You know I love my charity shops. I love them for their variety and diversity and spontaneity. And with that lovely crucible of potential often comes an alternative and very mixed clientele of bargain hunters, vintage lovers, students, collectors and many more besides. But in the last while, I’ve noticed a new breed of customer with an altogether new type of behaviour-the charity shop haggler.
Now, let me set out my stall. I love a find at the right price. And I love to haggle. Part of the fun of places like car boots and junk shops is the jostle for the best price. And when it’s done in good spirit with a little banter and craic, it makes you feel like you have had a small victory and made a friend!
However, charity shops in my opinion should be sacrosanct from the haggle. Let me tell you why.
Charities employ staff/volunteers to price their items – now we all know that these prices are sometimes too high, sometimes too low, but more often than not, right on the money for the target market. As a result, when you buy in a charity shop, your purchase is really a donation. To haggle therefore is to quibble over your donation to the charitable cause. I know that not everyone crosses a charity shop threshold because they believe in their mission and values, but the charity’s team has placed a value on their items which they believe is appropriate. I think we should accept that value judgement.
Secondly, charity shop fortune is based on a law of averages! Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t, and by that I mean there are occasions when we pick something up for a steal and other times when we pay more than the going rate just because we truly love something we’ve found. That’s just how it is and haggling interferes with this finely tuned equilibrium!
And finally, like the rest of us mere mortals, charities are not having an easy time in this difficult economic climate. According to the Charities Aid Foundation, one in six UK charities questioned for a survey say they fear they may have to close in 2013 due to public spending cuts and falling donations. Charity shops are a commercial venture. Yes, they are a way for good causes to support local communities with affordable products and yes, they also generate awareness of the cause on the high street. But ultimately, shops raise valuable funds to help charities survive.
So, while I am undoubtedly a believer in the haggle, I won’t ever employ bargaining tactics in a charity shop. I’ll pay the price they ask and hope that my minuscule contribution helps make the place we live in a little better for us all.