Charity shops – shame on you

by workshyscrounger

I used to think that charity shops were the perfect system of redistributing surplus while benefiting everyone concerned:

– one person gets rid of things they no longer need or want in an environmentally friendly and socially conscious way

– the charity sells it for a fraction of what it would cost in a regular shop making it appealing and raising funds for their work

– traditionally, poor people shop there for items they could not afford to buy in a regular shop

I didn’t mind charity shops replacing the posh stores in the high street. If you can afford a top for £40, you can probably also afford the bus fare to the out-of-town retail park. Silly me, you probably have a car.

Unfortunately, vintage came into being. The new trendy label gave charity shops permission to raise their prices and an opportunity to shift some of the ghastly 80s items. The very same items we were all laughing at just a few years ago.

The other day, we went on a charity shopping spree to buy necessities. We saw a lot of clothes, some of them even nice, with shocking price tags (on average £6 for a top, £8 for jeans, £30 for a jacket). Or how about obviously well-worn shoes for a tenner? The prices are comparable to the Asda, Tesco or Sainsbury’s clothing lines. It’s a no-brainer really – everyone would rather buy a new item of clothing than a used one if there is no or very little price difference. The problem is that we can’t afford either. I believe many people are in the same situation as us. There is only so much make-do-and-mend that can be done even if you have the skills.

For peace of mind, we should have stuck to just looking at clothes. Alas, we get our thrills wherever we can. We saw a chipped vase (I doubt it Cash in the Attic would be interested) for £10. We saw records (again – nothing special) for 99p a pop. Crockery and cutlery – again not antique bone china or silver grapefruit forks – for £2 and 50 pence apiece. Books, that were not best-sellers even when they came out 10 years ago, for £3.

We saw a quite-fancy double bed – it had a mechanism to allow you to raise your head or feet and would have been a blessing for when my back seizes up and it’s hard to get up. Guess the price. Wrong! The price tag said £1700. For seventeen hundred pounds you get a used bed with a three-month warranty. Who in their right mind would buy it? Certainly not the people who have to consider a used bed with its inherent risk of bedbugs and, invariably, a thriving colony of dust mites or else sleep on the floor like the paupers of times gone by. We need a wardrobe as our wardrobe rail collapsed. However, £100 is a ridiculous amount to ask for an ugly, dilapidated and musty-smelling 70s reject.

It is now fashionable to pretend to be poor. We have the live below the line campaign and we have the middle class shopping in charity shops inflating the prices. We have them trampling the woods trying to forage so that they can jazz up their venison steaks on a bed of rocket drizzled with authentic aged balsamic vinegar and accompanied by artisan bread and/or rustic vegetables.

Get a grip people – being poor is not fun. Thousands of people do not have the choice between Dorothy Perkins and British Heart Foundation for their clothes or John Lewis and Bethany Christian Trust for their household items. It’s not a matter of us buying yet another pair of jeans or shoes to lift our spirits. There is nothing uplifting about having to wear hand-me-downs when that’s all you can wear. We only ever buy stuff when the one pair of trousers falls apart and cannot be fixed. When the soles of our shoes fall off and let the water in. You buy the very things that would serve us years and then probably wear it once, if at all, before throwing it at the bottom of your walk-in wardrobes.

Ultimately though, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of charity shops. They became greedy and forgot that their unwritten mission is to help the poor in their communities. I feel sick when I think how much stuff I donated to charity shops over the years and that now I could not even afford to buy any of it back because of the artificially inflated prices that exclude me from this last recourse of the poor.