We Are The World Blogfest: Would You Buy Q-tips From Your Local Thrift Store?

Would you buy an opened box of Q-tips from your local thrift store? If you did, what would you do if you then found eight gold rings embedded with small diamonds and other precious stones, plus a string of pearls hidden inside?

That is the position that Loretta Sims found herself in this past January. While browsing a thrift store in Duncan, BC, Loretta picked up a couple of items, including a box of Q-tips that she planned to use to clean her windows. When at home, she opened the box and found the jewelry carefully secured inside (estimated value: $1800 Cdn).

Believing that someone had put the jewels there for safe keeping, and had accidentally placed the box in a pile of donation items, Loretta promptly returned the Q-tips box, with all the jewelry, back to the thrift store.

The Q-tips box had been part of a larger donation from the estate of a woman who had recently passed away. A relative had come from out-of-the-country to help with the estate, donated the items and had reportedly already left the area. No name or contact details had been given.

As the thrift store is run by a Hospital Auxiliary, Loretta then donated the jewelry to the store. Her belief is that she was meant to find the jewelry, but not to keep it. The Managing Director of The Auxiliary has confirmed that the jewelry will be sold to raise money for much needed medical equipment for patient care.

It is inspiring that every day there are people like Loretta quietly making noble choices. I would have liked to have read that the jewelry had been reunited with the family of the original owner, and appreciate the media coverage that this story received just in case. I am also inspired by the vital community work and fundraising done by local charities, like this Hospital Auxiliary.

This simple incident teaches many important lessons.

1) Be careful where you store items that are dear to you.

2) If you do hide your valuables in an obscure place, let someone you trust know how to find them.

3) If donating items for an estate, or even donating multiple items of your own, leave your contact details. (Some donation stores offer tax receipts).

4) Most importantly, with so many temptations surrounding the decisions that we make each day, ask yourself what legacy you would like to leave. Would you like to be the lucky person who found $1800 worth of jewelry? Or would you like to be the person who found that jewelry, sought to find the owner, and then donated the jewelry so that it could benefit the larger community?

Your thoughts?

You can check out the media coverage of this story here, here, here, here and here.

We Are The World This post has been written for We Are The World Blogfest (#WATWB, #WATWBF). We Are the World Blogfest’ seeks to “promote positive news stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit.” The intention is to increase our awareness of daily kindnesses that receive little recognition and are so often strangled by negative news stories around us.

60 Replies to “We Are The World Blogfest: Would You Buy Q-tips From Your Local Thrift Store?”

  1. First of all, I don’t think I would buy Q-tips at a Thrift Store, but if I did, I’d like to believe that I would try to find the owner if I made a discovery such as this. What a great story. And, maybe the jewelry was meant to be donated for the purpose of helping the Hospital Auxiliary – fate or coincidence? I don’t know.

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    1. Hi, Karen- Funny, I don’t think that I would buy cotton swabs from a thrift store either, even for cleaning…but I’m not sure why. Loretta (who discovered the jewelry) has been quoted as saying that she believes the jewelry was meant to be found and to be donated. I love your question regarding faith or coincidence. I wonder what others think about this?

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  2. What a lovely story and a very commendable act on Loretta’s behalf. It would be nice to think that we’d all do the same thing if we were in her shoes. I think we’ve all donated piles of stuff to charity without leaving contact details and I’m sure that the deceased owner will be smiling to see that her jewelry went towards such a good cause.

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    1. Hi, Leanne- I agree that we have all donated heaps of stuff without anyone ever knowing, or recording, who the donor was. I know that when I made donations to some charity-based Thrift Stores in the US, I have been offered a tax receipt. That little receipt could be a win-win for multiple reasons! 🙂

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  3. This is a lovely story and quickly answers what to do if such a scenario presented itself to me. The rich story behind the Q-tip box turns a mundane item into a treasure trove of history, and then the provision of benefits to all including the finder. One evil thought that came to mind rests with the honesty of the thrift shop manager who would also have to be noble-minded, but it seems that that is unfounded. The second evil thought I have is the value of the find. Would I be so noble if the value were a lot higher? Say $18,000 or $180,000? A study of a person’s character for sure!

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    1. Hi, Fran – Thank you so much for extending this discussion even further. I love that! This story has received very good news coverage locally, nationally and beyond, which I believe shows integrity on everyone’s part. The media coverage would help bring forth people that knew the original owner of the jewelry and possibly Estate members.. Your second question is a true gem! If we were to add digits to the value of the jewelry, would that change readers thoughts as what they would do if finding the stash? Any takers?

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  4. Great story. I don’t buy from thrift stores (never occurs to me) but if I did and found the jewelry, I’m with Fran – I’d be reluctant to turn it over to the thrift store manager. I think I’d talk to the manager and ask questions, then pursue it on my own. I’d work hard at finding the relatives of the owner, questioning neighbours, reading the obituary, following the leads.
    If the owners truly couldn’t be found, and there was a charity I was keen about, I’d donate. If the value were significantly higher, I’d probably donate half and keep half, convincing myself that that too was “meant to be.”

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    1. Hi, Karen – I am currently traveling and am now on a different time-zone than most of my readers. I woke up to several thought-provoking comments, beginning with yours. I’d like to think that the media coverage of this story would have alerted any friends or family who knew the deceased, but you never know. I love the detailed quest that you would pursue to find the original owner. If any of my cherished family heirlooms were ever lost or accidentally thrown out or donated….I hope that they are found by you!

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  5. A beautiful and inspiring story. You are right that there are still good people in this world and exposing some of those quiet saints is what they deserve. And it is a good reminder for the rest of us. I don’t know what would be better, having the jewelry reunited with the family, or helping out patients in a hospital, but I’m glad for this outcome.

    I don’t see a reason to buy Q-tips in a thrift store, so probably wouldn’t do this. But, if I were to find a treasure by coincidence like that, it wouldn’t feel right to keep it. Just like with a wallet, purse, phone, or money, I would try to locate the owner if possible. Otherwise, I’d find the lost and found of the park, city, … where I found the item. If none of that is possible, I would be at a loss!

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    1. Hi, Liesbet – I like your term ‘Quiet Saints’ and believe that they are all around us just waiting to be noticed and recognized. My son just lost his wallet in a very busy city. He had filled it with extra cash for travel. . The woman who found his wallet managed to find his contact details and returned the whole thing cash and all. Saints all around us!

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      1. That’s amazing and so nice to read. I recently forgot my purse in a restaurant (with prescription glasses, camera and wallet) and didn’t realize it until ten minutes down the road (walking). I sprinted back, was seriously out of breath when getting there, and learned that one of the waitresses had put it aside for me. Disaster averted, but, man, was I worried.

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      2. I think it was rodents… 🙂 But, speaking of coyotes, we already saw three here, walking around the neighborhood, in less than a week. Such cool animals. But, the dogs go ballistic when sniffing or seeing them.

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    1. Hi, Tom – Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I greatly appreciate it. I am loving the varied comments of those who would strive to find the original owners and those who would be happy with the donation as is. I like to think that they money going towards an important cause in the deceased owner’s local area was meant to be.

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  6. Definitely an ethical dilemma for some (probably me too if I’m honest). But I’d like to think I’d have followed the same path Loretta took because I know my conscience would have ultimately gotten the best of me. Then again, like the others who have already commented, it’s hard for me to fathom buying a Q-Tips box at a thrift store even if the intended purpose is for cleaning. An interesting story.

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    1. I love your very honest approach to this dilemma, Marty. Like you, I’m not sure that I would buy open Q-tips from a thrift store…even for cleaning. I wonder if more people (who have read or seen this media coverage) will now be checking in their local donation shops for hidden gems?

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  7. I would never buy an open box of Q-Tips … nor can I even imagine donating an open container of anything. Maybe that’s my own quirk that I need to re-examine.

    I really don’t know what I would do. Whenever presented with these ethical questions, we would all like to believe that we would attempt to find the owner, or make a suitable donation to charity … but honestly, my answer would be ‘depends’.
    … and I’m not even sure on what it would depend.

    What I do know though is that I wouldn’t feel comfortable just handing it back to the Thrift Shop.

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    1. Hi, Joanne – Thank you for continuing and extending this discussion (which I am finding to be very, very fascinating). I like your honest answer that what you would actually do depends on factors currently unknown. I believe that is so true!

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  8. Great story, Donna. My first thought was with Karen. I’m not sure I would return the jewelry to the thrift store, because you don’t know what would happen to it after that. I’d probably pursue the owner on my own. After that, I believe the Hospital Auxiliary is the perfect recipient! I’d like to believe I’d return the jewels, regardless of value. I am reminded of a favorite quote…”Tell one lie and all of your truths become questionable.” This situation is much like that – make one “less than ethical choice” and the rest of your ethics become questionable. Thoughtful post! Thanks ~ Lynn

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  9. A very interesting story Donna with great thoughts from readers too. I wonder how often this sort of thing happens and your tips are very useful in this regard. I think I’d also return to the store to try to track down the owner’s family otherwise I’d donate the items to the charity. It’s great to read positive news stories and to highlight the charitable acts of kindness we rarely hear about. 😊

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    1. Hi, Debbie – Thank you for reading and adding your thoughts to this post. When I began joining in with ‘We are the World Blog Fest’, i first found it difficult to find positive news stories that I could write about (I actively try not to follow the news so my sources were limited). I have since discovered that our local news is a great source of positive stories…that are very interesting to write about. Very good to know!

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  10. Fascinating story that is easy to believe happened. My late aunt hid her rings in floss containers. However she told a friend so the jewelry, not worth anywhere near the amount in your story, was found. If no legal heir could be found I’d give the money to a charity. I’m a Do Bee from way back.

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    1. Hi, Ally –
      Thank you for commenting and adding the story about your Aunt. A floss containers is another potential ‘jewelry box’ that I would not have considered. I’m glad that your Aunt had told a friend where her rings could be found. The heirloom jewelry that I own are some of the pieces that I value most….regardless of their market worth.

      Our world is in need of as many ‘Do Bees’ as possible!

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  11. I always check my jacket pockets before I donate because I have found (in my own jackets) a few dollars from the last trip somewhere. My sister-in-law had a close call with death last year. I helped her and stayed with her when my brother needed a break. She told me where all the family jewels are kept just in case. I was astounded and told her to write it down and put it with her will. Now I remind her that I know where her valuables are! 🙂 This would be a dilemma for sure. I don’t think you know what you would do until you’re in it.

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    1. Hi, Kate – When I was a child, my father donated an old pair of pants with a chunk of cash in the pocket. The manager of that local charity was a friend of his who jokingly thanked him for his ‘generous donation’. Like you, I always check pockets before washing….or donating!
      BTW – Very good advice about leaving a list with your will about where valuable items can be found, as well as instructions to your Executor of what you wish to be done with them.

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  12. Nice story, Donna. I’d turn the finding over to the local police with a request to donate it if no one comes forward by certain time or if the police cannot find the owner. Hope you’re enjoying your trip.

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  13. What a nice, affirming story. I’m pretty sure that I would turn the jewelry in (not sure about buying an opened box of Q-Tips, though). I’m not a saint (unlike you 🙂 sorry… inside joke), but I think most people do what is right most of the time. Unfortunately, bad behavior gets the headlines.

    The story reminded me of a discussion my mother and I had before she passed away. She often kept money hidden in the lining of jacket and wanted me to know so I wouldn’t donate it before removing the cash. As you wrote, make sure your trusted loved ones know your hiding places.

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    1. Hi, Janis – It is interesting to discover so many unusual hiding places used for stashing cash and valuables. It makes a personal vault or safety deposit box seem very unimaginative! Hiding money inside a coat lining deserves extra points for creativity and the extra work that it would take — but you would definitely want someone to know it was there so that the piece of clothing wasn’t accidentally donated.

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  14. What a great story! I can see how this could happen, Donna. My Uncle used to hide money all over his house. After he passed, his grandson found wads stashed in all sorts of strange places. No doubt, money was hidden inside of items that were donated. Your words of wisdom ring true…tell someone where your stashing money and other valuables.

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  15. What really stands out for me is the thought that, every day there are people like Loretta quietly making noble choices, which have a far-reaching ‘ripple effect’ that impacts lives in powerful ways we’ll never know about…
    It’s the little things that count.
    Thank you for sharing this!

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    1. Hi, Michelle – You are so right. If more of us followed Loretta’s example (and many of us already do), what an incredible difference that would make to our world. I am off to check out your #WATWB post now. Somehow I already know it will make a perfect end to my evening!

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  16. What a lovely story, and such an interesting discussion – I’ve read all the comments. At first I just assumed I would take it all back, but your other readers have made me think about alternatives. In the end, I probably would still take it back to the place I found it as I think the charity has first claim (and it never occurred to me to mistrust the person running the shop).

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  17. This story makes me think about when we cleaned out my parents’ home after their deaths, and I would have thrown away an opened box of Q-tips. So if my mother stored jewelry in it, it would go to the local landfill. But this family donated everything- even Q-tips. And finding the jewelry would make a terrific psychology experiment. It is a feel good story that Loretta donated it back for a good cause. It would have also been a good story if Loretta needed $1800 to fix her leaking roof or pay for a medical treatment for herself. If she kept the money and went to the local casino to try her luck, I suspect we would be ready to publicly flail her. So many possibilities – all with our judgments chiming in. That fact is, she came upon the jewelry fair and square by buying it, and she was free to do whatever she wanted with it. Food for thought, Donna.

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    1. Hi, Molly – I agree that this is a fascinating story that would make a terrific psychology experiment. I have found all of the comments to be incredibly thought-provoking (and they have served as a perfect reminder of why I blog). Since your comment was hiding in my Spam Folder, I have gotten to it late. I truly had believed that all of the key possibilities of what could happen with the jewelry had been covered. But you have offered more possibilities and thrown out a wonderful question. Assuming the jewelry was donated by mistake, and assuming the box was sold and bought as Q-tips (at a value of 50 cents), whose jewelry is it legally? This story just gets more and more interesting to me!

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  18. This is an extraordinary story! Fact is stranger than fiction. I loved reading the comments also … HAD I bought a packet of 2nd hand q-tips, I reckon I may have tried to source the person. If I’d done something like that, ie put something valuable away and forgotten where I’d put it, I sure as nuts would hope that someone would have realised the possibility of error … so I guess I would have ‘paid it forward’ … thank you, great #WATWB post 🙂

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    1. Hi, Susan – Thank you for reading and responding. I agree that the motto of ‘paying forward things that we would like to have happen to us’ can be a guide to making quality decisions. I greatly appreciate connecting with other WATWB members. I’m off to read your recent post now.

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    1. Thanks, Molly. You were right — I just found your comment in my spam folder. You have taken Marty’s (Snakes in the Grass) place. He used to be the only one to hang out in there — but he hasn’t been there for awhile now! Thank you for the terrific comment. I am off to respond to it now.

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    1. Hi, Aimer- I love this Blogfest too. I have avoided the news for many years for many reasons. We Are The World Blogfest has helped reconnect me to my small town, local newspaper….which is actually filled with positive and heartwarming stories. Who knew? You should consider linking up. I’d like to read stories would appeal to you.

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  19. A great, positive story to read on a Sunday morning, Donna! Nice that she donated it all to charity. I’m afraid I’m one of those people who accidentally put some valuable items in a box that went out the door to charity (digital camera, dog sweater and other items) when I was scrambling to box and move everything just prior to our room addition 3 yrs ago. I hope someone got a good deal on the camera!

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    1. Hi, Terri- It is so good to hear from you! I hope that everything is going well for you. I bet that you are not alone in ‘accidentally donating’ items that you had meant to keep. I hope that the camera went to someone who truly needs and values it. And, I hope that there is a dog somewhere who is now much warmer with his new sweater!

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  20. I am just wondering how anyone can clean windows with Q tips??? Good for her for returning the jewelry and having positive impact. I am always hiding important not necessarily valuable but important stuff in strange places and then forgetting where I hid them!

    Peta

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    1. Hi, Peta – I believe that Loretta had planned to clean her window tracks with the Q-tips. I realize now that I should have included that essential second word. 🙂 I used to have more creative hiding places, but like you, I then couldn’t find things. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I greatly appreciate it.

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  21. Reading everyone’s responses reminds me of how good, honest, and thoughtful most people are. This is a lesson I learned many years ago during difficult times; the kindness of others was the silver lining to a dark cloud. Stories like this provide a counterpoint to the barrage of negative news we are usually exposed to.

    Jude

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    1. Hi, Jude – Thanks for this supportive comment. Providing a counterpoint to the negative news out there, is the exact purpose of this Blogfest. :] It has been easier for me to find stories like this once I got going….and our local newspaper is a great source of these positive reports. Who knew that blogging could actually help me read my local paper?!

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  22. That is something like a miracle. God provided for those patients. God bless the honest woman, she is spreading goodness around us. Thank you for sharing this delightful story.

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