in ,

Teen Berated By Friend For Shopping At Thrift Stores Because They’re Only Meant For ‘Low-Income Families’

ArtMarie/Getty Images

We all have to buy our clothes and other supplies from somewhere. Sometimes, the most affordable option, and maybe the one that suits our tastes the most, is thrift shopping.

One teen developed mixed feelings on the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit after she received critical feedback for her shopping habits, however.

Redditor aliteralrat69420 was unsure what to do in the future.

After receiving such a negative response, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she’d been doing something wrong all this time.

She asked the sub: 

“AITA for going thrifting?”

The OP perhaps thrift shopping to other options. 

“I didn’t think this was a bad thing, but I’d just like to get an outside perspective in case I’m in the wrong.”

“Anyways, I (18 [female]) prefer to thrift my clothes instead of buying new ones just because it’s much more affordable (I’m still a broke student in hs (high school)!) and more sustainable. Basically, it’s a way for me to buy new clothes without absolutely blowing my wallet.”

But she recently received critical feedback for her shopping habits. 

“The other day, I was wearing a shirt I recently thrifted, and an acquaintance (let’s call her Jen) complimented it and asked where I bought it.”

“When I told Jen I thrifted it, she proceeded to lecture me on how thrift stores are meant for low-income families, and that people like me shouldn’t go thrifting because we can afford to pay a higher price for new clothing.”

And she wasn’t sure whether to agree or disagree.

“Here’s where I might be the AH: I come from a middle-class family in an affluent suburb, so I could technically borrow money from my parents to pay for new clothes. I’m expected to pay for most of my own clothing (which I’m perfectly okay with, I have some money saved up from my last job but not a ton).”

“I just want to save my money when shopping for new clothes, and also want to avoid buying from brands that use child labor. However, I don’t want to take nice clothing away from someone who really needs it, so AITA for going thrifting when I’m not from a low-income family?”

Fellow Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some accused the friend of gatekeeping and questioned her thinking.

“Your friend is pretentious and signal virtuous to the point she’s broadcasting her ignorance. Thrift stores have to make money to stay open & serve the broader community.”SirDouglasMouf

“NTA”

“OP, next time your friend buys something, say ‘wow how dare you buy that milk (or whatever it is), you’re taking it from someone else,’ maybe she’ll realize how silly she sounded.”

“You are recycling and staying out of debt by doing so. You’re being very mature.”KassellTheArgonian

“It’s such a weird lose-lose for someone looking to buy clothes. Buy new – waste of money, supporting child labor, unsustainable, etc. Buy from a thrift shop – larger people have to go there to buy things their size, that’s for lower-income people.”

“We’re in such an intensely ‘woke’ time that there are situations like this where it’s just a crapshoot of whom you happen to speak to that day determining if you’re wrong or not.”

“It’s such a weird thing to gatekeep. And this s**t like people from certain communities trying to gatekeep on behalf of other communities is so exhausting.”basilobs

Others pointed out shopping at thrift stores can help the community.

“EXACTLY! We have an awesome thrift shop in my town that funds a battered women’s shelter. It’s really popular among my stepdad’s and my own circles.”

“He’s very affluent while I’m a SAHM to a special needs kiddo with a construction worker hubby. I don’t look at him or his friends as taking away from me. I’m happy they support such a wonderful cause.”Dewhickey76

“NTA”

“That’s not an actual thing. Only for poor people? Super weird gatekeep.”

“At a lot of thrift stores the items are donated for free and the money they make does go to things like work programs for the poor. So by buying things you could be helping the poor/disadvantaged.”Lumpy_Mix_2605

“NTA–there’s WAY more stuff in the world than we need and buying secondhand is the only choice ethically regardless of your income for clothing but almost everything else too (furniture especially). Shopping at thrift stores (rather than buying new) is a more needed and conscientious choice than donating to them.”

“I’ve worked in thrift stores and secondhand waste streams (I got interested because I didn’t want to support child labor) and the volume of stuff passing through every secondhand store in the US is incredible and unsustainable at every level.”

“Very few stores have space for all of what would be ok to sell, let alone slightly blemished or out of season stock, so a huge amount gets shipped overseas where it overwhelms other markets.”

“Keep shopping at thrift stores even when you can afford other stuff! If you’re concerned about people who can’t afford to shop elsewhere, pay attention when you’re at the stores. A lot of stores are part-charity, and some have vouchers or other programs to help people directly.”

“You shopping there allows them to provide this valuable service to everyone, and it also reduces any stigma aimed at people who have no other choice.”stillnotarobot

Some pointed out some of the stigma comes from people thrift shopping for profit. 

“NTA. I think a lot of the issue people have with thrifting is the ‘reselling’ aspect: people thrift all the name brands or cute clothes and spend $50-150, and then resell them on Instagram or Poshmark, thereby clearing out most of the cute inventory that people could shop for.”

“You going as one person is perfectly normal. I come from a comfortable middle-class family as well and I go to thrift stores all the time for my books, there’s no reason you have to have a certain income to enter. But maybe donate your old stuff too!”mightymeatloaf

“I agree with the NTA, but I have something to add. Due to the explosion of growth for curated reselling, people hoping to flip the clothes are going to thrift stores, buying the nice items in large amounts, then selling them online. Some small business thrift stores are then raising prices.”

“However, OP isn’t doing that. She’s a normal consumer.”Amarangel

The woman the OP spoke to may have meant well, but the subReddit appears to be in agreement on this one: as long as the OP is buying clothes for herself and not to resell, she’s not hurting anyone by thrift shopping. In fact, there’s a chance she’s helping her community, too, while saving some money.

McKenzie Lynn Tozan

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.