Selling Thrift: Work Practices in an American Thrift Store
Thrift, in its simplest definition, is the practice of using resources in a considered way. The concept has long been employed as a moral trope to condemn or promote a variety of human practices. In the literature, thrift is addressed as it is played out in consumption in and around the household as a way of preserving and saving resources. Thrift stores form part of a thrift economy and, as the receiver of divested objects from the household and a site for thrifty consumption practices, they present aspects of thrift in a variety of ways. In this article, I look at thrift as it relates to work and organizational practices in an American thrift store. Although often linked to work ethics, thrift has mainly been proposed as a moral concept guiding individual and not organizational practices. In order to explore the value of thrift in the thrift store, I present parts of my ethnographic research on second-hand markets. Examining work practices as “thrifty” shows how economic prudence is paired with material frugality and community concern. This, I argue, has significant effect on the flow of consumer goods, as resources flow through the thrift store and appear to be spent, not saved.
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