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What Charity Shops Don't Want You to Know About Your Donated Goods

Nell has worked in a number of Charity Shops and is familiar with the 'Behind the scenes' occurrences. She is now a full time writer.

Charity shops scam

Charity shops scam

Charity Does Begin at Home by Donating

Most of us give to charity at some time in our lives. Whether it be a few dollars in a can on the counter of a shop or joining a charity where you donate each month.

It makes us feel better about ourselves and we know that the money is going to a good home or disaster fund.

The other kind of charity is when we donate clothes, books and anything else we no longer need to a charity shop or thrift store. And we do this because we know that those things that have been hidden in the back of our cupboards or drawers are actually going to make a difference to someone.

Sometimes we give goods and toys to charity workers who are going to take them abroad. Maybe those clothes are going to a war-torn country or even a natural disaster.

Whichever way we give to charity we give it in good faith. We believe that those goods are going somewhere worthwhile.

But is it true? Do those donated goods really go to a good home, and does the money that we spend in those shops really get to where they are meant to go?

Nothing Goes to Waste

I have worked in a couple of charity shops over the years as a senior store sales assistant where I worked with a couple of other assistants.

The majority of the time everything went as it should. Donations poured in, and we all had to sort out the bags, decide where the clothes, toys and other brick a brack would go. Some had to be cleaned, others were ready for the shelf.

All the clothes that came in were automatically steamed cleaned whether they were clean or not. We were not allowed to put them straight on the shelves, so a lot of the time we spent out the back of the shop cleaning and sorting, making sure that everything was perfect.

Of course, there would always be a garment that was not suitable for the shop, maybe it had a tear in it or a stain that we couldn't remove. Most of these were put in the bags by accident, so they would go into the rag bags ready for the rag men to take away.

Even these are not wasted, they are either taken to another charity shop or given as rags for cleaning use.

charity shop lockers

charity shop lockers

Perks of the Job or Theft?

But soon I started to notice a few things that bothered me. For starters, there were a few assistants that believed they were entitled to some of the better goods. Without paying for them!

We all had lockers out the back of the shop, and many a time I would see one of them sneaking a brand new jacket, dress or shoes into the locker.

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I actually confronted them one day and said, 'Did you pay for that?' their answer? 'It's one of the perks of the job'!

Yes, I get that, to a certain extent. But only if you pay for it! Okay, if you like something then grab it as soon as it comes in, but the whole point of charity is the fact that these people have brought them in so that the money goes to charity. Not your pocket!

But still, it went on. I would deliberately pick something up I liked, try it on, and in front of all of them walk over to the till or charity box and place the money inside.

Sadly it never rubbed off on the other workers! They thought it was good pickings for them. We probably lost lots of money because of their greed. Or should I say theft!

Don't get me wrong, this was not just in my charity shop, this is world wide. I heard about people taking goods many years ago when my mother's friend worked in a charity shop. I was shocked. But that's not all.

Electrical goods thrown away in charity shops.

Electrical goods thrown away in charity shops.

Never Donate Electrical Goods

Did you know that all charity or thrift stores do not take electrical goods? Or should I say sell electrical goods?


Because they are not allowed to on the basis that if the goods are faulty, they could either electrocute someone or just not work.

But most charity shops do not have this sign in their windows. They don't mention it to the people who are donating the goods, and they take them with a smile.

Why? So they can take it straight back home with them that's why! Sound systems, hairdryers, CD players, Televisions, they have all come through the shop I was working in, and yes straight out the back door into the cars of the people who work in the shop.

The other rather strange and disturbing thing about the electrical goods and also other goods such as ornaments, paintings and even really good quality handbags and shoes, is that they get thrown into the trash bin!

Why? Because nobody wants them. If it's the electrical goods, they go straight in the bin if they are not wanted, but the other goods are thrown away if they haven't sold after a month.

Why are they not sent to another charity shop? Yep, good question!

Expensive electrical goods thrown away in charity shop bin.

Expensive electrical goods thrown away in charity shop bin.

Thrown Away? It's a Disgrace

I actually know someone who goes and takes the goods out of the bin, and sells them. Either for her own money, or most of the time, to give to charity. And she has even told the owner of the shop, which got this reply.

'Well you can do what you want, we don't care, once it's in the rubbish it's nothing to do with us'.

So, once again, why don't they just send the goods to another charity shop? Or maybe a local village hall could sell them for charity.

It doesn't take a lot of common sense now, does it? And I say good for that lady who takes it back out of the bin to sell it. At least it's going to a good home, or another store.

The last thing to mention is how a lot of store workers give 'discounts' to friends and relatives. For example, if one of their friends comes in and wants a jacket that costs approx 20 dollars, they will let them have it for 2 or 3 dollars. This is defeating the object! But hey, it's just another day at the shop, so why not scam it?

This is how a charity shop should be, with a good reputation.

This is how a charity shop should be, with a good reputation.

Track Your Donations.

So now you know all that, do you still want to donate to charity? Yes of course you do, but here are a few tips on how to choose the right store.

  • Take a look around the store. See what's on offer, how long the goods have been there, should have a date on the labels, and then maybe see if they do sell electrical goods.
  • Really check what you are donating. Don't just give what you don't like. If nobody else likes it then it will end up in the trash.
  • If you take in a really expensive coat or goods, make sure you check over the next few days to see if it's been sold, and if it's not in the store, ask who bought it. In fact, put a label on it that says for the store to contact you when it has been sold. You can do this in most charity shops.

Carry on Donating

I just want to add that the last charity shop I worked in did not do any of these things. They were great, well respected and monitored for bad behavior just in case anyone got out of line. The store I am talking about was a few years ago in the next town. They know who they are!

Charity is always a good thing to do. We know that people need clothing, money and medicines to help them. Don't stop donating purely on the basis of this article. Out of all the thousands of donations a day only a small percentage is taken by the charity workers, so even if you lose out on one item through the theft in the store it's still worth giving to charity shops.

Charity donations bring a smile to those in need. And that's what counts.

*All info is based on UK Charity Shops and not USA or Overseas. The US does take in electrical goods, unlike Britain. Always check when taking your goods to the store.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2014 Nell Rose

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