Steals Abound At Green Shop, But You Must Sell if You Buy

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Steals Abound At Green Shop, But You Must Sell if You Buy

Men's clothes at 3,000 won ($2.50)? Children's jackets for 2,000 won and a scarf for 700 won? That's the way it is at the Green Shop in Yangcheun-gu, Seoul. The store sells just about everything from sneakers to teaspoons. All goods are secondhand; prices start at 100 won and rarely go above 5,000 won.

At those prices, you may be skeptical about the condition of the goods, but to buy, you also must bring goods to sell, and you will be turned down if your goods are too old or in poor condition. The point is to exchange items that are no longer useful to you, but which are too good to be thrown out and may be useful to someone else.

The store prices the goods you bring in. You can then exchange them for other merchandise at half the value. You can, of course, take home goods worth more than those you have brought in - a membership card allows you to accumulate credit which may later be used to buy the pricier item. A simple cash transaction is also allowed, but the real penny-pinching deals are through swapping items.

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, the Green Shop is packed with housewives and their wares. Jin Sook-young, 33, brought in two purses she polished the night before. The shop values her bags at 1,000 won each. She plans to use the credit to buy her son a winter coat.

"This store is a godsend for me," she says. "I come here every day. Even though it's tiring having to wait for a bus, the trip is worth it. I bought my husband a ski outfit for 7,000 won and I bought myself an expensive foreign bag for only 5,000 won."

The Green Shop has 18 stores in Seoul and more than 60 nationwide. The YMCA and several other civic groups are nominal managers, but volunteer workers, mostly housewives, run the majority of the shops. A Green Shop official, Byun Sun-hee, stresses that all profits go to charity.

Lee Ae-ryeun, 40, a housewife, said volunteering at the Green Shop is rewarding, but added, "We are getting more and more customers because of the worsening economy, so popular items sell out almost immediately."

Anyone wanting information about working as a volunteer or opening a Green Shop should phone the head office at 02-725-5828~9.

by Kim Sung-tak

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