Thursday, 22 December 2011

How to get the most out of charity shops.


  • Be open-minded. Or, at least, not determined to get a specific item. Many a time I have walked into Oxfam expecting there to be a pretty black parasol, only to be greatly disappointed. Don't go looking for objects that are usually hard to find on the high street, because that way you aren't left feeling like your browse was a waste; alternatively, you could end up finding that item by pure chance, which is always a great surprise. If you want something quite exact, such as a sheer Victorian blouse, prepare to be looking through numerous shops. On a similar note...
  • Avoid harsh budgeting. There is much variety of prices between shops, and some have store-bought goods that are dearer than the donated goods. Thus don't walk into Bernardo's thinking the prices are as low as they are in Oxfam, nor expect the new scarves at the British Heart Foundation to be 3 quid like the second-hand ones. However, it is advisable to have a limit on how much you spend, for there could be a case of manic-buying if you decide that £20 is enough for a top that turns out to be three quid. Having, say, a tenner aside for a couple of dresses is a good idea, as it will cover the wide price-range amongst charity shops.
  • Some things will never be in a charity shop. By law, they are not permitted to sell large electronics, furniture, or house appliances, such as washing machines and sofas, unless they are specialised in selling that sort (there's an Arthritis Research homeware shop in my town, for example). Also, most charity shops don't accept/sell magazines, vinyl, or cutlery unless there are in sets or, in the case of cups and the like, if they are one-of-a-kind or originally sold alone. However, some shops will sell cassettes, video games ect.
  • Don't just stick to one charity shop. Self explanatory, really. Variety is the spice of life, is it not?
  • VOLUNTEER! As a volunteer at my local British Heart Foundation, I cannot stress enough how beneficial it is. Firstly, there is the discount you gain at the shop; it is usually 25%, which can, for large splurges, be a huge bonus. You can sometimes even snag some things that are rejected from being sold for free. I got myself a lovely black/grey tie-dye vest due to it being out-of-season, and a black feather fan before that. Secondly, there are the professional positives. Not only does it make you look good on your CV (which, if you are hoping to enter university, is important), but it also gives you the opportunity to develop skills for future jobs, notably for positions in retail. Such skills include communication, teamwork, and dealing with the infamous "bullshit customers".

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