After-hours donations leave thrift stories in a bind
June 11--DECATUR -- Almost every Monday morning Catholic Charities Resale Store manager Theresa Johnson will find a surprise at the store's donation door.
"TVs, a couch," she said. "A whole house full of furniture."
Although the employees of thrift stores and consignment shops are grateful for donations, many have found the merchandise left at their doorstep to be unusable.
"We are a donation site," said Rita Boyd, coordinator for the DMH Thrift Store, "not a dumping site."
Store employees have often found large items, such as mattresses, older televisions and other furniture. Some have found bags of soiled clothing, toys and even household garbage.
"They'll leave it at the end of the building, or they'll just dump it right into our Dumpster," said Robin Murray, Catholic Charities community services supervisor. "They will leave it outside our donation door, where it is clearly posted 'No after hours dumping.' "
Disposal companies often charge for the extra pick up. Stores could pay their disposal company up to $40 per item.
Even when quality items are left outside the store's donation door after hours, rarely will it make its way inside.
"Whatever is dumped over the weekend, we go through it," Johnson said. "But nine times out of 10, there is nothing we can physically bring in here and use."
Items can be damaged after being left out in the weather over a weekend.
"And it could be wonderful things," Boyd said. "But it has to be disposed of due to damage; I have to put it in the Dumpster, and they charge me."
Nature can also damage merchandise in other ways.
"We don't know what kind of animals have come and made a little home out of it," Boyd said.
Another consequence of dumping after hours is the potential for pilfering.
"Somebody may be leaving something that's very nice and very appropriate for the store," Murray said. "We can't guarantee it's going to be here for us when we arrive."
"If it sits outside the door, it's free game for anybody to pick through and take what they want." Boyd said.
Donation times and days are posted on all stores, but if donors are unable to visit at the allotted times, retail managers suggest they notify their favorite resale shop.
"If they plan on donating their items, they need to call ahead," Boyd said. "If I know they're coming, I can wait."
The stores also reserve the right to reject any items but rarely refuse donations.
"If we can't take it, sometimes we know of other organizations or charities that do take those things," Murray said.
Managers will attempt to find a home for some of the rejected items by notifying other resale stores.
"I usually go and make some phone calls for them," Boyd said.
The relationship between the resale stores and the donors is fundamental to the business, and the managers say they understand this.
"We wouldn't be here if we didn't have the great donors that we have." Boyd said.