Have you ever considered working in a charity shop?
Never mind the fact that working at a charity shop is unpaid and voluntary. There are many good things about working in a charity shop environment. By working in a charity shop you are giving something back to a charity, gaining valuable retail experience and of course you are in the prime location to see the best bargains!
In this current economic climate voluntary work in a charity shop is fantastic for gaining experience and for saving money when it comes to shopping.
I caught up with Alice to hear what she had to say on the benefits of working in a charity shop…
So Alice tell which charity shop did you volunteer at?
I volunteered at Oxfam.
Why did you choose to volunteer at that specific one?
No specific reason really, there was a sign in the window that said they needed volunteers. I also just wanted to get some experience working in retail.
What are your thoughts on charity shop fashion?
I think it’s great! Oxfam have this deal set up with M&S which is that whenever M&S get in new stock all their left over stock is sent to Oxfam. Also whenever people donate M&S clothes to Oxfam they get a voucher for M&S… I think that’s what they call shwapping.
Did you ever come across any good bargains?
I came across so many! I bought a lovely skirt and a pair of trousers from there, and many many birthday presents. They had so many scarfs!
What advise would you give to someone who wants to work in a charity shop, whilst nabbing some cheeky buys?
If you see something that you like while sorting through bags of clothes make sure that somebody else prices it and that it is put onto the shop floor first. It is more important for the public to see what the shop has to offer than the volunteers. However, if the piece of clothing isn’t anybody’s thing (which it usually isn’t because it is mainly accepted that only OAP’s shop in charity shops, which is both not true and a shame) then you can go and buy it at the till. Make sure that somebody else is behind the till too. Conversely, if you see something you like ask your manager if it can be put aside for you to buy later. This also goes for books and anything else you might see that you like and want.
So, as a charity shop volunteer I’m sure you must have come across some shocking things in those black bags. Care to divulge any horror stories to us?
I think possibly somebody donated baby clothes but hadn’t cleaned them up very well. All I’m going to say is that it smelt bad, I threw away the bag and then washed my hands!
What do you think defines Oxfam from other charity shops?
There is always some sort of event going on which is being publicised in the shop. If you want to decide what your money is spent on you can buy a pack of something like “Give Someone a Meal Today” and the prices range depending on what it is you decide to buy. Also our manager liked to have our shop window designed in the theme of any upcoming event, which was always fun to design!
Why do you think it is good for people to volunteer at a charity shop?
It is an easy way to get work experience for somewhere without having experience anywhere else. No matter who they are they probably aren’t going to refuse you because they, of all places, understand about equal opportunities and things like that. It’s also a lot of fun! And you meet new people and it is a good place to make friends, especially if you feel like you need some new friends.
Would you volunteer again?
Yeah of course I would! It’s just about finding the time to do it. Then again, you should always give a job to a busy person because a busy person will usually get it done!