"Working" in a charity shop
The regulars are wonderful. The woman who seems to buy a black handbag every week, the one looking for “treats” for her young patients, the book searchers, and the man who eventually bought the Italian wool coat that I explained was perfect for him. ( I think I might have worn him down, every time he came in for a browse.... I told him, it was still on the rails and it was still perfect for him).
Being on the till is great. I’m right at the front of the shop and can greet everyone who comes in, thank people as they go out, and chat with anyone who wants to. We have a chair near the front of the shop, used by men, who sit while their significant others check every rail, and older customers who just want a rest. We get lots in when it’s cold or raining....we should have more chairs really. I have joked about popping into the back to make some coffee. If only we had more room we could have a little cafe section.
I spend a lot of time thinking about what we could do if we had a bit more room.... the vintage section could be properly developed......clothes, jewellery and home-ware, all displayed together. What I would really love to do is develop a proper children’s section, clothes, a dressing up corner, a craft section, toys and books and bean bags for children to laze and read while parents browse for bargains.
Recycling brings in nearly as much money as selling things...but the sorting of donations into stuff to sell and stuff to recycle can be hard. The “pen” where we keep the sacks of donations to be sorted is known as “the black hole”.....it does seem to go on for eternity, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the far end of the black hole....just as we get to the last few bags, and the floor is nearly visible, a house clearance arrives, or the remains of a local jumble sale.
All donations are gratefully received. Lots of people tell us how “good“ their donation is, while others seem really nervous that perhaps we might not want it. Some tell us we mustn’t let things go cheaply.......as they’ve checked the ebay prices. However one lady told me not to look to closely at the clothes she was donating, as they were a bit grubby and had a few holes. I did wonder if she would pay money for an item that was a bit grubby with holes.......so her donation, whilst gratefully received was put into the recycle sack. We do also get the occasional bin bag of dirty socks.....some very strange underwear and other items that we judge are not quite appropriate to be on the shelves of a respectable shop in Hebden Bridge.
It is a balancing act...... it’s a business, raising money for the charity ( in this case, the local hospice), but it is also a place for local people to find bargains, for “things” to get a second life ( some of our books are probably on their 6th or 7th life...jig-saws too ! ). It is a place where volunteers make new and important lasting friendships, with each other and with the customers. More people say hello to me now when I wander into town....some of them can’t quite place where they know me from, but they say hello anyway.
|A poster I made ( with me and Clark) for our World Book day display. For a week, childrens books were 2 for the price of 1.........we sold lots !|
I also absolutely love the volunteers I work with. Everyone has so many talents and have led such interesting lives. I was working earlier this week, when one of the other volunteers popped in. We all thought she’d come to work, but she’d just came for a cup of tea before her hair appointment later in the afternoon. There’s not a lot of room, but we managed to sit her down and give her a cuppa, while we carried on sorting, pricing, recycling, working the shop floor and selling.
People are generally incredibly generous. We have had some wonderful donations in the few months I have been at the shop. Some fabulous pottery, a whole collection of Masons ironstone arrived one morning...it was priced, put in the window, and gone by the afternoon ! Beautiful hardly worn, and sometimes never worn , clothes, jewellery, cds, dvds, books, shoes......wonderfully generous donations arrive daily. Children's clothes are often hardly worn, as they have been grown out of before they have worn out. Toys and games come in regularly. Only once have I had a father rush back to the shop saying that the particular toy he had donated in the morning, was being missed so much, he had to see if he could buy it back ! ( We returned it to him, and he made a small donation to thank us).
|a doll that somehow made it home with me one evening....perfect for the toy box kept at nana and grandad's .|
Sometimes it is very sad, realising that “mum”’s clothes and jewellery have been donated because mum has died. Sometimes it is fascinating to look at book donations, recognise the downsizing syndrome. Sometimes I try to piece together people’s lives. The retired teacher’s 1970 education books........the readers digest cookery books and gardening books, its is strange finding a collection of novels, yellowing pages, some very distressed covers...but so clearly loved, that their owners could not throw them away. Giving them to the charity shop gives them another chances of being loved. And......if they really are too yellow and smelly, then someone else makes the decision about recycling by pulping rather than their previous owner.
|some gorgeous jewellery that I just had to have !|
We have hundreds of watches, and it is possible that they may work......but they have been donated after lying in a drawer for 10 years, battery dead, so we don’t know if they will work. We do not have a selection of different watch batteries lying around to test them.... maybe that is something we could look at.
I have so many ideas..... and so do all the other volunteers.
I wouldn’t want to manage us lot ! I think the manager of a charity shop, relying on volunteers to keep the shop open, must be one of the hardest jobs in the world !
|I don't need any crockery, in Hebden Bridge or in France, but when you get the chance to give a loving home to the exact Indian Tree plates that your grandmother used to keep for Sunday tea.....how is it possible to resist ?|