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Charity shop - behind the scenes

BenCottoBenCotto RutlandPosts: 3,793
This is nothing to do with gardening but I just wonder if anyone can shed light on behind the scenes functioning of charity shops.

We had a big wardrobe clear out recently and I took 10 bin liners full of stuff to a local charity shop. Mostly it was quality stuff (Boden, Artigiano, Poetry etc) in very good condition. Two days later my wife had second thoughts about a coatigan (coat/cardigan combo) she’d given away so I went back to the shop asking if I could have it, or buy it, back. “Sorry, no,” they said,”it’s been sold.” There was a certain cageyness to the response and, as far as I could see, nothing else on the racks was ours waiting to be sold. I asked if it had perhaps been forwarded to another shop but was told it hadn’t.

Can anyone shed light on how the system works? Is better quality stuff, but not necessarily high end fashion labels, passed on to a third party for selling on at a higher price elsewhere, maybe on line. I have no issue with this; indeed I am pleased if the charity is getting maximum returns but I just wondered if there is a different market operating behind the scenes.

As it turned out, my wife sourced the coatigan on eBay. It wan’t hers, this one was unused and had labels on it and cost £60. Lesson learned! Don’t be too hasty when giving things away.


  • KT53KT53 South WestPosts: 6,992
    I don't know this to be the case, but wouldn't be surprised if staff / voluntees have the first opportunity to purchase items brought in.  I know the charity shop local to us has very little storage space so most is collected by van and taken to a central sorting/storage/distribution warehouse.  The charity has about a dozen outlets.  I would expect excess stock to be moved to 3rd parties and sold through them.  As long as the charity gets what they think is fair for the item I have no problem with that.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,221
    As far as I know there's a central sorting system because good labels and vintage command higher prices in some parts of town/country and then they also check for what's wearable, needs cleaning or is best just going straight to recycling. 
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,532

    My mum volunteered in a charity shop for years, and the volunteers do get first dibs, and why not, when they give their time and energy for nothing.  But I think they usually have to get it priced by the shop manager, they can't just pay what they like.

    What I do find objectionable is the practice of putting bags through letterboxes for people to fill and leave out for collection.  This is NOT done by the charities, but by commercial firms which sell the stuff on and give a stingy percentage to whatever charity has its name on the bag.  Much better to take your stuff to the shop if you can - and I appreciate the bag round is easier for people who have difficulty getting out of the house.

  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 4,050
    I worked in a charity shop for years and can only speak from my experience. There was no facility to clean clothes although they could be steamed to iron them. Any 'low end' clothes went straight into the 'rag bag'. As went any with stains on them or 'smell' (could just be aged smell or smoke etc). 'Seasonal' clothes were bagged again and stored for the appropriate season. All others were put up for sale. Clothes were priced according to sliding scales for each type of item. Special items were priced by the manager (but only if the staff could recognise that they were 'special'!). In extremely busy times, bags of clothes either sorted or unsorted would be passed on to other less busy stores. Staff could buy clothes at the ticket price. I would estimate that between 10-40% of all donations ended up in the rag bag either because of uncleanliness, style or quality. The rag bags were sold to a company but the shop only received around £2 or so per bag I think.
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • B3B3 South East LondonPosts: 22,951
    edited May 2019
    Ive put some good stuff in charity shop . It disappeared without trace. I would like to think that local people would benefit but this does not seem to be the case.
    I fully accept that they want to get the best price but i wished they'd be honest about it.
    I also saw a programme about 'dead white men's clothes' which detailed how our donations ended up in Africa destroying their local clothes industries.
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • HelixHelix 704m altitude...Posts: 631
    Depends on the charity shop.  However, the better ones will sort out donations and sell on better quality stuff to get a better price then they could ask for in the shop that received it.   Particularly the case with things like pottery/ceramics and so on that does get sent to auction.

    Weused to gift aid our stuff, so would get emails telling us how much was raised.
  • FireFire North LondonPosts: 16,527
    edited May 2019
    My friend works in a north London dog's charity shop. She says that everything that has stayed in the shop for more than six weeks to sold to a guy (for £50) so he can sell the lot on Ebay. I guess that it's an upside that the stuff isn't going into landfill (probably) but he would be getting goods worth hundreds. Donors imagine that the shop or a sister store would be selling their goods to customers at some point, not flogged on Ebay for personal profit. All a bit odd.

    We have a big local problem with having so many charity shops. They are the only ones who can afford it as they get huge tax breaks. So now every third shop is for charity, despite the fact that we only need three (not 18 on my high street).

    I use Olio to donate goods now or use local swap groups.  At least I know where the goods are ending up and I get to meet loads of lovely neighbours.
  • B3B3 South East LondonPosts: 22,951
    A lot of the bigger charities are business ventures now. I'm sure we all accept that there is admin that needs to be paid for, but i think they need to be more open about what happens to donations of money and goods .

    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • Anna33Anna33 West SussexPosts: 296
    I've worked in a charity sorting hub before, for a large local charity with lots of shops. All the donations go through this central hub, and as Hogweed says, the lower end (stained, torn, cheapy unsaleable clothes) are sold off as rags. The rest of the stuff is sorted into which shop it is appropriate for - ie the nicer clothes go to their charity shops in posher areas, and the bog standard goes to shops with (trying to be polite) a less discerning customer. So... It could be that even if the staff/volunteers haven't bought it, that it's been shipped out to another shop in a different area. Just another suggestion to add to the above!
  • KT53KT53 South WestPosts: 6,992
    When my mum died some years ago I took her stuff to the Sally Ann.  First trip was with a couple of bags of shoes, some of which were virtually unworn and all of which were in good condition.  I went back a few days later with bags of clothes, only to be grabbed by a very happy shop manager who said the shoes had all gone within 48 hours.  The jungle drums had obviously been beating to say there was some good stuff there.  Hopefully the clothes did just as well as mum looked after her clothes.  Not top end designer stuff but the vast majority from Marks and Sparks, and because she didn't go out much in her latter years all in top condition.
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