Sunday, 4 March 2012

Faith, hope & charity shops.

I haven't written a blog post for a wee while although I was tempted to start another blog anonymously where I could describe how being a chronic depressive made you lethargic and idle. But I couldn't be bothered. I don't intend to go into that sort of detail here; might get round to the other blog one day but as an attack of the miseries fades there doesn't seem to be much point in re-visiting the Dark Side. 

I suppose the fact that I'm feeling inclined to write a blog post again is a good sign that I'm on the mend, even if it is likely to turn into a bit of a rant about charity shops. Now please don't get me wrong, I'm not against charity shops per se and indeed I'm a huge fan of grabbing a bargain whilst also helping out a good cause. In fact given that Mr Cameron and his cabal of cocks are seemingly determined to freeze (i.e. reduce) my pay until I retire, I may well have to rely on charity shops just to keep me clothed. So, given that I applaud their aims, love a bargain and may well end up clothed in cast-off brown slacks and cardies, what could I possibly have to rant about? I think if I had to give my gripe a name I'd call it the 'Oxfam effect'. 

I'll start with an example. I recently spotted the album Jerusalem by Alpha Blondy & the Wailers at a charity shop in town at the price of £6. Not a bad price for a good album in decent condition but given that pennies are tight I didn't buy it immediately. I don't begrudge the charity concerned the money, I was just a bit hard up & decided to wait and see if it was still there on pay-day. However, having mentioned it to a mate at work who also collects records I discovered that the Oxfam shop further up the same road had the same album for £20 (in slightly worse condition). Now I had to have it; my reasoning being that someone would see it in Oxfam then wander down the road and see it for less than a third of the price and snap it up. A search on Popsike didn't throw up any results for the album but I would say £6 was a good price but £20 was ridiculous; either way how on earth can Oxfam justify charging more for vinyl than you'd pay at a record fair? 

Here's another example, admittedly it's hearsay but the chap who told me this tale is a decent bloke who was genuinely shocked at his treatment: John took 2 boxes of books into his local Oxfam shop; at a conservative estimate they would fetch upwards of £100. They took his donation gracefully enough and he left wallowing in the glow of self-satisfaction from a good deed done well. On the way out of the door he spotted a book he fancied priced at £1. He checked his pockets - 80p. "Can I have this book for 80p?" "No." He remonstrated that he'd just given them at least a ton's worth of books but they were unmoved. They patiently explained that their shop was run as a business and it wasn't their policy to give discounts. Fair enough if he'd just wandered in on the scrounge, but given the circumstances I'd say there was a distinct lack of charity in their attitude.

I'm no expert on the charity shop industry but I always understood that they had business rates waived due to their charitable status. Again, I must stress that I'm not against these shops doing their best to maximise the amount they raise for their respective charity but there does seem to me to be something of a contradiction in charity shops being run along the same lines as any other money-grubbing, profit driven, capitalist venture. If I want to pay top-dollar for records there are any amount of places I can buy it, I'd rather like charity shops to remain the cuddly, lovable emporiums of bargains they on the whole are at present. I'd really miss the well-meaning but slightly befuddled pensioners who staff them if they were replaced by thrusting young retail-warriors. I'd miss the 'oh, have you got a gramophone' style comments I sometimes get (repeatedly from one particular lady!) My worry is that the other charity shops will see the prices Oxfam are charging and fancy a piece of the action. Shopping for music is miserable enough when you're skint without the Mrs Miggins Home For Wayward Cats shop pricing me out of the market too. I'm not scaremongering either, my favourite source of bargain vinyl now has a 'music guy' who prices up the records. Thankfully he know bugger-all about anything about but heavy metal so the decent stuff still gets priced sensibly & shoved away amongst the Jim Reeves albums. As a final thought, does anyone, anywhere actually own a Jim Reeves album that they bought and hung on to? I am absolutely convinced that every  single charity shop that has more than 20 records in a box has at least one copy of 'Gentleman Jim Reeves'.

Here's a couple of my recent charity shop bargains, hoping there will be many more: 


  1. Oxfam isn't the only one guilty of this but I agree it is the worst culprit.
    It was also one of the charity shops who were taking on unemployed people as unpaid labour through the Workfare schemes. I think this may have been changed by now but it does underline how their business model is just that.
    A good post, well thought out and written.

  2. As ever Rich a good blog and as Mr Tumshie says well thought out and written - not really had much experience of charity shops myself apart from occasional trips laden with cast off clothes/books etc. to donate. These trips have varied in experience from the over grateful "assistants" who you fancy would adopt you and keep you in Rich Tea's and cuppas for the rest of your life - to the old dear who insists she's ok carrying the over large box of books you've just donated - to the one's who don't even bother to say thank you. I've even on one occasion been accosted by other customers desperate to get their hands on the item I'm donating before I've even donated it.

    Do know a number of collectors who swear by these outlets for finding all sorts of rarities and gems though - so perhaps I should give them a go.

    Shame that most of them now seem to have a "no VHS" policy though - surely there are still some people out there that would buy them? Or perhaps the shops could pass them on to the recipients of their charity, quite like the idea of kids in Africa sitting round watching my ageing copy of Prefab Sprouts greatest hits - or 101 Greatest Goals of the 92/93 season!!

    Anyway thanks again for a great blog - both you and Mr Mills have inspired me to at least think about writing one - now just need inspiration of my own to actually sit down and do it!!

  3. Thanks for the comments chaps. Glad I'm not alone in feeling less than charitable towards some charity shops. I agree the 'no VHS' rule is a shame. I buy the odd VHS although I did resist a pile of lazer-disc films at 50p each at the weekend.