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.