Tadgh MacCionnath writes about the fantastic work local charity shops do every day, and presents food for thought on why you should consider the benefits of shopping with them more often.
Charity shops are great places to find a whole manner of things very cheaply, especially when you’re a student who may need to pinch a few pennies, be it on clothes or crockery. They’re also a great way of recycling clothes and bric-a-brac for further use, while also giving to a worthy cause of your choice. The following are some tips and tricks to help you out when donating to or buying from your local charity shop.
When it comes to donating, there are two really important facts to keep in mind:
1: Charity shops have standards;
2: Charity shops don’t have the means to clean clothes.
It might sound like common sense, but do keep these in mind if you ever need to clear things out and move them on:
If it has even a tiny tear? It will be sent to recycling rather than put on sale.
Stretch damage? Also recycling.
Missing buttons? You guessed it, straight to recycling.
Customised (name label, etc.)? Won’t sell, and so into the recycling it goes.
Stains unfortunately aren’t any different, even if the clothes are otherwise immaculate.
All manners of clothes go through charity shops each day, with the volunteers being in no position to differentiate between ketchup and blood stains, or even trust that buyers would purchase something grubby, so it goes straight to recycling.
Even something smelling strange is enough to ensure that it never sees the shop floor, so keep that in mind if you’re ever clearing clothes from attic storage. Charity shops simply don’t have the resources to wash clothes, so be sure to wash and dry them before handing them in.
Some types of clothes are always disposed of unless they are still in their unopened original packaging, namely all types of underwear and socks.
Having your clothes condemned to recycling isn’t all bad, with charity shops earning a couple of euro per bag of clothes needing to be disposed of. But this means they are often earning less on each bag full of waste clothes than they are on a single pair of pants. So if you do want to get rid of damaged clothes, but still help out a charity, you can put together a separate bag marked recycling to hand in along with your bag of donations. This saves the volunteers from having to root through them.
What some charity shops do have are steamers, which are essentially huge irons used to remove creases and sterilise donations, but not all do. If you want to further increase the value of your donations when donating to a shop without a steamer, iron them beforehand, and be sure to pack them carefully. If the shop does have a steamer, there’s no need to iron them.
On charity shop tags, the date that the clothes were put out on the floor will always be written. This is handy to keep track of if you are between two minds about buying something, or simply don’t have the money to buy it on you at the time. This varies from charity to charity, but items that haven’t sold are removed to be sent to other shops after a period of about two weeks, giving you a timeframe to make your decision.
Most charity shops are also very accommodating and are happy to notify people who want certain items when they are in stock, so you could have up to two weeks notice to get money together to buy something you really want if you play your cards right, and engage with the shop in question.
In the event that a damaged item is being bought, the store owner will refuse the sale, as this would be a breach of the charity’s standards. This also stops people breaking or damaging the wares to get a discount on the marked price. If you do see damaged goods for sale, let a volunteer know immediately, it will be greatly appreciated.
Finally if you feel like you have too much spare time on your hands (unlikely) or need retail experience (more likely), charity shops are on the lookout for new volunteers as much as they are donations, with some shops offering price reductions for staff on available goods. What makes this even better is that charity shop hours can count towards earning you that UCC Works award (if you decide to take part this year!).
If you recognise the rising need for recycling and thrift, or just want to give back to the community, look no farther than your nearest charity shop this academic year.