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Aussie mum's op shop outrage after spotting $280 item

The Aussie mum said the charity stores are

Australian charity stores are being accused of “taking advantage” of customers. Fed-up thrift shoppers trying to do their best in the cost-of-living crisis aren't impressed by escalating prices.

Melbourne mother-of-six and op-shop fanatic Nicole Preece said she had “no problem” calling out her local Salvos store. She said costs are far too high when they "claim to be there for the less fortunate and ones that need them the most”.

“Second-hand rugs here at bargain price,” she said, pointing to the $280 price tag on the back of a rug. “Full of cat and dog hair.”

Even on the lower end, she argued that costs were a rip-off, with jeans priced at $28, paintings at $25 and drumsticks $15.

Nicole Preece outside the Salvos story (left) and sitting in her car (right).
Melbourne mother-of-six Nicole Preece is a regular thrift shopper and shares her experiences on TikTok. Source: TikTok/aussiemumto6 (TikTok/aussiemumto6)

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A pair of $12 trainers were "heavily stained" and she claimed they "stunk like the family cat had just urinated in them.”

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The mum is far from the first ticked-off op shopper.

A Vinnies shop in Sydney's inner-west has been criticised for selling a T-shirt for $350, while in Perth a woman found a $32 Glassons dress at a Red Cross store at the same time that a similar item was available on the brand’s website for $29.

In Brisbane, another customer said it was "outrageous" to sell a pair of second-hand pants for $25.

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Considering charity stores are inundated with free donations left on their doorsteps, Dr Andrew Hughes from the Australian National University questioned the high prices.

“I think they're taking advantage of people to be honest when they’re getting a lot of their stock for no cost or very little cost because people donate to charity bins or leave items out or give directly into their stores,” Hughes, a business and economics lecturer, told Yahoo Finance.

“But what I've noticed changing with charity operations is that they’re doing a lot more retail marketing and benchmarking to their competitors – which aren’t other charity shops, they’re Kmart, Target, Big W and Best and Less.

The rug (left) and the price tag (right).
Nicole Preece was horrified about the $280 price tag on a rug from a Salvos store in Melbourne. Source: TikTok/aussiemumto6 (TikTok/aussiemumto6)

“They’ve realised an item's value and are charging open market prices, not prices which might be more reflective of the fact that some of their customers might be people in desperate need and can’t afford to pay that price.”

While pointing to a $1 coffee cup at a charity shop, Hughes said you can pick up a brand new one from Big W, Kmart or Target for $1.50.

He argued that the philosophy of op shops is now about raising as much money as possible to assist with service delivery, but that forgets that their “very nature in the first place is to provide clothing to people at a lower price to help them out in a time of need.”

Prices may be reflective of the cost of living – with soaring rent and bills – but Hughes said that "doesn’t explain all of it".

“They’re still charity groups and your local store is likely to have volunteers working for it for zero costs, and when you take away labour, your costs are quite minimal,” he said.

“I know rent might be going up but a lot of other organisations do deals with charity organisations because it counts as a tax-deductible donation”.

The dirty trainers (left) and the price tag (right).
The TikToker was also shocked at the cost of a pair of dirty trainers. Source: TikTok/aussiemumto6 (TikTok/aussiemumto6)

But the CEO of Charitable Recycle Australia denied that op shop prices had significantly changed in the past 20 years.

“The average price of an item in an op shop ... is currently around $5.50 per item on average,” Omer Soker told Yahoo Finance. “This includes all products – clothing, homewares, furniture.”

“What has changed is that people are now also donating very high value pre-loved boutique or designer items to op shops, and these are priced accordingly to maximise the revenue-raising for those in need.”

He said those only made up about 3-4 per cent of sales and are more likely to be in high-income areas to attract a different demographic of buyer.

The Australian Red Cross said all revenue raised from its stores goes directly towards funding the organisation’s programs that support those in need.

A spokesperson told Yahoo Finance that Australians would want expensive items to be priced highly.

“We know that our generous donors, who provide us with quality products, expect their donated goods to be appropriately priced to raise funds for the humanitarian work we do," they said.

"We also then balance this against satisfying our customers with products that represent good value. The average price paid per item at Red Cross retail stores is $9.”

Clothes racks inside a charity shop.
Charity stores are being accused of taking advantage of customers. (Source: Supplied) (Tara Meakins)

Pricing at Vinnies is determined by “affordability for customers as well as the quality of the goods on sale”.

“Our shops use a simple pricing guide based on research on value in the general second hand marketplace and the quality of the garment,” a spokesperson for St Vincent de Paul Society NSW told Yahoo Finance.

“The principal purpose of Vinnies Shops is to raise much-needed funds for the St Vincent de Paul Society’s many services for people experiencing disadvantage .. and Vinnies Shops account for 40 per cent of organisational revenue and this is critical to the funding of programs and services across NSW.”

The Salvation Army did not wish to comment on this this story when contacted byYahoo Finance but said online that Salvos stores across the country offer quality goods at affordable prices.

"All profit made by Salvos Stores, thrift shops and family stores go to funding vital Salvation Army activities in communities across Australia," it said.

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