Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Charity begins at...

Well, let me introduce you to the world of the charity shop.

I work a couple of days a week at a local one - it's good fun, hard work and minimum wage, but it is guaranteed income each month, which is reassuring. Anyway, I worked this morning as an extra to cover for someone off sick. Boy! It was busy.

I've worked there about 7 months, and it really is an eye-opener. Both the donations made and the customers we get are a real education in peoplekind.

First up, donations. There are 2 ways we get stock - donations over the door (when you've cleared out your wardrobe, or your granny has died), and deliveries from the guys who collect the bags that get pushed through your door. Both types yield dramatically varying quality of items.

On the plus side, we have recently had donated a complete Denby dinner service, a brand new Next suit (not even out of the Next Directory delivery packaging!), some Portmeirion pottery and some gorgeous handbags. Stuff like that sells.

On the downside, we have also had donated unwashed underwear (eeew!), half-used lipsticks and broken toys. Whilst I don't want to put anyone off donating (goodness kows, all charity shops are desperate for donations at the moment), I do have to question how those people thought we could sell that stuff.

The people who shop with us are fascinating too. There's the lonely old men who pop by for a chat and often buy things that you know they don't need just for a bit of human contact. There are the trendy young things with an eye for style and bargains, ready to alter a garment to make it special. There are the people who can't afford to shop elsewhere. And then there are the Unusuals.

The Unusuals all have something memorable about them, something that intrigues you. Perhaps it is a man who always checks out the handbags, or maybe the scruffy guy who buys expensive collectable china.

But every customer is welcome, all of them greeted with a smile and a thank you when they buy or donate. People always tell us that they love our shop, and whilst there are those who don't consider it real retail, the constant challenge of making other people's cast-offs appealing keeps me going back week after week!

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