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King County judge rules Value Village deceived public by marketing itself as charity

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The last Seattle location of Value Village is about to close, but the company again made headlines as a King County judge ruled that they deceptively marketed their store as a charity.

Stemming from Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s 2017 consumer-protection suit, the ruling contends that the for-profit thrift retailer mislead customers to think that it donates a portion of their sales to charity, which many customers believed. What Value Village does do is pay a negotiated rate to charities for donations received from the public (using their names and logos to solicit donations), but not a part of the profit from the sale price, reports The Seattle Times.

“I think Value Village needn’t have declared themselves a charity. It still is of some value,” said KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney. “I love going in there around the holidays because I get a bunch of Christmas books and things like that … I’m not quite sure why they felt like they needed to act as if they were charity, because I think people would still contribute to them.”

“Although we heard from somebody’s relative in the newsroom that she was outraged when she found out that it’s not like Goodwill, that they actually are a for-profit company. Personally it didn’t bother me.”

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Since Value Village had ads that read “Your donations and purchases help us fund (nonprofits’) programs and services,” the judge argued they were using this affiliation to exaggerate their connection to charity and convincing customers that their purchases went towards them.

There are 20 Value Village stores in Washington state. Penalties will be determined in the spring, and the company is currently deciding whether to appeal.

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Co-host John Curley always found Value Village a little odd anyway.

“It’s a weird feeling. You hand them a desk, you get no money on it,” said Curley. “They hand you the piece of paper, which you then end up losing. And then they go and sell it to somebody for $100. So their cost is zero and everything is profit on it.”

“Well, they have to pay the guy who accepts your donation,” Tom joked.

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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