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In Praise of Charity Shops


What great places Charity Shops are! Not only do they do good for the good causes which they represent, and not only do they allow folk to do good by donating stuff to them (shop around), but also they are bargain shops whose stock is of an eclectic breed for sure! The range of stuff on sale in even a modestly interesting charity shop is often quite amazing. Nick-nacks and bric-a-brac from around the world and from a variety of historic periods and diverse tastes tends to appear as if by miraculous chance at charity shops, and even quite practical items such as teapots are available at less than the normal price. Clothes, whilst giving the impression on the racks of being mainly mainstream are sufficiently bargain priced that, with a bit of careful selection and ingenious modification, can be turned into outfits of some character and individuality.

There is a myth, commonly held by a set of people who you might suppose would know better, that charity shops are somehow a "poor person's shop", and that stuff bought from such places is cheap secondhand stuff of poor quality. However, even a quick look around a few actual charity shops will soon prove this is not true! The notion of "secondhand" is a myth in itself, as most of the priceless treasures of the world are by definition secondhand (paintings by Van Gogh, the Koh-i-Noor diamond, Tutankhamun's death-mask etc - all of them secondhand). I'm not saying you'll find anything priceless like that in a charity shop! I'm just using it as a philosophical point to destroy the myth of "secondhand", which if you think about it is a rumour put about by the quasi-fashionable salesmanlike hype in which "NEW!" became habitually used when selling anything.

Plus, further to dispelling of the "poor person" idea, we all know that it is the wise and well-off people who know how to hunt a bargain. Poor people tend to be more spendthrift, and it could be argued that this may explain to some extent why they are short of money.

So, if you're a rich and famous person and you're seen poking over the interesting stuff in charity shops, be proud of it! You need have no shame, as they are interesting places which have things for sale which you can't buy new, at least not any more!

As with the careful choosing of goods to buy in POUND SHOPS, it is your ingenuity and ability to "think outside of the box" which gives you the edge. Often, even fairly ordinary items can be adapted and put into use in ways which show class and style.

All this good news about charity shops is even before we get on to the fact that they earn revenue which goes towards helping good causes such as charities! There are other things to consider, for example the fact that the actual presence of a charity shop as tenant in a commercial property can defend the owner of the building against the local council charging absurd business rates for an empty building! (Different rules apply for different political regimes, so don't quote me on this).

Another thing about charity shops is that many of the staff are there voluntarily and are giving their time to the job for no pay. This is very noble of them and it's especially important to be friendly to them. But the fact is that the people aren't going to stay working for the place if the job satisfaction isn't good, so you tend to see very cheerful folk working in charity shops.

Now let's get back to this bargain-hunting and ingenuity line of thought. Here are just a few examples of items which to the unthinking eye are unvaluable, yet when a teaspoon of actual spark of thought is added, results are found!...

* 1970s watch. Of course you can't get them anymore, and the price tag is probably as low as "old watch" might imply, but wearing such an item is a fashion statement in itself. Plus of course it tells the time.

* Miniature pedal-bin. OK, you don't need one. But, just peel the sticker of a computer of a particular kind, the one that says "Made for Microsoft Windows", and stick it onto the bin. Instant political Linux statement!

* Wedding dress. Typically well under-priced for what it is, and most likely with "one careful owner" being an appropriate description. There is a fashion by which people of a Gothic ethos may adapt such a wedding dress in various ways, probably dye it black, and so create a distinctive outfit. (Minor eyebrow-raising note: Goths of any gender are able to do this).

* Souvenirs from around the world. Obviously originally bought by tourists when visiting the places, but now, out of context, what value do they have? After all, it's not as if you've been to <place>! Well, it would in theory be possible to acquire a truly amazing set of diverse touristy items from all around the world and create an international collection, and this could be done with very little expenditure. Even if you've never been to the places, remember, the items have come FROM those places, so there is to some extent a real element of "owning a piece of the moon" to possessing such objects. The collection would be a talking point to amaze your friends! I think there is a special point to raise here: If you are going to actually go in for international travel, this idea loses its charm. To be a true charity shop international souvenir hunter you really need to be the sort of person who isn't really into actually travelling!

Camera. Of course you already have a camera, but I guess you are very careful with it and never let it get in any danger as it's an expensive item?! (Oh yes). But, buying a bargain priced charity shop camera and putting into it a free film (which you can get!), you now have a picture-taking machine with which you can afford to take risks. Better and cheaper than a disposable camera, this is the favoured imaging tool of amateur rocket launching enthusiasts, extreme kite-flying hobbyists, and experimenters generally of a type whose pictures will certainly be worth paying for developing if the camera survives!

A telephone. Just buy it. It's an insurance policy for when your in-use phone fails.


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Another thing: Charity shops are a jolly good thing, and you see plenty of them in the UK but curiously they are not so usual in Panama. Perhaps the UK gives special status to charity shops!