Archive for November, 2013

Erm, please someone explain, why might it be immoral…?

November 19, 2013

… to buy something in a charity shop, then sell it on at a profit?

It’s a discussion I was having with my elder daughter this morning, and have had with others online over the last few years. Once or twice things have got quite heated. Why do some people feel that we are somehow cheating the charity, if we’re paying the price they are asking for an item? Most of them are pretty savvy these days & aren’t likely to sell an original Picasso for the same price as a fake Constable print in a plastic frame. I will only buy stuff in a charity shop (thrift store, to our American cousins) if I actually need it for myself or our home, OR if I’m certain I can at least double my money on it. But that doesn’t actually mean that the charity could have got twice as much for it, and I’m cheating them. Nor does it mean I’m doubling my money with each purchase.

For a start, many of the things I have picked up from them over the years have needed work put into them to achieve the higher price. They’ve needed cleaning, servicing or mending, maybe some parts supplied & fitted. Clothes may have needed a bit of surgery; for example, a 1970s Lurex jumper is actually more valuable without its sleeves at the moment, as the students like to wear them as tunics, with a belt. For another thing, part of my expertise, such as it is, is knowing what my customers are interested in & will buy; charity shops by & large are very general, selling a bit of whatever comes in in saleable condition, but a large proportion of their stock is of no interest to me & my customers whatsoever. You have to hunt quite hard for “treasure” and be prepared to pass by a lot of dross on the way, although one man’s trash is, of course, another man’s treasure. So part of my “mark-up” is because my customers, by & large, don’t have the time to hunt through twenty-odd shops for one piece of genuine 1950s fabric for their vintage caravan renovation project. But they know they will likely find 4 or 5 pieces to choose from on my stall. One or two of those may have been picked up in charity shops, but the rest have come via car boot & jumble sales, house clearances and other contacts, so that’s another reason why I am not just a parasite leaching money away from charities; they would never have seen a penny of the money for those pieces in the first place. And some of my stock is bought from charity shops that have failed to sell it in the time they allow things to be “on the sales floor”; at least they are getting something for it from me, and usually a fair bit more than the ragman would have given them.

I have expenses I need to cover, too. Stalls don’t come free, and people are often shocked when they find out what the stall fees are; yes, it does cost more than a car boot pitch, or a table-top at a school sale. This is because the organisers will have expenses they need to cover too, like staff, proper advertising & rent. I use fuel to find stock and more to get it to where it needs to be. My washing machine uses energy & consumables and I go through coat hangers, safety pins and even price labels at an alarming rate. So it’s not just a matter of buying something for £1 at Oxfam, carting it off and selling it on for £2 at Molly’s Den or Boscombe Vintage Market.

Can someone please explain to me why people get so upset about the idea that I can buy something in one place and sell it on at a profit in a more appropriate place, if there’s a charity involved? I would not take the bread from the mouth of a starving child to sell it, as one slightly hysterical online commentator once accused me of; it doesn’t seem equivalent at all to me, but am I missing some important idea or concept here?


“Shopping” in your own home…

November 2, 2013

I’ve been puzzling over where to put my bread maker. Although my kitchen’s quite big, at 12′ x 15′, I don’t have a lot of worktop. One reason for this is that it’s always covered with clutter, but another reason is that there really isn’t very much, just a 4′ stretch between the cooker & the sink. For many years my trusty breadmaker has shared this with the enormous fruit bowl & the spill-over from my woefully inadequate spice rack; am I the only cook who could do with a full cupboard-sized spice rack? I really do use them all regularly! The breadmaker is in regular, if not constant, use, but I’d become increasingly aware of how much its great white plastic dome intruded on the rustic look of the place, such as it is. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I moved it onto a small table on the other side of the room, where it looked much more at home. The problem was, the rackety little plywood table, with a crumpled, water-damaged top, was a “sacrifice” picked up specifically & needed for its parts; the legs are now installed on a workbox/footstool and the leg connectors have rescued my lovely pink Lloyd Loom chair. But I couldn’t think what else would be the right size; the space isn’t in use for anything else, but it’s pretty small.

Until I noticed my Swedish-made step-stool in the utility room, that is. The top is just the right size & the footprint’s not too big for the space. A good height for a breadmaker, too. But – it’s in constant use, as a step-stool! So I’d made up my mind to pop into my favourite Viking emporium when I go to pick up son no. 3 for a dental appointment next week, and invest a whole £11 in another one.

One of the very minor precautions I took before last week’s storm, which luckily passed us by with very little damage, was to fill both our big camping water containers with tap water in case of any interruption or contamination to the supply; it’s not unknown for our local river to burst its banks. I emptied these early this week, let them dry out & went to replace them in the shed. On – surely, that’s an Ikea step-stool…? I did a proper double-take; I hadn’t a clue I owned two of them! A vague memory surfaced of having picked one up for someone who’d mentioned that they wanted one, but had got one literally the day before I found this one; I must have stuffed it out there soon after & was just using it to keep some camping stuff off the damp concrete floor.

This wasn’t the first instance of finding I’d already got something I thought I needed to go out & buy. It’s always happening with fabric and kitchen utensils – I’ve lost track of the times I’ve spent good money on a modern minor electrical appliance, only to discover that the old hand-operated one was better, quicker & easier both to use and to wash up afterwards – but has also happened this week with lamps and suitcases, oddly enough. I’ve been really busy moving my stall at Molly’s Den into the main warehouse as well as preparing for Boscombe Vintage Market, and didn’t have time to go shopping for things I thought I needed. Which was lucky really, as it turned out I didn’t actually need them, so would have wasted both my time & money. And I do now “shop” my existing wardrobe before even thinking of buying anything new, and look at how I could team things up differently or tweak details to make a “new” outfit. Not just for financial or indeed ethical reasons: I’m an odd shape & when I find something that both fits & suits me, I need to treasure it & hang onto it as long as possible!

I expect most people are much better organised than me, and don’t lose track of their possessions & clothing, but to anyone else whose home resembles the storage area of a secondhand emporium (which in our case it actually is) – don’t wear yourself out running up to town to buy a whatever-you-think-you-need – you’ve almost certainly already got one somewhere!