Are charity shops misunderstood or have they evolved to become much like any other high street retailer?
We all love a bargain whether we ‘need’ one or not. People with plenty of money to spend can be found pottering around in charity shops, just as those with limited budgets can also be found looking longingly at the wares of expensive department stores, running up their credit card bills.
There are no obvious rules or predictable patterns these days.
Common misconceptions about charity shops
- They’re all filled with old junk, worn out dirty and faulty goods
- Everything in them is cheap
- Charity shops are for scroungers – nose turned up attitude
- Charity shops are for poor people (depending on how you define poor)
Well none of the above is true.
The general stereotype of finding cheap clothes in a charity shop might be a bit dated.
“Greedy’ charity shops under fire for prices beyond means of poor” Guardian Newspaper
Charity shops are bumping up the prices and you might find things cheaper in some of the known ‘fast fashion’ type retailers. The whole ‘fast fashion’ culture has really taken off in recent years.
On the one hand, charity shops are all about raising money for a cause, so the more money they make the better, meaning a push for higher prices is a good thing, right?
You’re donating to a cause not a greedy capitalist, so you don’t mind if it’s not all rock bottom prices….?
“Charity shops raise more than £330 million in a typical year, which funds medical research, overseas aid, environmental initiatives, supporting sick children, homeless people, disabled people, animal welfare, and many other good causes.” Charity Retail Association
On the other hand
Some people who go to charity shops are looking for a bargain first and foremost.
In many cases, people on very small budgets might hope to get some good deals in a charity shop to save money, and I’m sure they do sometimes.
When I donate things to my local charity shops, I like to think that a local person will get my items at a bargain price – making them happy customers, and leaving me feeling like I’ve helped someone out. Embarrassingly perhaps, I’m not normally thinking about the actual charity as much as hoping my things reach someone who really needs them. Same difference, perhaps.
If prices are not bargain prices, then (in the short term) the people I want to help might not benefit.
Everything is second hand
Definitely not true. In the past, I’ve donated things that were new, sometimes still with tags on (never got round to returning them). I don’t feel bad about this if I think I’m helping someone else get it for less. I’ve donated new books that I had no desire to read, new lampshades, unwanted gifts, you name it.
Some shops get donations of brand new items directly from retailers, job lots in some cases.
You won’t find anything decent
Just not true. I’d be embarrassed to donate anything I thought was fit for the bin. That said, many charity shops will recycle donations they feel are unsuitable to sell in store, so don’t worry!
I’ve spied books and dvds in charity shops knowing I could probably get them cheaper online, (brand new in many cases). But yes, I have also seen bargain prices too.
“The charity shops used to be cheap – all the stuff that used to be at jumble sales is in charity shops now but at a ridiculous price.” Source: Cornwall live
If your motivation is to put goods directly in the hands of those that need them the most, and quickly – charity shops might not always be the best choice.
There are other organisations and good causes that allow you to give, without those in need having to pay for the items. I think I’ll do a seperate post highlighting a few that I’ve come across, since they’re relatively invisible compared to your well known charity shops on the high street.
The Big Issue seller that got lucky with a charity shop….sort of!
I’ll call him Dan. When I stopped to buy his latest issue, Dan told me about the time he was stood selling The Big Issue in a more affluent part of London. That day, a range rover pulled up beside him and a man got out and walked over. The man was on his way to a charity shop to drop off all the clothes in his car boot, because they wouldn’t fit him anymore after losing a lot of weight. He opened the boot, and to Dan’s surprise, the boot was full, mostly of brand new designer clothes and belts.
The man encouraged Dan to take a look and help himself.
Lucky day? Well you’d think so wouldn’t you.
Dan took a few items and thanked the man.
The man seemed puzzled and pressed “is that all you want? Take more, take as much as you like, I don’t need any of it, it doesn’t fit”
Dan replied “Thanks but I won’t take too much. If I stand around in the street dressed in clothes like these, nobody will buy my ‘Big Issue’ cos’ I’ll look richer than them lol” 🙃
The man took his point, though I’m sure he was probably a bit baffled by Dan’s ability resist. Admirable really!
Anyway – I just thought this random conversation really highlights the misconception about charity shops only offering second hand goods – as well as the fact that there are still people in the world of noble character!!