Minnesota AG criticizes Savers thrift store chain

Updated at 7:35 p.m.

Minnesota's attorney general issued a new report saying that Savers is misleading the public about how much of the donations it solicits are given to local charities.

Lori Swanson said her office conducted a year-long look into the Bellevue, Washington-based thrift store chain and its relationship with a half dozen Minnesota charities, including Vietnam Veterans of America and the Epilepsy Foundation.

She said the company doesn't properly differentiate between charities and doesn't disclose that many donations it solicits don't actually go to charities.

"In this case, if you donate to a charity through Savers, only pennies on the dollar goes to benefit the charitable mission of the charity, with the vast, vast majority of the money staying with a billion-dollar, for-profit thrift store chain, which holds itself out as the biggest thrift store in the United States," Swanson said.

Savers gives tax receipts to donors for donations of non-clothing household goods such as furniture and electronics, but does not pay the charities for those donations, likely misrepresenting tax laws in the process, Swanson's office said.

Savers has 15 stores in Minnesota under the names Savers, Unique Thrift and Value Thrift, and operates 330 thrift stores total in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

In an emailed statement, Savers' communications director Sara Gaugl said the company will continue to work with the Attorney General's office and its partners "to address any concerns quickly and constructively so that we can focus our efforts on helping communities connect through a shared commitment to the common good."

Swanson's office told the charities to take steps to correct the deficiencies and report back within 45 days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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