Boise Thrift Store Lets Shoppers Choose Where Profits Go 

Thriftology is all about recycling, upcycling and giving back

click to enlarge 20180103_093220.jpg

Lex Nelson

At first glace, Thriftology looks like any other well-kept secondhand store—it's spotlessly clean and packed with aisles of colorful secondhand clothes and shelves bursting with knickknacks and housewares. A second look reveals something unusual, though: An old wooden ballot box at the checkout counter, with a sign beside it that reads "Where should we donate our profits? You decide."

click to enlarge For January, customers can vote for PEER, the ASPCA or CARE as the recipient of their dollars.  - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • For January, customers can vote for PEER, the ASPCA or CARE as the recipient of their dollars.
Customers fill out slips of paper to vote on which of three charities—one local, one national and one international—should receive 100 percent of Thriftology profits for the month. The initiative, which saw 400 votes in two weeks when the store opened last November, is the brainchild of owner Cassandra Barrington, a diehard thrifter who sees secondhand shopping as "a way of life." Every decision at Thriftology—from the meticulous way the clothes are cataloged to an affectionately nicknamed "guyle" of manly merchandise—has Barrington's personal touch, but the ballot box is what makes her business unique.

click to enlarge Like everything else at Thriftology, the racks of clothing are kept in perfect order. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Like everything else at Thriftology, the racks of clothing are kept in perfect order.

“I love what the thrift stores in town donate to. I think they’re all important, necessary and honorable," Barrington said. "But I always wondered what more could be done. I started thinking: What organizations do I want my business to benefit? And I couldn’t narrow it down. It turns out, I just wanted to benefit everybody. I wanted to help everybody everywhere.”

The ballot box was her solution. Each month, Barrington picks three new charities to put on the ticket, ensuring the money her business brings in never goes to the same place twice. This month, thrifters can choose between PEER Wellness Center, a local recovery support center; national organization the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and international social justice nonprofit CARE.


Plus, there's a line for write-ins and suggestions, charities which Barrington then researches to see if they're donation-worthy. 



click to enlarge All of the dressing rooms at Thriftology are made from recycled shoe benches and racks. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • All of the dressing rooms at Thriftology are made from recycled shoe benches and racks.
"I only want to use charities [on the ballot] that are 501(c)(3) nonprofit certified with a good reputation," she said. "I don’t want to accidentally be giving money to help Bob get a hot tub.”

The charitable aspect of Thriftology was part of Barrington's business plan from the beginning, and played a large part in making the store a reality. A year ago, when she was trawling yard, church and estate sales for merchandise to stock her store shelves (she eventually filled nine storage units with items), the business model was a major selling point for donors. Now, it's a selling point for customers, who Barrington said vote because it makes them "feel like what they want matters."

Barrington, a mother of two, also hopes the model will serve as a lesson for her children, who often spend time with her at the store. 



"This is going to sound all saintly and cheesy, but I really want them to grow up in this store and learn to work really hard for something, and then give it to somebody who needs it more," she said.



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