Wednesday, 19 March 2014

How can this be called work ?

"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.

I must have bought dozens of children's books since I have been working at the shop....some for the grandchildren, some for daughter Jessie's collection of children's books that is now huge as she prepares to reach reception and year 1 children.....and of course my own collection.

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 ?

24 comments:

  1. I'm on the lookout for a cake stand for France, not a tiered one but a pretty, flat one. I went to all of the charity shops in Leek on Saturday and only found one. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but true to form I bought it anyway!!

    A lovely post.

    BTW All of the crockery at the Kingston Centre, where the Staffordshire LEA inspection and support centre was based, used to be Indian Tree. It's probably been sold off now, since it was taken over by Capita... :o(

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  2. I think charity shops are where most cake plates ...and trifle dishes end their days ! I mean, how many trifle dishes do I need ? Mark just doesn't understand how important they are.
    I love the Indian tree pattern, although I might not love it as much if it reminded me of inspection teams instead of my grandmother's Sunday tea table. ! Jx

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  3. Yours, being for a local good cause, doesn't do what annoys me with the 'big' chains of charity shop...send the good stuff to already well off areas!

    I used to love rooting about in the various charity shops near home, and still like to do so when visiting mother....but the chances of finding something I cannot resist - except books, of course - is in steep decline.

    I could not have resisted that jewellery either....even if my ears aren't pierced.

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    1. I think working in a chain charity shop must be soul destroying.....There is a real feeling that our shop is working for our community as well as the charity...which of course is very local and close to many local people's hearts. Books are a problem.....I did the downsizing a few years ago...... I think I'm upsizing again. Jx

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  4. What a great insight into charity shops 'behind the Scenes'! Do you know Josie-Mary's blog? She was working for Habitat when l first 'met' her but now she's the manager of an Exeter Charity shop! Very interesting...

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    1. I dont know Josie-Mary's blog.....but will check it out. Thanks Floss,jx

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  5. I'm sure most of us love charity shops and your description of life behind the scenes makes me want to volunteer too. I wonder if somebody has written a Barbara Pym-style charity shop novel yet? Could you do it...?

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    1. I see it more as a TV sit com....Jx

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  6. A very enjoyable post Janice, and it sounds like an excellent, local charity shop. As others say, the large chains have taken the soul out of a lot of thrift shops. What great fun to find a few items to take home. My Mum used to work in a local charity shop and enjoyed it very much. When we cleaned out her house I found many items which I think she obtained this way as they were not part of the home as I grew up - and then they went back to the shop for another turn!

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    1. I love the idea of items returning to the shop several times. Our assistant manager is sure a plastic dinosaur keeps coming back. he just loves it so much.

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  7. I love charity shops and spend hours in them when I make a trip to the UK. If I were still living there, I'm pretty sure I'd be working in one. On my last visit I was pleasantly surprised to find an old friend working in one of the charity shops. Someone I hadn't seen for almost 30 years! We enjoyed catching up and are now in regular contact. So the shops aren't just useful for bargains and raising money!

    You have some great ideas for developing the shop. I hope you can manage to put some of them into practise. xx

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    1. They do seem to be great places for having a chat. I think being a volunteer helps...no bosses telling you to get on with work and stop chatting.... because the employed manager knows they cant operate without the volunteers, who will only stay if they are happy.....lots of reasons to keep the staff happy.....and it seems to work. jx

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  8. Brilliant post, so glad you are enjoying your time as a volunteer. Rebecca is enjoying 'working' at the Cancer Charity boutique in Javea, it has certainly increased her confidence and to get back into the world, she does have to be quite strict with herself otherwise she would be buying so many must haves lol

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    1. We have a couple of volunteers who are doing what Rebecca is doing.....and you can see, on an almost daily basis, how it is helping them. Recovering confidence seems to be the really big thing....I am so pleased its working out for her. My "must haves" increased again yesterday, when I just had to have a gold and jade pendant, that perfectly matched my New Zealand greenstone earrrings......aaahh well, more profit for the hospice ! Jx

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  9. When I lived in England I loved the hospice shop - it had the most interesting "finds" - the Big Name Charity shops weren't nearly so interesting.

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    1. The chain charity shops in our area have an almost antiseptic feel to them...and I don't think its that they clean the clothes better than we do. I may be biased....but I am sure our shop is the best in the area !

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  10. Impossible to resist, Janice, had such plates crossed my path, well, we would be eating out them tonight.
    I came across a doll that looks just like the one that followed you home, at a charity shop here, for a whopping 75 cents. I was with a friend, and she found a plastic bag, filled with the doll's clothes, a bottle, pacifier, diapers - 50 cents more. It is one of Kezzie's favorite dolls.
    You are the best person for this shop, dear one, and I can't wait for other reports and to see how things go (especially when you start serving coffee).

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    1. Glad you liked the plates Penny. I didn't admit it in the post, but I also bought a beautiful matching fruit bowl. The grandchildren now know that they get extra little presents from time to time...usually books....and that there is now always a parcel "from nana's shop" for their birthdays, as well as the ones from nana and grandad.
      The best bit about it all is mixing with all the fabulous people who work and shop there, but I have to admit that "re homing" other people's possessions gives me a thrill too.

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  11. It does sound like a lovely shop, Janice. Today Bruce and I pick up our hire car and yes, we will be driving north after we do the counties in the south. Yorkshire is definitely on our itinerary. As you are a no reply blogger I can't contact you directly so if you use the email button on my profile page you can tell me how we can be in touch...It would be wonderful if we can meet up with you!

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    1. Will do Maria......hope you're having a great time , will be I touch later today, Jx

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  12. Inspired by this blog Janice I have spent a couple of days sorting out.I have discovered a few hidden treasures from my grandma which I have now started to use.Quite a sizeable amount I have given to my neighbour as she volunteers in the Heart charity shop in town one day a week.It is still on our to do list to come and visit your shop.

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    1. I cant tell you how much fun it is... I did a wedding window today ! We found a fabulous wedding dress in a suitcase, on the doorstep when we arrived at the shop....so it was steamed, one of our mannequins was dressed in it, and swifly accompanied by 2 bridesmaids, with nearly matching dresses, a groom, champagne glasses, some lovely silver candle sticks, a couple of rings and some flowers.... It would be lovely to see you at the shop. jx

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  13. A gorgeous post, Janice. Your overflowing enthusiasm for this worthwhile work shines through every word and image. One of my brothers-in-law volunteers in his local Red Cross shop and specialises in books and music. Recently he proudly told me his section alone had made £4000 in the past 6 months thanks to the generous donations they'd had!

    I buy lots of books in our local charity shops to take to France with us for DH, who can get through a book a day when he has no TV. :-) I often look for casual clothes there and also bits of nice glassware and once got some Indian Tree china just like that in your photo for my mother-in-law who still uses hers every day.

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    1. I suddenly realised, when I read your comment P. that I could take loads of books to France this summer... as we're driving down instead of flying....and I could stock up with books our guests will love, at a small cost to me, and a benefit to the Hospice.... So, I think a small library will be accompanying us on our journey to warmer climes.
      I do love crockery... I'm a complete sucker for anything vaguely nostalgic... so I had to have those plates.

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