Location, Location, Location: Salvation Army

Next to Goodwill, the Salvation Army is my second favorite thrift store chain in my area, one that I wouldn’t have found if it hadn’t been for my zero dollar budget to dress my drama club kids.  You see, my school isn’t very well funded to begin with, so coming up with money to fund the drama club isn’t always of the highest priority.  Thankfully, I am creative (otherwise, why would I direct drama?).

Salvation Army is a wonderful place to be creative on the cheap.  Their pricing is quite different than Goodwill’s set-up, and there are differences in policies.  Different, however, can be good.

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The Mission

The Salvation Army is a religious, socially driven institution that provides help to those who have fallen victim to disasters, be they personal or weather-related.  They receive funding to support those in need through their seasonal kettle drives (you know you have seen – and hopefully donated to – those people ringing bells with the red kettles during the holiday season), through sponsorship, and through their retail stores.  It’s very similar to Goodwill’s mission, but seems to have more to do with the church.

One point of controversy that can come up when you research the Salvation Army online is their stance on the gay community.  I’m not 100% sure of what their specific stance is, but because of their religious affiliation, I think I can safely assume that while they do not openly support gay rights (which is dumb, and if I lose readers because of this, so be it), they don’t ask people what their sexuality is before trying to assist them.  I could be wrong though.  If you know for sure, please let me know.  As much as I love their retail stores for thrifting, I don’t want to support an organization who does not support the ones I love.  Plain and simple.

The Money

Salvation Army’s pricing structure is different from Goodwill’s, and it took me a little bit to get it.  In all honesty, I still don’t completely understand their schedule, but I will explain it as best as I can.  The basic price structure is pretty simple.  All prices end in .99, and the overall price is typically based on its assumed worth.  For example, a shirt that is in great condition from a big name brand is going to cost more than a shirt that is from a cheaper brand.  While not always true, it is more common than not.  Every price is marked on a colored tag attached to the item for sale.  Unlike Goodwill, there are no common base prices; everything is priced individually.  On the other hand, the price of each item reflects the tax bracket of the area, just as it does at Goodwill.  If you are in a richer area, you can expect to find fewer items marked at $0.99 before sales.

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To go along with the individual prices goes colored tags.  While everything may have a different price, the prices are written on colors that correspond to when the clothing, etc. came into the store.  The tags can be yellow, pink, green, blue, or white.  These tags will help you figure out what clothing is on sale.

Tricks of the Trade

Organization

This is one of the toughest adjustments to make if you are only used to Goodwill.  There is no organization of size at the Salvation Army.  You have to dig to find the size you want.  Think of it as more of an adventure (but make sure you plan to spend more time here).  The organization structure is based on what type of garment it is (shirt, sweater, jacket, jeans, skirt, trouser, etc.) and color.  When they can, the workers organize each clothing type into a rainbow-like assortment.  If you want an orange shirt, there is a section for that.  Want some purple pants?  If they have some, they will be lumped together.  It is very helpful that way.

Sales

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a discount card that SA.  They do, however, have two types of sales:  50% off a color and the $0.99 sale.  They also host family night where families can get a certain deal if they bring in a bag of clothing to donate before shopping that day.  The main two sales, though, are what drew me in.  And when they overlap?  Look out!

The 50% off sale is what it sounds like.  Each week, a certain color tag goes on sale for 50% off.  They have what color it is each week posted somewhere near the front door so you know before you get elbow-deep in browsing.  If it isn’t posted, just ask.  The employees will definitely be able to tell you.

The $0.99 sale is the best thing ever.  Who doesn’t like getting awesome clothing and accessories for $0.99 or lower?  Every week, a separate color from the 50% off sale goes on sale for $0.99.  Everything, no matter how high it is marked, goes on sale for $0.99.  You could score a jacket that was originally marked at $15.99 for $0.99.  Um, yes please!  So what if something is already marked at $0.99 before the sale?  Well, it jumps down to $0.79.  Awwweeesssoommmmeee.  I have gone $0.99 color tag shopping before, and I walked away with ten items for $10. 

Sometimes these two sales happen at the same time.  I usually find that this happens at my local store on Saturdays.  This is completely up to the individual store, though, so I would check the schedule at your local retail shop.  Take advantage of being able to get 50% off and $0.99 pieces.  It’s great and cheaper than Goodwill.

Know the Goods

I like to know what I can find at each thrift store.  In my local area, I know that if I want to buy home goods, I need to skip Salvation Army and go to Goodwill.  The Salvation Army near me doesn’t carry very many home goods, and what they do carry is pretty mundane.  If I’m looking for a better selection of purses or ties, though, I will probably go to Salvation Army.  Take the time to get to know what types of merchandise your local stores carry the most.  This will save you time and frustration in the future.

Have you tried the Salvation Army lately?  What have you found?

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2 thoughts on “Location, Location, Location: Salvation Army

  1. My first thought when I started reading this article was that I was surprised that you would support SA because of their practices, so I’m glad that you did end up mentioning it in the article. The Salvation Army does have a history of refusing services to homosexuals. They also have a history of trying to evade anti-discrimination laws. They have met several times with government officials to get permission to refuse employment to homosexuals. They also have a history of refusing to provide benefits for a homosexual’s partner or spouse. I haven’t donated to them in about 10 years…I can’t support an organization that discriminates its services in such a way.

  2. First off, I love your blog! I also want to offer an alternate view on The Salvation Army and clear up some of the uncertainty you noted in this post. I worked for The Salvation Army briefly. Please note that I’m no longer an employee and everything written here is just my interpretation, opinions and observations, and are not the views of the organization as a whole, except where I’ve linked/quoted them.

    My experience at The Salvation Army was a good one and I never witnessed any discrimination whatsoever. Prior to taking the job, I was aware of the controversy surrounding their stance on homosexuality. Because of this controversy, I wasn’t sure if I was comfortable working for the organization. I did a little research and read their position statement on homosexuality (see: http://www.salvationarmyusa.org, ‘About Us,’ ‘What We Believe,’ Position Statements.’ Among other things, it states that: “the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation,” and also “…Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching.” I think this is pretty sensible and fair – they’re Christian folk so naturally they turn to scripture for guidance, and advise that others do too. They do believe (as stated in the position statement too) those who feel that they are homosexual should remain celibate. I don’t agree with this but I do respect that they highlight ‘individual responsibility’ as an important part of sexuality (whatever your sexual orientation may be), and that their services are available to all. I did see the good works of The Salvation Army in action, firsthand. The work of The Salvation army and the people I worked with make me proud to shop at and donate to the store.

    It is important to know that the purpose of the thrift stores is to fund the Salvation Army’s rehabilitation centers (rehab as in addiction rehab, not physical/injury rehab. See more here: http://www.satruck.org/rehabilitation-program and here: http://www.satruck.org/about/news/stories). As a shopper, I’m glad to support what I believe is a wonderful effort for people who are struggling. I didn’t work with the rehab center in my job, but I did learn quite a bit about it and worked with a few of people who were going through the rehab program. Those I talked to said great things about the program and the staff there. The services of these rehab centers, as with all Salvation Army services, are offered completely free of discrimination. They help people overcome addiction, build life skills and get back on their feet. Donating and shopping at the stores supports the program directly (Portland stores fund Portland’s rehab center, etc.). Interestingly, many similar rehab programs throughout the state (and presumably the country) are losing money and having to scale down services as federal and state budgets are scrutinized and cut (an example here: http://bangordailynews.com/2011/10/20/health/new-medicaid-rules-mean-some-centers-must-reduce-services-to-keep-funding/). The Salvation Army’s rehab center is funded by the stores, so their services have continued where others in the state have had to cut back. I like knowing that while I may not be able to make cash donations to support these important programs, I can spend a few dollars at a time in the thrift store and help ensure those services will continue.

    My job at The Salvation Army dealt with social services. In my experience, the social services provided in Portland were always, always offered without judgement, discrimination or inappropriate questioning. Nobody asked about sexual orientation, lifestyle, etc; it just wasn’t a part of what was done. Quite simply, the services are there for those who need them, no matter who they are. The only people who were turned away were those who were visibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or who were verbally abusive to the staff or others in the building. I suppose this could be perceived as ‘discrimination,’ but from where I sat, this policy just ensured that we could offer a safe, welcoming environment for those in need. I worked with folks from all walks of life, and whether they dealt with me, my coworkers or Salvation Army leadership, they were always treated with respect. In fact, they advertise that ‘ALL ARE WELCOME’ right on the side of the building, and they mean it! I say this with confidence and experience.

    Now, The Salvation Army is an international organization, and it employs all kinds of people all over the world. If you were to question every employee, you may find some who are homophobic or who would discriminate unfairly. I think you’d find these people if you scrutinized any large population, though. It’s sad, but it’s reality – those people and those beliefs are out there. I think (and hope) that as a culture we’re moving away from these beliefs. I don’t believe they characterize The Salvation Army, and I think at its heart, The Salvation Army is a great organization.

    I don’t know about the accusations in the previous post, as they are not cited, but I do know that what’s going on in Portland (where I presume you’re doing some of your shopping) is quite simply, good and fair and generous stuff. I will continue to shop at The Salvation Army with confidence, knowing that my support is very directly helping people in need get back on track (no matter who they share their lives with!). I hope you will keep shopping too! And I’ll admit, I don’t shop there just because it helps those in need – I also do love the thrill of the hunt and getting a great deal!

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