Sunday, 16 December 2012

Charity Shop Girl

I’ve always shopped in charity shops, for as long as I can remember. When I was a lot younger, I detested the idea of all my friends knowing my clothes where second-hand, but over the last decade I have firmly chosen to shop second-hand rather than new. It’s funny how my thirteen-year old self threw a tantrum at the thoughts of stepping foot in a charity shop and now I would quite happily spend all day in one.

It may come as a surprise that I have never actually thought about volunteering in one. I’ve always shrugged off the idea, thinking it wouldn’t be for me, but one of my closest pen pals Danielle, has written to me on many occasion telling me about her time volunteering for the Red Cross, and how much she enjoyed the experience. I think this first planted the idea in my mind.

When I got made redundant from my job at the end of September, I was determined to find myself some voluntary work. I found my role through do-it, and since then I’ve never looked back. I keep wondering why I haven’t done it sooner, as I’ve always adored all kinds of second-hand shopping and selling at boot fairs etc., so this is in effect my dream job.

Of course, this is only a voluntary position and I don’t get paid for my work or time, but what I do get out of it is the chance to do something good not only for a worthwhile cause (African Orphans), but for me too. This past month has been particularly difficult for me, and being able to actually find something that a) I enjoy and b) helps me develop my confidence can only be a good thing.

I’m quite used to the perils of retail from previous paid jobs, but working in a charity shop is so much different to any job I’ve had before- maybe it’s because the stock is so unique and varied.

Here are just a few things I didn’t know about charity shops before volunteering in one:

•    People are VERY generous: I far underestimated the amount of donations. There is a constant flow of unwanted stuff being dropped off at the shop. This means turnover is quick, in the space of an hour a bag can be sorted, priced and sold!

•    Weeking Stock: Our shop use a two week system in which goods are only on the shop floor for two weeks before they are taken off and re-weeked (if it’s a good quality item, maybe it’s just not found the right buyer yet) ragged or sent onto another shop. I’m aware a lot of other charity shops also use a similar system too.

•    A lot of donations are unfit for sale: This one really shocked me at first. The donations can be very poor quality- stained, dirty, soiled and damaged. Cuddly toys (however cute) can only be sold if they have a CE label, and electrical goods must be PAT tested before sale. Free gifts such as Mac Donald’s toys or Sunday Supplement CDs can’t be sold for profit- only given away. This means anything that doesn’t meet the fit for sale requirement gets ragged, recycled or thrown away. We do get money for the rags, so all is not lost.

•    People steal: You would think a charity shop would be theft free, but sadly this is not the case. Things go missing from the shelves and more often than not tags are often deliberately pulled off items -in the hope that they might get it for a lower price. DVDs and CDs are taken out of cases and kept behind the counter, and valuables such as jewellery are locked away.

Of course these are just a handful of things I’ve learnt and picked up in the past few weeks, it’s certainly opened my eyes to what goes into running a charity shop. A lot of hard work goes into rotating and sorting stock and time goes into the more retail-based tasks such as pricing, sizing and hanging clothes. I’m definitely enjoying my little voluntary role. I don’t know what the future holds for me work-wise, but what I do know is my heart will always be (as a shopper and a volunteer) in charity shops. And it’s something I can see myself continuing throughout my adult life.

There is certainly no shame in charity shops.

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12 comments

  1. Aww, I'm so glad to hear you've got something, even if it is only voluntary! It's a great cause and something you can stick on your cv that lets future employers know you've not been sat on your arse whilst unemployed!

    I really think people should sort out their stuff before donating, people sometimes just use charity shops as a dumping ground. I recently donated about 8 boxes of stuff but it was all clearly marked, washed and put into bags as rags if not usable. xo

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  2. Well done, I think it's great you're volunteering. I remember watching Mary Portas' series and being really shocked by some of the utter rubbish people 'donated'. Absolute filth. How hard can it be to put something in a bin rather than dump it on a charity shop? I didn't know that about MacDonald's toys - I'm sure one of our local ones sells them! Good that you see the generous side of people as well though. x

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    1. Technically the MacDonald's toys aren't supposed to be sold, but some slip through the net! I don't know if that is all charity shops though, it might just be our shop. Who knows! xxx

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  3. So so happy you did it hun, and I'm pleased your enjoying it. Thanks for the mention as well. Lots of love xxxx

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  4. It's really interesting to hear about the inner workings of a charity shop. I was first tempted into charity shops to look for books (bout 9 years ago) then gradually ventured further and further from the bookshelf until I bought an item of clothing. I couldn't believe how cheap things were! I love how you never know what you will find. One person's trash is another's treasure x

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  5. There's a distinct lack of charity shops where I live, whenever I do happen to come across one I always pop in and more often than not find something! It's really interesting hearing more about what goes on behind the scenes! I bet occasionally there are some odd items that get dropped off!

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  6. There is only one in my tiny town but I do all my book shopping there. 25p for a book, you really can't go wrong. I give it straight back after I've read it too so they can make more money from it. I also think a lot of people buy from them but don't donate quality items so I try and give nice things every now and again even though I could sell them on ebay x

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  7. What a lovely post :) the charity shops in my town are lacking but I like browsing in others when out and about x

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  8. Good for you! I volunteered for Scope (then The Spastics Society) for 10 years and I'm sure it made a good impression on my CV!
    It's shocking what people donate, from gorgeous designer clothes with the tags still on to dead dogs and used sanitary towels.
    Our YMCA has the MacDonald's toys and promo DVDs displayed on the counter with a "help yourself" sign (and the collection tin strategically placed near it!) xxx

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  9. I work in one too! I really enjoy it, but some of the stuff that comes in is in quite bad condition... It's not a rubbish tip

    http://polkadotspincushionsblog.blogspot.co.uk/

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  10. Thank you so much for this...it has meant I've looked into volunteering and so far I've got a meeting with a social club in january. I'll let you know how it goes but all I can say is I think this post might change a lot of things for me and maybe others.

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    1. That is such wonderful news, I am so glad to hear this. Looking forward to hearing how you get on in the new year. I recommend volunteering to everyone- it's such a selfless and satisfying thing to do xxx

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