MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — The Minnesota attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the Savers thrift store chain, claiming it’s misleading people who donate clothing and household items about how much their donations benefit charities.

Savers uses charities’ names to solicit clothing and household goods that it sells through its retail stores. But, Attorney General Lori Swanson says the for-profit retailer has “seriously misled the public” about the extent to which donations benefit charitable organizations.

The lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court Thursday says Savers sells the donated goods at its stores for a hefty mark-up over what it pays the charities. It says Savers doesn’t pay charities anything for donations of household products, such as TVs.

When Anne Hallgren needed a new wheelchair last year, she wanted to donate her old one to someone in need.

“So I chose to give it to a veteran because of what they’ve done. I was specifically thinking of the veterans because I go to the VA a lot see them a lot when I’m riding Metro Mobility,” Hallgren said.

Hallgren, who has multiple sclerosis, gave the chair to Savers. Signs on the window said the donations would benefit the Disabled American Veterans charity.

A month later, reports surfaced that Savers had not been truthful.

“I was very angry and hurt, but the worst I think was betrayed,” Hallgren said.

Court documents say Savers would give 40 cents per pound of clothing in donation sales to charity.

If a person donated a $100 suit, only 40 cents went to the charity.

“Unknown to the donor, most of the money goes to help not a charitable cause, but a for-profit enterprise,” Swanson said.

In response to the lawsuit, Ken Alterman, president and CEO of Savers, released the following statement:

“We are disappointed by the decision of the Minnesota Attorney General’s office to take this action because we have made multiple attempts to work collaboratively on a resolution that benefits everyone involved.

Since the AG’s office filed its Compliance Report, our company has worked diligently to answer every question that was raised and have begun implementing operational changes to address the AG’s concerns.

Rather than allow these changes to take place and then evaluate their effect, the AG’s office has decided to file this lawsuit and put more than 25 years of positive community impact and millions of dollars in annual charitable funding at risk.

The money we pay our charitable partners furthers medical research and supports veterans and their families across Minnesota.

We take this mission seriously, and we now have no choice but to vigorously defend our business and we are confident that we will prevail.”

The company operates 15 stores in Minnesota under the names Savers, Unique Thrift and Value Thrift. Savers did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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