Here is the methodology for our reporting on the charitable solicitation practices of Savers for-profit thrift stores:
InvestigateWest began reporting in spring 2013. A reporter interviewed more than a dozen current and former employees of Savers-affiliated stores, ranging from floor workers to a former store manager, about the company’s business and charitable practices, and visited Value Village locations throughout the greater Seattle area, where Savers is headquartered, to observe and talk to shoppers.
Reporters made both donations and purchases at Savers-affiliated thrift stores.
Additional information was drawn from government documents obtained from the Federal Trade Commission under the Freedom of Information Act and from the Washington Attorney General’s Office and Washington Secretary of State’s Office under the Washington Open Public Records Act. InvestigateWest reviewed online records and reports of the California Department of Justice, and obtained research by private industry analysts.
A reporter conducted more than 80 interviews with officials and/or former officials at the Federal Trade Commission; Internal Revenue Service; the Washington Attorney General’s Office; the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office; state charities-regulation offices in Washington, Illinois, Oregon and California; experts on federal laws governing fundraisers and tax deductions; officials at nonprofits competing with for-profit thrift stores; officials at charities; the trade association for thrift stores, NARTS; and others.
InvestigateWest first asked Savers for an interview in November 2014. Savers Communications Director Sara Gaugl agreed to schedule one, but postponed indefinitely because of an investigation by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. That investigation led the Minnesota attorney general to file suit against Savers in May 2015. In July 2015, Gaugl agreed that Savers would answer emailed questions. InvestigateWest sent a list of 27 questions and fact checks to Savers on Sept. 11, requesting answers by Sept. 28. Gaugl on Sept. 18 requested an extension until Oct. 5 to send answers, and InvestigateWest agreed.
On Oct. 6, Gaugl issued a five-sentence statement and referred InvestigateWest to Savers’ website, declining to answer all questions asked.
InvestigateWest thanks the Fund for Investigative Journalism for its generous support of this reporting project.