I've noticed Goodwill's prices rising during this recession—in some cases, you could buy something new for about the same cost. And now they've opened a "Goodwill Boutique" on Hawthorne. Are they getting snobby on us? —Frugal Fred

There will always be those hard-core thrifters for whom paying more than a quarter smacks of bourgeois pretension. In the purist's mind, it's not a real score unless you had to chip it out of a puddle of dried vomit with a putty knife, so it's hardly surprising that some folks regard the clean, well-organized stores of Goodwill Industries with suspicion—especially since, as you note, they're not the cheapest. 

But don't condemn them as hypocritical, money-grubbing tools of fascism just yet. After all, Goodwill's purpose in life was never to provide stingy hipsters with cheap, ironic sportswear. 

"Our mission is not to sell donations like a garage sale," says Dale Emanuel, the P.R. rep for Goodwill Industries of the Columbia-Willamette. "It's to provide employment to people who have barriers to employment." The organization plows 93 percent of its sales revenue back into programs for these folks. 

Given that the stores exist specifically to raise money for charitable work, it seems a bit churlish to fault them for not being cheaper. It's like nickel-and-diming a Girl Scout over the markup on a box of Thin Mints.

Finally, if prices have been rising lately, we've no one but ourselves to blame. "The market drives the price," says Emanuel. Items that don't sell get marked down until they do, so prices are only high to the extent we're willing to pay them.

So, while Goodwill does manage to separate you from your cash with gimlet-eyed efficiency, it does it for a good cause—and if you really miss that dried vomit, there's always Value Village.