Queen of Charity Shops

3 Jun

Now I don’t usually post about TV shows (partly because I don’t watch much TV – 6 months without TV in the new flat seemed to wean me off the magic box) but did anyone see Mary Queen of Charity Shops last night? As a self-confessed charity shop addict, I was glued to the screen (not literally of course!). The volunteers that run the store were so brilliantly sweet (you have to see the little old woman complaining about the toy shelf) and the amount of effort they were putting in, never mind the amount of years they’d all put in, was heartwarming.

But the most fascinating bit of the show was when they highlighted exactly what the British public give to charity shops… stained pants, legless dollies and trousers with holes in them. This might be worst-case scenario but it made for depressing viewing. Especially as the charity has to pay someone £90 a week to take away the crap that they can’t sell!

As well as being someone who regularly rummages in charity shops, me and the other half quite often give to charity shops. Usually when we’re having a clear-out – with the classic bin piles, maybe piles, keep piles and charity piles! And we always end up having a mini debate about what should go in the charity pile – I usually use the question of would I buy it if I saw it? (An insane question in some respects but usually true!)

So why do people dump on rather than donate to charity shops? Is it because it’s the association of putting things in bin bags? Is it because we’re keeping the good stuff to sell on ebay? Or is it because in these times of the credit crunch and all charity begins at home? What do you think?

Can’t wait for the next show! And did you see they were selling the cupcakes that I had when I was last in London? 😉


14 Responses to “Queen of Charity Shops”

  1. Clare 03/06/2009 at 11:31 AM #

    Ah thank you so much for letting me know about this programme. I loved the other Mary Portas programmes, but like you I’m without a television and not very good at staying up to date with what’s on.
    I completely agree with the complaints about people handing in rubbish, it’s a charity not a skip!

  2. Polly R 03/06/2009 at 12:07 PM #

    Oh no I missed it! Is the next one on Tuesday then?
    I agree.. i think people do keep their best things to sell on Ebay etc. I think when people do a clear-out of their house, they can’t bear to simply throw things away, and they make themselves feel better by giving their ‘junk’ to the charity shop as they feel as if they’re doing a good deed.
    Interesting post! x

    • Conversation Pieces 03/06/2009 at 2:00 PM #

      Polly, you should be able to catch it on iplayer or catch up TV if you have that (that’s pretty much how I watch all my TV).

  3. edenrose 03/06/2009 at 12:29 PM #

    Oohh, i sky+d it, cant wait to watch it later. I hate that people give such junk to charity shops, i only ever give stuff like my daughters stuff that has only had a few wears like special dresses she grew out of, toys that still work and have all the pieces to them. Other stuff that has been washed too much or looks manky goes to recycling. I have the same principle, would i buy it? if not then i ditch it.

    • Conversation Pieces 03/06/2009 at 2:01 PM #

      And we only see the junk that goes into the shop as opposed to the stuff that doesn’t make it! Not sure I could open any of those bin bags! Enjoy the show 🙂

  4. Holly and Shirley Yanez 03/06/2009 at 1:20 PM #

    We are doing a show at Butlins called The Hollywood Look For Less and all the clothes we use to style people were collected from charity shops and are all secondhand. We think Mary picked the wrong shop to show what charity shops are really like.

    S and H

  5. RayB 03/06/2009 at 2:07 PM #

    I loved it…especially the ‘toy twins’, one of which had been working in the shop for 46 years! My Mum ran a charity shop when I was younger and so much of the stuff that came in had gravy down it you wouldn’t believe! It’s not the stuff that goes out for sale that’s the problem it’s what those poor volunteers are subjected to ploughing through in order to select the passable stuff!

    • Conversation Pieces 04/06/2009 at 10:00 AM #

      Ah yes the ‘toy twins’ were brilliant – I loved the stubborness of the littlest woman!

  6. made-good 03/06/2009 at 3:05 PM #

    Loved the show myself, and was also enlightened to what people give to charity shops, very sad at some points wasn’t it. She has a hard one there as I think people do think its a dumping ground. Looking forward to the next episode.x

  7. Serena 03/06/2009 at 3:56 PM #

    Really interesting post! I can hardly pass a charity shop without going into it (my chap watching me veer away and has to pull me back on course if we’re in a rush). From a slightly different perspective, I’ve found that the stuff available in charity shops has changed a bit over the last year or so – fewer ‘hidden gems’ and valuable clothes. I think as the recession bites people are definitely selling anything they can… so it’s generally the ‘tat’ the shops get left with.

  8. Meg 03/06/2009 at 4:32 PM #

    I didn’t see the show but I used to volunteer part-time with a friend at a charity shop when I was at school and my job was to open up the bags of donations and steam the clothing. It was quite an eye opener I can tell you! People did donate the most revolting things and this was pre-eBay so I don’t know if it was because they were saving the best stuff to sell. I think it is more that there is a general feeling that you are doing the charity a favour by donating your stuff and so it is up to them to sort through it all and clean it but that doesn’t take into account the poor volunteers at the other end or, as you say, the money it takes to dispose of all the rubbish. Nonetheless I really enjoyed my time there – the full time volunteers were lovely people, it was a much more valuable way to spend free periods and lunch hours than sitting around and gossiping and we used to get first dibs to buy any great pieces of clothing that came in.

  9. kitschen pink 04/06/2009 at 12:23 PM #

    My only solace here is that I doubt lovely old ladies watch Mary Portas in the evening At least I hope not. (on the basis they might take this message to heart and throw their lovely bits and bobs in the bin!)
    Our local charity shops put out to the rag man all sorts of lovely things because they don’t think anyone would buy them. Fantastic 50’s barkcloth curtains get dumped in the 50p dog towel bin, old pinnies, perfect for patchwork, get thrown away because of a little stain. Obviously the TV showed a worse case scenario, but I often buy half felted woollens which presumably Mary would chuck away. Where else will I get these treasures if not at my local charity shop?! Hopefully this is not the start of a revolution. I mean lets face it – if I’m chucking it out, chances are it’s because I think it’s rubbish. (But I do draw the line at mucky underpants – eeugh! )
    also I think when people clear a loved one’s belongings, they do so in a big sweep. To have to go through it all and check for flaws and holes would be too traumatic. So maybe you get the good with the bad in some instances?
    Thanks for stopping by. And now look I’ve come over and rambled on and I’m supposed to be working!! HAHA! t.x

    • Conversation Pieces 05/06/2009 at 3:08 PM #

      Glad you draw the line at the mucky pants! That’s always good to know 😉 I do agree on the old ladies’ taste vs what us thrift hunters might find value in. It does seem like the best charity shops are now run by young people, who therefore know the value of things, or at least that seems to be in the case in Scotland.

  10. Nick 04/06/2009 at 12:40 PM #

    Don’t forget – you can also give to charity when you sell on eBay. Just choose a charity and the percentage of your sale price you’d like to give – anything from 10% to 100%.

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