Disadvantages Not cheerful
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Watching Mary Portas wield the big stick over the pensioners in the Save The Children shop on Mary Queen of Shops on BBC2 as she tackled charity retail it was quite revealing to learn that only 25% of the stuff sent in was actually resalable. They basically had to throw away most of the donations and send a lot of the clothes to be used as rag to stuff pillows and stuff, and this in a posh area. False teeth and used nappies were even sent it. People basically don't send stuff in that they think might actually make the charity some money but stuff they deem crap but don't want to throw away because they feel guilty or something. I don't really think about that until she discovered that home fact. The truth is big companies are no different and use charities for dumping grounds, sending faulty or disconnected items in huge trailers to the third world under the premise that the goods can be used for a good cause when really it's just to avoid the industrial dumping costs they don't have to pay when its listed as charity.Although Mary's intentions were good it was a rather cynical exercise of self-promotion as she bullied the old dears to do things to make an interesting TV rather than relevant to selling crap to people who rather like to buy crap for a few pence. Instead she turned the failing Orpington Shop into a trendy boutique, calling on all her fashion and media connections to fill it with good stuff that no other charity shop could possibly get their hands on. She hoped to roll out this new style of charity shop nationally with Save the Children's say so, if it was successful, which the store was, of course, reaching its two grand a week target, up from its regular £750.
I don't know if any of you have seen the shop in question (do tell if you have been in) but one would suspect the final part of the facelift would to get some young people in there behind the till, subtly forcing out the old biddies that give charity shops that unfortunate image, the bit she didn't mention on TV. The old girls twigged that very early on and started to jump ship before they were pushed off the plank, Mary persuading the more entertaining ones to at least stay around for the cameras as their rebellion made good TV. TV Cooking porn has been replaced by retail porn.People that work in the shops are decent people that have nothing else to do and so enjoy the company or sent there by the doll office through the New deal scheme. They are unpaid and so have no real interest how much money the store takes. The League of Gentleman's brilliant parody of the dusty charity shop pensioners, death as a post and arguing over the price and who gets to ring it up, is sadly accurate. Take not that many charity directors pull a very nice salary thank you very much.
I use charity shops (cheap always good), a pair of shorts for the summer here or some trainers there, no big deal. The day I buy brands that only £1 of the forty has gone to the person who made it in a sweatshop is along way off. But too me the idea of them is they are bottom line places that would never turn a buck if they had sexy refits and paid managers. And who would volunteer for them if they were turned into boutiques that are in competition with regular shops for the best stuff? One would suspect it would see branches closed down and councils pushing up their rents and dropping the subsidizes they get as these places start to make money the other shops that do pay full rates will no longer be getting their share of that cash.My mum was a paid manger of a charity shop and you are expected to make your salary back and some more on top of non paid manager stores. The staff get first dabs on the goods (unofficially) and many put them on eBay. In fact eBay trading is one of the reasons why charity shops business was rising through the late 90s. My brother does it all the time and bought a Windows 2000 software pack for a quid and sold it for £45 on the auction site. He didn't give them the £45.
I went in a few charity shops this week to see if Mary is right and I think the clothes are pretty bad and it's noticeable that the sizes are mostly big or kids. There's nothing my size and so it does back up the idea people chuck away stuff they don't want or need but expect it to be useful. The last item I bought was a DVD and a pair of knee length shorts to show off my great legs. And as long as I can get bits for next to nothing I will keep going in and not asking for change. But the middle-class chap on the show who refused to pay no more than 70p for his short handle tennis racket is the reason why charity shops will only ever be thrift stores and any move to break a system that works because of decent people volunteering will only see stores close Miss Portas. I think the shops should reflect the people who shop in them. Ultimately though you have a choice: buy branded clothing i normal shops that exploits child labour in the third world or use charity shops and so send the money back to those kids.Summary: Use charity shops and change lives
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