23 comments on “Good piece here

  1. My son runs a charity shop in Bath which specialises in the likes of vinyl records, books and other goods which could have high value but is not worth individuals going through the hassle of selling. Prior to that he ran one of their furniture stores and he also has a good feel for their clothing shops.

    From what he’s said the article applies just as much here, apart from this bit:

    Another piece of advice that I’ve heard circling is to give “good stuff.” That is, don’t just donate your junk — also give away some items that are really top quality so that poor people can also have nice things. This is one of those ideas that sounds just lovely on paper but is more complicated in practice.

    You see, not everyone who shops thrift is struggling to make ends meet. Some people who can afford retail go to thrift stores because they just love a bargain. These people actually form a really important part of the secondhand economy because they’re willing to pay much more than I can afford for a nice antique dresser or a designer suit, just so long as they’re getting a deal. Thrift stores take advantage of this to increase profits. That’s actually a very good thing: It allows the store to pay their overhead and still sell me children’s socks for a quarter.

    Those high value goods go to helping the charity meet its very high operational operational costs, nobody’s making a profit here, running a number of hospices in the area. If they fail to meet their targets it could make someone’s end of life more miserable than it needs to be.

    And wasn’t it nice to read a piece by someone who is obviously struggling but doesn’t go around wallowing in self pity and blaming everyone else for their predicament? Good luck to her and her family.

  2. I liked the joy of the children shopping with what they saw as their own money. It was a well-written piece too, as our host said.

  3. Odd to think I’m a beneficiary of this. I buy a lot of my clothing at a shop in Malaga, sells US cast-offs by the kilo. I buy second hand rather than new because they have funky stuff you can’t get in Europe. I’ve a range of lurid Hawaiian shirts, Levi 501s with the well worn look can only be achieved by being well worn (& Yank Levis definitely seem to be made out of better stuff than the gear sold here), a western style hide jacket wouldn’t look out of place on Clint Eastwood. Presumable, all of this started as donations to thrift shops.
    Funny thing is; the other half, who comes a poverty the woman wrote this couldn’t imagine, won’t touch second hand with a long pair of tongs. Everything has to come in store wrapping. Including the top couturier frock must have had a label +2000€ passed by couple weeks back. Don’t suppose the Russian bought it ever wore it. But another women CHOOSING it and briefly HAVING IT IN HER WARDROBE was a no-no.
    But illustrates another thing. A lot of what charity shops can’t flog to the public gets sold off bulk. Goes to the third world. Why people in these places tend to look like long term Leicester City supporters or have strong connections to a Cincinnati engineering supplier.

  4. I have been clothing myself from a thrift store here in Bohemia in that manner. They buy what looks like a container full a month off Oxfam (often still have Oxfam tags in it, sometimes even the original store tags too. Can’t beat a top end of M&S range linen jacket for £1 really, store new with tag in).

  5. I live equidistant between two rural towns, one of which is arguably less prosperous than the other. The other has a thriving ‘charity’ shop that appears to serve its community. I donate my books, others lots more. I like to feel the customers believe they’re recycling rather than appearing dependent.

  6. Just two minor quibbles:

    First, the wealthiest people (who have the nicest stuff to donate) will also tend to have the highest standards for what degree of wear and tear is acceptable. I lived for a year with a girl who was upper middle class,

    Nah. Whilst appreciating wealth doesn’t equal class, this upper middle class girl would probably couldn’t be counted among “the wealthiest people”. She’d probably find the very wealthiest people were more cost conscious than she imagines (which is partly why they became wealthy) or the real upper classes and “old wealth” folk maintain a material indifference which means they are happy to walk around in ancient clothes with holes in them.

    If it’s torn, or stained, or so worn-out that it’s see-through, nobody wants it.

    Russians and Nigerians – and I daresay homeless Americans – would beg to differ. She’s basically committing the same mistake as those who she criticises earlier in her article. If you are absolutely shit poor, you can mend a torn article of clothing and you might not care about a stain. This lady is poor, but not *that* poor.

    Still minor quibbles.

  7. I thought this was clever salesmanship:

    “It’s actually fairly important for the thrift store shelves to have some stuff on them that is, well, kind of shoddy-looking. … If you have a few pairs of old, ugly boots sitting next to the ones that are used but still in reasonable condition, it makes the kids feel like they’ve gotten something nice.”

  8. Bloke in North Dorset said:
    “nobody’s making a profit here”

    The charity shop is making a profit, that’s what it’s there for.

    That profit is then used to fund charitable activities. But at the shop level, it’s a profit.

  9. BiS,,

    “I’ve a range of lurid Hawaiian shirts …”

    Why am I not surprised 🙂

    Richard,

    Yes of course, I should have said no private individual.

  10. bloke in spain,

    “Funny thing is; the other half, who comes a poverty the woman wrote this couldn’t imagine, won’t touch second hand with a long pair of tongs. Everything has to come in store wrapping. Including the top couturier frock must have had a label +2000€ passed by couple weeks back. Don’t suppose the Russian bought it ever wore it. But another women CHOOSING it and briefly HAVING IT IN HER WARDROBE was a no-no.”

    Worn once, maybe.

    I worked with a woman who bought 2nd hand couture and a lot of it is bought, worn for an event and then given to a charity shop. Women at the top events don’t want to be seen in the same outfit twice as that would look cheap.

    It’s like ex-hire tuxedos. They’ve been worn maybe 3 or 4 times before they get sold. They want them looking good as new, but really, even after that it doesn’t look worn out.

  11. “If it’s torn, or stained, or so worn-out that it’s see-through, nobody wants it.”

    There’s always some who wants it. The same people that shop in my local charity shop recycle their own cast offs via the local authority skip. “According to the latest available UN figures, the UK is the second largest used clothing exporter after the US. It exported more than £380m ($600m), or 351,000 tonnes, worth of our discarded fashion overseas in 2013. Top destinations were Poland, Ghana, Pakistan and Ukraine.”

  12. I buy books in charity shops: usually paperbacks that are out-of-print, and my wife uses them as if a subscription library for DVDs – she buys one, watches it, and then tells me to take it back as a “donation”.

    It’s not just providing clothes to the poor (the poor cannot afford to live around here), it’s also about supporting the local hospice and other charities.

  13. “If it’s torn, or stained, or so worn-out that it’s see-through, nobody wants it.”

    As others said, she’s imposing her standards on others.

    If your job/hobby involves working on for example bicycles, motorbikes, cars etc where your clothes will become oil/paint stained, maybe burnt if welding; a few stains/holes don’t matter.

    Likewise if you’re homeless and clothes are primarily for warmth.

    With clothes/fabrics, donate everything. Shop will decide whether to sell in shop or to rag man for eg bag of rags for motor trade (cotton t-shirts are best – holes/stains irrelevant!).

  14. Some people are generous and donate: others donate stuff they no longer need. But the donor’s motive is irrelevant, unless you are a quaker such as Spud

  15. @ Tim
    Thank you, yes – a good piece of writing, providing a viewpoint that is lacking (or, at least, rare) among your habitual readership [a few of us remember rationing and wore hand-me-downs but that did not have same overtones of buying from charity shops/thrift stores/jumble sales].

  16. Ted S

    I took the mentions of Ikea and Walmart to mean that there wasn’t enough money even to patronize these low cost places, not as ‘negative mentions’

  17. A lady I know helped to run a Church second hand shop. She soon spotted that some of the “regulars” were frequently buying the top designer items which, she discovered, they were reselling. So she arranged for things to be more carefully sorted so that the top quality items went for a far better price to “nearly new” boutiques and the funds were used for real hardship cases.

  18. My mother in law makes a useful retirement income from buying things in charity shops, and car boot sales and selling them in France. You can no longer find £300 items for sale at £1, but you might find a china tea set for £3, which she can punt out in a French antiques market for 15 euros say. Another classic is the hen eggs container. You can’t give them away in this country, but the French lap them up.

    But you have to know your market, and have the eye for a bargain, and be prepared to spend many hours trudging around muddy fields. And have a son in law who puts you up, and whose garage acts as a warehouse.

  19. There seems to be a market in Japan for recycled schoolgirls’ knickers – they don’t even need to be washed first!

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