How do you feel about charity shops?

Does the murky smell of worn clothes and shoes make you queasy? Does the thought of reading yellowed book pages – complete with folded corners – make your stomach churn with uneasiness? Or, how about those pieces of costume jewellery that turn your skin from rosy to plankton when you try them on? Pleasant, huh?

After I left high school – and was unable to secure a summer job due to a lack of till experience – I ventured into my town’s local Marie Curie Cancer Care Charity shop to volunteer as a sales assistant. ‘Great’, I thought, ‘experience for my C.V. and the opportunity to be charitable.’ Sor-ted.

East Kilbride Connect:

My position ran on for longer than just the summer holidays. One year later, with first year of university completed and four seasons of donations under my belt, I had learned so much about the value of careful consideration when buying people presents.

During my first shift, I was immediately taken aback by the primary bag-full of donations I was given to sort: two M&S shirt and tie sets in unopened cellophane; a plethora of branded t-shirts (Nike, Superdry…) with the labels still woven into the fabric; a navy Jasper Conran suit without an inch of ware; several pairs of real leather brogues and an infinite supply of belts (most, again, with tags on).

I spent my that shift and many after it just sorting through bags of similar – and not-so-similar – stock, tagging item after item with £2.50, £3.00 and £4.00 labels.

I often try to remember what kind of place I expected charity shops to be before I worked there. Flea-ridden? Dirty and hostile environments where lost socks and stolen earrings end up? I couldn’t have been more wrong.

East Kilbride Connect:

Here’s why you should give them a go, too.

1. Here in the 21st century, charity shops do not carry the same nose-scrunching stigma they once used to as they are more so an outlet for dumping clean-out residue than ever before. (The saying ‘too good to throw out’ is potent right now.)

2. Charity shops have standards and will not sell produce which is dirty or damaged. Most will also steam iron clothes before hanging them out on the shop floor.

3. You’ll be giving back. I speak from experience when I tell you that the majority of the people you encounter in charity shops are not being paid. Your purchases generate donations for worthwhile causes whilst minimising waste.

4. With a little bit of perseverance next time you are scouring the rails of Primark knock-off’s and gruesome Gucci copies, it is highly likely that you will encounter some genuine pieces which have been priced by someone who doesn’t realise their value.

5. Rare vinyls, books and hard-to-find CDs are usually harboured within stores such as Oxfam Music and Oxfam Books. Additionally, there’s the added bonus that the volunteer sales assistants in these stores will, generally, have an interest in what they are selling and can advise you on the authenticity of so-called ‘collectors editions’ and signed copies – should they appear.

6. Got a new flat? Crockery sets are more often than not in abundance in charity shops.

7. While Waterstones continues to top the book shopping experience with in-store coffee shops and meet-and-greets with authors, many books are often available within charity shops for a fraction of the price. Cheap books equal more money to buy more books, after all. And this will be of exceptional use to students whose reading lists refresh every autumn. (They’re a good place to get rid of yours when you graduate, too!

8. Your trash is another man’s treasure. This is why charity shops have evolved into goldmines for vintage discoveries at hard-to-fathom prices. And today, brilliant bargain buys are met with respect and admiration – often leaving your extended family wondering where in the ancestry gene pool you acquired your supernatural shopping skills. 

Not sure where to begin? Here are some local charity shops in East Kilbride