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Ongoing thefts plague thrift shop

Wally Scholten, the volunteer coordinator at the Bibles for Missions Thrift Shop, holds a sign that has been displayed in the store the last couple of years to try to deter shoplifters. Hanging on the post behind him is the sign translated in Spanish. (JULIE BUNTJER/DAILY GLOBE)

WORTHINGTON — A sign posted across from the checkout counter at the Bibles for Missions Thrift Store in Worthington has done little to impact the conscience of sticky-fingered shoppers who walk off without paying for merchandise.

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Store coordinator Wally Scholten said thefts at the store have been an ongoing problem. Two years ago, he posted a sign that reads, “This business belongs to God. If you steal from us, you are stealing from Him. It’s a lot cheaper to pay our price than His.”

Directly below that sign is another, translated into the Spanish language.

Still, the notices do little to curb the ongoing problem.

Just last week, a volunteer worker found a handful of paper tags pulled from items and left in a heap in the dressing room. That same day, the cashier working at the front counter said there wasn’t a single item brought up to the counter that had a missing price tag.

Scholten said there is no proof the items were actually stolen, but can’t fathom any alternative. The store can’t afford surveillance, and the volunteer staff is kept busy just marking items and bringing them out front for sale. They have talked about delegating a couple of people to just watch shoppers, but Scholten said that’s as far as it went.

He has no idea the value of the merchandise that escapes the store without being paid for on a daily or weekly basis.

“Dollar-wise it probably isn’t (much), because nothing is really that expensive here anyway,” Scholten said. “A lot of stuff is $2.”

A couple of weeks ago, a volunteer marked a trio of donated purses at $3 each. Most un-tagged purses are just $1. After putting price tags on them, the clerk displayed them in the front window, and that was the last anyone saw of them. The cashiers said they never came through to be paid for, Scholten said.

Once, he recalled, someone stole a trumpet right out of the case — a discovery he made one day while walking past the table and seeing the case closed.

“I opened the case and the trumpet was gone,” Scholten said. “How do you get out of here with a trumpet?”

He admits that the all-volunteer staff who works in the thrift store are probably too trusting of customers who come in. He recalled just one instance when someone was caught shoplifting after getting a tip from another shopper.

“The purpose (of the store) is not for us,” Scholten said. “We’re not putting the money in our pocket. Nobody here gets paid.”

It isn’t just stealing from inside the store that has been a problem. Scholten said there have also have been problems with people stealing from donated items left behind the store.

“Stuff that’s dropped off after hours, they’ll tear through the bag and leave clothes all over the alley,” he said. “You don’t know what they’ve taken.

“I don’t know why people don’t bring stuff when we’re open,” he added. 

The thrift store also continues to have trouble with people dropping off junk at their back door such as mattresses and appliances — things the store does not accept.

Scholten said he reported a case of littering to the local police department once, but the officer said while it could be construed as littering, the store has a sign asking for donations. Scholten said he also asked about installing a surveillance camera, but was told by the officer that it would only lead to court costs.

“It’s plain junk,” Scholten said of some of the things dropped off. “They drop off mattresses quite regularly. I think we’ve got to pay $20 to get rid of them — you gotta. What are you going to do?”

The money required to dispose of items not accepted by Bibles for Missions takes away from the Mission’s ability to bring Christianity to foreign countries.

“The money would be used to buy Bibles for Kenya,” Scholten said. “That’s the whole purpose of this store.”

“When they dump junk, it ain’t like they’re stealing — they’re just dumping junk. But, in a way, they are stealing because it’s that many less Bibles we can buy,” he added.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330