here's andy wise's "stand your ground" report that aired recently on action news 5. this report details investigators apparently finding prescription drugs in a suitcase in the children's aisle at the park avenue thrift store. it also features, i suppose as a point of comparison, the MIFA store and its manager, Scotta Allen. watch it, please, it's short.
i have mixed feelings about this. i've been to the park ave thrift store many, many times since i came to memphis, i've met the manager, talked with him (at length) and i can say from personal experience that although their store is large and chaotic, there's nowhere near the atmosphere of neglect and disregard for basic personal safety that seems to exist in this video. the fact remains (if you believe one reporter's account, which i have no reason to DISbelieve necessarily, i'm just saying) that it was a genuinely dangerous fuckup on the part of the staff and supervisors, and it could have ended much worse than it did, but if you'd care to dig a little deeper with me for a moment...
it's to be expected. i don't like to endorse the perspective that secondhand stores are somehow inherently dangerous or unfriendly places, but what you're dealing with is a massive, overwhelming, endless stream of inscrutable junk flowing in from lord only knows where to a staff of (GENERALLY) underpaid, undertrained, undermotivated "sorters" who have the less than enviable job of trying to sift out the obviously useless, poisonous, unsaleable or otherwise broken merchandise from the material that ends up on the sales floor for you to buy for 1.99. i hear these people working, all day long, on the other side of paper thin walls, and trust me, it's not a job you want. the fact of the matter is they do a better job than you'd believe (my own consumer-end gripes notwithstanding) of pulling out the stuff that's genuinely dangerous or otherwise unsuitable for mass consumption. could be park ave, could have been any goodwill in town, could be... fuck, could be ANY thrift store in memphis or anywhere else that i've ever been. you're going to find toys that have been ruled "unsafe" by any number of regulatory commissions. you're going to find products that have probably been recalled at one point or another. hell, you're going to find clothes that have no business residing on the body of man or beast, at any point in history.
IT'S A THRIFT STORE!
it's to be expected.
that being said, i can't fault someone like Scotta Allen for trying (and as far as i can tell so far, succeeding) to take it to the next level at a place like the MIFA store. i don't want to hide any cards here, she's been a longtime reader of this internet blogging space, but i genuinely think she's probably doing some good things down at the store, so i don't have any reservations about saying so. they started a blog. there's an email list. and although they've CUT THEIR SATURDAY HOURS BOO!!!! i still think they're trying to do something good there, and not at the expense of any of the other stores in town. they've been cutting out kids' toys, stuffed animals, anything unregulated or unsafe or otherwise unpresentable for months, they probably take more care in sorting out incoming material than any other thrift store in town (maybe) but the fact remains...
they're the exception to the rule. is that a shot against them? of course not. is it a shot against the park ave store? no way. is it a shot against andy wise or his investigators? no. a worse cynic than i would:
doubt the veracity of this reporter's findings
suggest how easy it is to get into any thrift store on planet earth and plant evidence
point out the fact that every single salvation army i've ever been into has had at least one outdated piece of "child's safety equipment"
perhaps for a moment put the responsibility on the parents to verify the functionality of something they're entrusting their children's lives to
but the fact of the matter is i spend a lot more time in thrift stores than anyone probably should, and i can see this happening the way it's played out in the news report. i don't think it was manipulative or unseemly of scotta allen to point out that her store takes extra precautions about the material they put out, i don't think it was wrong of the manager of the park ave store to be shocked and unhappy about the issue, and i don't think it was wrong of andy wise to pursue the story (assuming it just neatly fell in his lap, like it seemed to). i'd just like to remind people that it's probably deserving of a little deeper thought than a very brief news article provides, and remind you that as always, you cannot have your cake and eat it too, and that in a place where you can dress yourself, furnish your apartment, and entertain your kids for less than it costs the average american to watch basic cable for a year, a LITTLE extra work on your part as a consumer MIGHT occasionally be required.
does that mean that you should expect to find poisonous pills in every suitcase? fucking of course not, but it's not (ever) going to be the safe, sanitized, child-friendly utopia that perhaps this new class of economically challenged americans (as in all of us) would like to believe it is. it's thrifting, folks. your hands will get dirty. they should, anyway. just be smart and everything will be fine.
until next time