dramatically larger than the for-profit ones. They are larger because people are more likely to choose to donate used items to charity shops.

        The prices at charity shops are much lower than those at for profit second hand stores, and because of the size of these shops, someone looking for, say, a pair of khakis, is likely to save a lot of time going to one huge place.

        Example: my younger daughter lives in a college town with quite a few small second-hand clothing stores. When she needed khakis, she went to all of them and found only one pair that was even worth considering (condition and fit). When I then went with a tape measure to the closest enormous charity shop, there were probably 100 pairs of khakis in a size that could fit her.

        Have you seen this TED talk?
        • Jul 10 2013: Thank you again for the reply with related experience!
          I will try to develop and nourish my topic with relevant literature and survey.
        • Jul 10 2013: Oh, and Jessi Arrington's talk was a great example of an individual who uses second-hand shops to seek for unique/alternative look! It is interesting that she talks about recycling in the narrative of fashion...
  • Jul 5 2013: Charity shopping is probably the most stupid way to consume, and has nothing to deal with ethics. If you want to donate money, you could simply do this. But you do not want to donate anything, you just need a thrill when pulling your cc.

    What if there is no poor African left, shopping at Oxfam would be such a bore, better lets not think about that. I might have missed something in the news, but there should be lots of poor people in England, why do you think you can erase poverty in a foreign state, if you did not do this in the place you actually live in? Maybe Oxfam ethics just work abroad, but not at home...but maybe one day the Africans will shop back and save us?

    Ah sorry, this will not happen, Oxfam does not even believe the poor are intelligent enough to spend money, so they bomb them with goats, toilets, water wells etc..
    • Jul 7 2013: Thank you for the opinion, Lars.
      I think charity shops still keep the price low so that poor people especially in South East London can be saved as well. Well, I'm sure not many people are rich under the austerity though...
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    Jul 19 2013: I don't like shopping anywhere. Everytime I walk into a charity shop, I think about the percentage of my dollar that actually ends up in the hands of the needy and i'm in a bad mood by the time I walk out, but I do it anyway because of the tradition of charity and the recycling factor.

    I buy new from independent non chain affiliated stores. but shoes i buy for comfort from hush puppy.
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    Jul 15 2013: Hi Miriam. Not sure if you are looking for some worldwide comments but....
    First, Thanks to your one respondent (I live in Africa:)
    But seriously, I think many people contribute to charity shops and buy from them because we can't all afford to give money to our charity of choice - I have many that I support with time, donations and expertise.
    But as someone who is often financially strapped, buying from a charity shop is cheaper, in SA you can find amazing little gems and personal items that aren't going to be seen or worn by everyone, while at the same time, you know that your cash is going to a worthy cause.
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    Jul 10 2013: i recomend to go the closest walmart or best buy, do your shopping, and the money you save, give to a good fund. for example the acumen fund.
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    Jul 6 2013: Is your thesis about the reasons people buy second hand clothing at charity shops? Does part of your research involve surveying shoppers at random at charity shops? In what field is your dissertation?

    I am familiar with two very large and very busy charity shops. My guess is that most of the people shopping in these venues do so not because the proceeds, or part of them, support charities but rather to get perfectly serviceable merchandise they may need or would enjoy at a fraction of the price they would have to pay new. There may be further interest in the novelty value of items with a vintage flavor to them or, in some cases, the higher quality of clothing- both fabrication and workmanship that used to be available in stores serving normal shoppers compared to what shoppers would now find in normal stores..

    I suspect the fact that a portion goes to charity is a much smaller motivation.
    • Jul 7 2013: Thank you for the comment. As you commented, my dissertation is about consumers' reasons behind second-hand consumption at charity shops. Why at charity shops, not at for-profit second-hand clothes shops? I thought there must be some extra reason, which is more than "cosmopolitan caring". And yes, I'm thinking of conducting guerilla survey to customers in different charity shops!

      I myself do volunteering at a major charity shop in London and have observed our customers from behind the till. Everyone's got different different backgrounds, which made me curious about their act of consumption at charity shops.

      I shared this question here because I wanted to know how people regard charity shop consumption based on their experience!
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        Jul 7 2013: Very interesting. I hope you share your results when you have implemented some sort of systematic, unbiased sampling protocol!