what would you do?

Last weekend J and I both cleaned out our closets and put bags of clothes and housewares together for a large Donation to the Salvation Army.

I finally drove over to the nearby Salvation Army store with a trunk full of bags yesterday afternoon. I realized when I got there that the garage to drop things off was closed, but there were bins outside to drop off items.

Recognizing that it had taken me a full week to get there and that we would need trunk space for picking family up at the airport this week, I went ahead and started to load the bags into the drop off bins available.

The bins are behind a small wall and as I was removing bags from my trunk I realized that there were a couple of people milling about, going through the bags and boxes that had been dropped off. Initially I thought that they worked there, but by the time I brought a second bag over, I realized that they were taking things from the bags and running behind a nearby fence / trees, then coming back to look for more.

I stood there and watched this happen a couple of times.

I was perturbed. What do I do? Stop unloading bags? Keep unloading bags? Say something?

Was I on Candid Camera?

I quickly realized that these individuals were a family – what looked to me like grandparents and a grandchild, probably about age 4-5. 

It was when I saw the little boy run to his grandmother with a used binder that I ultimately decided that if this family needed things badly enough to steal from the Salvation Army, I should probably do my thing and go on my way, but honestly, I was bothered.


Essentially, these people were stealing from a charity and that really bugs me. It seemed like they had their process down. They clearly knew when the garage closed and were waiting for people like me to do a drop off. When I put down a box with a couple of blankets and a vase, I turned around and saw the woman running away with the vase, behind the fence. When I came back with more items, she just waited for me to put the bags down and as soon as I turned around, started going through them.

I am 100% certain that this would happen whether I was there or not, I obviously just happened to see them.

Am I annoyed because I saw it all happen? 

Am I annoyed because they were stealing?

Am I annoyed by what I saw them stealing?

Am I annoyed because I feel like she stole from me while I was watching?

Does putting something in a bin at the Salvation Army make it public property?

I am not sure why I was annoyed, but I was.

I dropped off all of my bags because it seemed weird to pick up the couple that I had started with, put them back in my trunk and drive away, but maybe I should have. Serious moral dilemma.

Had they been taking things like clothes or blankets, I might have felt better, but what they seemed to be taking were non-critical housewares like vases and planters.

I left thinking that if this family needed to steal from the Salvation Army than things must not be great in their world and I should be thankful that I have an opportunity to donate… but I don’t know, it still feels weird.

What would you have done?

0 thoughts on “what would you do?

  1. oh man, mara! that’s a tough one.
    i think i would’ve tried to assume that they needed whatever it was in some way?! vases and planters. yeah. i don’t know.

  2. That is stinky.
    Especially that they have their little ones out there doing the dirty work, too.
    What is that teaching them!!
    🙁 I would have approached them.
    Or just called police. 😉
    But yeah…what do you do when you NEED to get rid of the stuff!!!

  3. ugh. I have no idea what I would do. I mean, I’ve seen people take stuff from the curb for pick up, etc. but the donation bins for a charity seems off limits. And to be picking through and taking non essential things? That rubs me the wrong way.