As the holidays approach, donation bins for different charities seem to pop up everywhere.
But what if the people at Samaritan’s Purse took a few shoeboxes home to stock up on school supplies for next year? What if the Salvation Army bell-ringers were pocketing the contents of their red buckets at the end of a shift?
That’s exactly what one thrift store did when it used the names of local charities to set up donation boxes around New York City. People donated their items thinking they would go to the needy, when in fact they were processed and resold for $10 million in profits.
— Reuven Blau (@ReuvenBlau) October 29, 2015
Thrift Land USA was ordered to pay $50,000 in penalties and $650,000 to two non-profits – “I Love Our Youth” and “Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rockland County” – for deceiving the public and failing to pass donations on to the intended party.
Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, explained:
“Duping members of the public into thinking that they are making a charitable donation, when in fact they are enriching a for-profit corporation, is both deceptive and illegal.”
Other thrift store chains such as Savers, Inc., have come under scrutiny for deceptive marketing as well. While Savers doesn’t specifically advertise itself as a charity, it does hint that the sales support non-profit organizations.
Sylvia Kronstadt was once a fraud investigator at New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs. Now a consumer advocate, she says that both consumers and donors should sever ties with Savers:
“[The company] preys on donors’ good intentions to create fabulous wealth for itself.
The charities who ‘partner’ with Savers are guilty as well, for allowing their names to be used in exchange for a few pennies on the dollar.”
She suggests that people should always be aware of where their donations are going. Websites like “Charity Watch” can help by grading different charities and tracking both positive and negative reviews.