Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Charity shops, huh yeah, what are they good for?

Tuesday, June 09, 2015
Dog ornaments with broken ears and cheap, plastic One Direction clocks, that's what... which is the next best thing to "absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh...absolutely nothing, say it again y'all".

Walk into most of the big name charity shops these days and all you'll find are the dregs of what has been donated. This is no accident or clandestine operation; what they're doing is filtering out anything vaguely interesting, or with a value and listing it on eBay instead. They state as much on the posters in their window, which refer you to their online presence. I suppose they're unique in that respect in that they helpfully inform you that you're wasting your time before you go in to browse the shelves.

Obviously it's in the best interests of charity shops to secure the highest price possible for each item, and the way to do that is by hawking it in front of a global - or at least national - audience, but why then even have a high-street outlet? They're absolutely pointless because they're just graveyards for the left-over tat that no-one would be prepared to pay postage to have delivered.

My tiny suburb of Manchester alone has ten of them, littering up the place and occupying the precious space an independent sole trader may otherwise have snapped up and used to offer a service or provide goods we're not already awash with. Part of the problem is that they don't pay business rates due to their charitable status so can easily afford to oust the competition, and the result is depressing, cloned high-streets featuring wall to wall charity shops, all flogging the same dross. Lots of them have now diversified into selling new tat which you can buy at any pound shop, just to fill the vacuum. They've effectively become drop-off points for eBay stock.

I hear there are some gems to be found outside of the big cities such as Manchester, London and Birmingham where the charity shops often don't have dedicated eBay listers/valuers, so everything goes on the shelves, and at a price well below what you could expect to pay on eBay. This is apparent from watching retro-gaming pickup videos on YouTube. Unless they're all staged as part of an elaborate, nationwide conspiracy to make me jealous.

Over the pond, nostalgia nerds are spoilt for choice judging by what I've seen in the Lazy Game Reviews 'thrifting' videos. In the US, charity shops are more like department stores where the sheer scale of the donations received make it impractical to catalogue it all for listing on eBay so you could stumble across almost anything that's legal and fit to sell.

True, you may still end up paying an eBay-equivalent price, though at least you don't have to faff around with shipping, waiting, or relying on other people to describe things accurately (which is another rant I could spin off into a post of its own if you're not careful). You can even test if electrical items work there and then using the mains outlets provided for this purpose. In any case, a big part of the fun is rummaging through to find the relics you remember fondly from your childhood, only now you can afford them without having to save up a year's worth of pocket money or relying on Santa Clause to bring you. It's the unadulterated randomness of it all that makes it special.

I think if I found a forty year old Apple computer - or even just a battered Megadrive - out in the wild, my brain would spontaneously combust. I'd love to see the hypnotically-voiced Clint (the host of the LGR YouTube channel) do a UK thrifting special. I imagine his brain would turn to cinders much like mine, but for entirely the opposite reason.


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