STAND YOUR GROUND: Secondhand store dangers - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andy Wise

STAND YOUR GROUND: Secondhand store dangers

Prescription drugs, a 13-year-old car seat, damaged bicycle helmets.

That was just the CHILDREN'S aisle.

General manager Michael Lavoice is in charge at Park Avenue Thrift, 3899 Park Ave., East Memphis.  A little more than a year ago, he took over the thrift store, which has a "F" rating with the Mid-South Better Business Bureau for unanswered complaints about the quality of its service.

"I'm trying to clean things up around here," Lavoice says.

He's got his work cut out for him.

The Action News 5 Investigators found items on its shelves that should never have been for sale.  We found children's safety equipment with no indication how old it is or where it has been. 

There was one child safety seat.  We knew exactly how old it was based on its labeling:  13 years old.  Its manufacturer doesn't even make child safety car seats anymore.

"You should not use a child safety restraint that is greater than six years old," says Susan Helms, director of Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center's Safe Kids Mid-South.  "Certainly, not greater than ten years old. 

"If there was something wrong with it, there would be no company to fix it.  There was no knowledge available that it had been in a major crash, and that would be another indicator not to use it."

Several bicycle helmets with cuts and cracks sat ready to plop on some little ones' heads.

Then there was that suitcase on the children's shelf. 

The one with someone's prescription medication inside.

"Yowsers!" exclaimed Lavoice.  "This one's not going in the dumpster!"

As long as they are safe, secondhand stores can offer great deals, especially in these tough economic times.  The Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association's (MIFA) Thrift Store, 910 Vance Avenue, Memphis ( or 901-527-0208), is a great example.

MIFA's policy is it will not accept cribs, helmets, car seats, clothes with drawstrings or used toys.  It will only sell new, unwrapped toys.

"(We will never carry) anything we couldn't verify that they are still safe," says Scotta Allen, manager of MIFA's Thrift Store.

You should also shop thrift stores that are on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's e-mailing list (  Those stores receive regular updates about product recalls and safety compliance measures.

Allen says it's also a good idea to shop secondhand stores who are members of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops (  It holds its more than 1,000 members to higher standards of resale and professionalism.

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