There Must be Gold in Dem Der Hills – or Dat Sparrow’s Nest

I have been meaning to write about this particular thrift store in Palatine for a long time. Sparrow’s Nest embodies what we detest about some so-called charity thrift stores – perhaps more than any other shop we have blogged about – GREED. Everything Jeff grouched about in the opening salvo on this subject (back in October 2011) can be found here and then some. As I look around the Palatine shop, I am left to ponder if there is gold hidden inside some pretty unremarkable, and often shabby merchandise – what else could justify these prices?

Sparrow's Nest Client

The parent organization Home of the Sparrow, helps victims of domestic violence – in this case, homeless women and their children in McHenry County and Northern Illinois. That is a very commendable cause that would be better served by thrift stores with fairly priced merchandise. Home of the Sparrow runs five resale shops – in Algonquin, Cary, McHenry, Palatine, and Woodstock. While I have never been to the Algonquin, McHenry or Woodstock locations, I have to say that the Cary store is not nearly as guilty of price-gouging as the Palatine store.

Stuffed Animals

The layout of this store is fairly nice, compared to say Practically Perfect, Clearbrook’s store which is closing its doors this January. Like many other thrift stores, however, there are a few areas that look cluttered or less organized. But for the most part, one can see that some effort goes into displaying merchandise in a relatively pleasing aesthetic manner. That is not the problem – it is the outrageous prices, especially on decrepid stuff that should just be tossed out at the curb! I can’t believe they are selling stuffed animals for $2.00-$8.00 – unless they are antique Steiffs, these have no resale value. Take a gander at some of the “finds” that I covertly photographed or jotted down in my little notebook on my mission to uncover unmitigated greed.

This pretty, mistitled Victorian porcelain doll is displayed in the “Antique Corner” – that’s a joke! There is nothing antique about this faux Victorian doll, priced at $25.00, likely Made in China, circa yesterday … or 2005. The actual period referred to as the Victorian era was 1827-1901. How I wish thrift store managers would do their homework!

This tattered, ancient bra is among a large number of primarily used bras – gross. The used varieties are $2.00 which is cheap enough, but who would want something that touched somebody else’s boobies? The pictured bra, albeit quite a bit larger, reminds me of a bra I had in 7th grade – dare I say, in 1971.

Everybody needs a fake Renoir – probably my least favorite of all the Impressionists. Especially a fake Renoir that is totally inaccurate colorwise and poorly stretched on crappy non-archival canvas for $30.00.

This is not a real painting – it is some bizarre vacuformed plastic piece of crap for the bargain price of $15.00. Where in the world did this oddity come from and why is it signed?

An amateur oil painting for $60.00 is a bit too high considering it isn’t old and is a mundane landscape by an unknown Sunday painter. I embrace the notion that anybody can paint as a hobby, but charity thrift shops tend to believe that any oil painting on canvas is a masterpiece.

Why would anyone buy an incredibly rusty, scratched metal L-square ruler that looks like it was left out in acid rain and run over by a truck, even at the bargain price of $3.00? I am being facetious – this rusty hunk of junk isn’t worth 50 cents.

Oh, Brother – printers become obsolete the minute you carry them out the door, or months thereafter. But this Brother printer for $15.00 is so old it might have some value as an antique – or not. I doubt that one could even find cartridges for this baby.

I have seen thrift stores selling off old analog TVs for as cheap as 50 cents each in recent times – for all sizes. This tiny Zenith analog TV for $15.00 less a 30 percent discount has no particular charm, but perhaps there is gold stored inside.

If this speaker was in good shape, it would actually be worth the $20.00 price tag. Creative bass speakers of this type are in the $130-$140 range, but this one is a mess and looks like it might have come from the Breaking Bad set – Jesse’s house during his meth-addicted period.

Most thrift stores sell children’s shoes for less than adult shoes – at $12.00, these used girls Merrell Mary Janes are not exactly a bargain. I have sold new Merrell shoes for less than $12.00 on ebay – the resale value isn’t fantastic, even though the shoes are fairly expensive. In general, the prices on shoes at Sparrow’s Nest are higher than at any other charity thrift store in the area.

Oak is just about the cheapest wood around, other than pine and plywood. So $250 for a very scratched Oak dining table and 4-chair set is a bit outrageous, especially since this one is not antique and kind of ugly.

I am a tennis buff, but have never heard of Erik Van Dillen. Why did a dude that only won a single tournament deserve a Spalding tennis racquet with his name? Very few old wooden tennis racquets are actually worth much, the Old Sport Shop website, notwithstanding. I looked up this racquet and discovered a mint example that didn’t sell on ebay for $9.99 with two others thrown in and another rarer model in unplayed with condition that sold for $8.00 with a tennis press. So why does the manager think this beat-up racquet is worth $20.00? This is actual a common mistake made by thrift shops – just because it is an old sporting good, or tool for that matter, doesn’t mean it is a valuable antique!

This small miniature picnic table with frayed tablecloth is among the most confounding items I discovered. Why in the world is this wretchedly crafted 5-inch piece of junk priced at $6.00? I wouldn’t pay 25 cents for something constructed and painted so shoddily!

Over the years, I have given away hundreds of hotel freebies to PADS sites and Wings for homeless people to use in shelters. Yet here is a thrift shop that benefits this population and they are selling these hotel freebies for 25 to 75 cents each. There is something about this situation that really turns me off – as much as or more so than the outrageous prices on some of the merchandise.

Other overpriced items that I noticed on this visit:

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) enamel flower brooch for $52.00 – are you kidding me, this looks like a goldtone piece – not even gold-filled
  • Cracked fish aquarium (marked as is) for $15.00 – I’m guessing not very watertight
  • A hideous, tarnished, scratched brassplated floor lamp for $15.00
  • A plain brass thimble for $8.00

I should have looked harder or brought my treasure detector – with prices like this, there must be gold in Dis Sparrow’s Nest.

One Comment:

  1. I agree that this is a pretty sad example of resale shop for an alleged good cause. In their case draining money out of Palatine for McHenry county.

    I need to add their electronics have always been subpar and I got into quite a public scene once over using a credit for a return another manager had given me when she saw it, scars all round but I definitely won the battle and the manager is appropriately retired. Things change.

    You can do better and it really isn’t a good use of your time. Wings staff is much better trained. Same for PhD in Palatine.

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