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Volunteer or Scrounger?

(136 Posts)
Grrrrann Sat 02-Mar-24 17:56:00

I have volunteered in a charity shop for well over 10 years, but can't believe that some volunteers think it is their right to get what they
want for less than a fair price, or sometimes for free.
I volunteered to help raise money for a good cause, and I feel that the perks for volunteers should be the ability to purchase previously priced items before they go on sale in the shop. Also to make a donation for unsold goods before they go to be recycled.
I keep seeing things happening that I disagree with, and it's really getting to me, as I am friends with some of these people, and my closest, non-volunteering friend thinks it probably goes on in most charity shops. Am I a grumpy old granny? Should I turn a blind eye? Any advice welcome. Thanks

AlwaysSmiling Sat 02-Mar-24 18:01:31

I volunteered in a charity shop after my husband died and I was disgusted with the other volunteer staff. They were like scavengers when decent clothes and shoes came into the shop, it was absolutely sickening. They never paid for anything and took all the best stuff home with them. I was only there for a few days then left. In my opinion, many of these volunteers are only there to get freebies.

I always used to donate my Wallis, Hotter, Marks and Spencer etc. items to the charity shops but when I saw what was happening, I just took them to the Salvation Army so they could help people.

dogsmother Sat 02-Mar-24 18:02:54

Oh dear, I have no experience of shop volunteering but it does seem a bit immoral. Big but though if stuff is sale why not have first dibs if you’re paying? Or are you saying they help themselves no donation?

Grrrrann Sat 02-Mar-24 18:10:20

I have volunteered, in a charity shop for well over 10 years, but can't believe that some volunteers think it is their right to get what they want for less than a fair price, or sometimes for free.
I volunteered to help raise money for a good cause, and I feel that perks for volunteers should be the ability to purchase previously priced items before they go on sale in the shop. Also to make a donation for unsold goods before they go to be recycled.
I keep seeing things happening that I disagree with, and it's really getting to me, as I am friends with some of these people and my closest, non-volunteer friend thinks it goes on in most charity shops.
Am I a grumpy old granny? Should I turn a blind eye? Any advice welcome

BlueBelle Sat 02-Mar-24 18:13:35

Not like that in our shop we have a strict policy we can buy with the perk of 20p in the pound off discount It is always adhered too and everything goes through the till with a till receipt
Never have anything under the counter at all there’s at least 30 of us and I would trust every one

BlueBelle Sat 02-Mar-24 18:15:14

I should add if the item has already been thrown away or ragged we can have it for a sensible donation priced decided by the boss

OldFrill Sat 02-Mar-24 18:21:46

I've volunteered in two national charity shops. They were as professionally run as any good retail business. As a volunteer we could have items put to one side but the cost was the same as they would be sold in the shop. These shops were also encouraging volunteers (many with learning/social difficulties to train for the workforce, and were very successful at this.
The level of shoplifting was dumbfounding, and rarely people who actually couldn't afford to pay.

TinSoldier Sat 02-Mar-24 18:32:47

I have managed a shop raising funds for the local hospice. All charities have their own policies. Stock could only be priced by a manager or assistant manager. Volunteers could purchase goods only from stock that was out on the shelves and available to all customers. Volunteers paid the shelf price. All staff transactions had to be rung up by the manager or assistant manager which prevented any fiddling. Head office set very high sales targets to we had to make every penny count. Giving volunteers freebies and discounts wasn’t even a consideration. Who wants to take funds away from cancer care?

Primrose53 Sat 02-Mar-24 18:53:10

I volunteered for nearly 15 years and the only perk we got was 10% off but that item had to have been out on the shop floor first. We had a staff book and it was recorded in there together with the receipt. The person on the till and the volunteer purchasing something both had to sign the book.

Several of us used our cars to get there due to poor bus service and we also had to pay to park for the morning which was quite expensive. Most of us also donated clothes, books and bric a brac to the charity.

BlueBelle Sat 02-Mar-24 18:56:29

Exactly Primrose oldfrill and tinsoldier I don’t recognise the shop graaaan is talking about not run anything like ours is

flappergirl Sat 02-Mar-24 19:55:32

I remember helping out at a couple of church jumble sales many years ago. I wasn't a church goer and am not religious but I got involved through a friend (long story).

We had some lovely stuff donated, not just clothes but ornaments and the like, some of which were basically antiques. The good lady volunteers snaffled a good portion of everything without paying before it got to the jumble sale.

It properly sickened me.

Doodledog Sat 02-Mar-24 19:58:15

My mum used to help in a charity shop and it sounded exactly as the OP describes. The staff would keep things back for one another before they were put on the shelves (eg baby clothes if someone was expecting a new grandchild) and price at 'mates' rates'. My mum would often say things such as 'Maureen got another lovely coat today. It was good as new, and Sandra priced it at a fiver for her, and then she got her staff discount so she got it for £4. None of the helpers saw anything wrong with this at all. They were/are hard-working and gave their time free, as well as enjoying the company that working there gave them, and felt that this was fair compensation.

It put me off giving decent clothes to charity shops. I have no issue at all with a good coat being sold cheaply, but it doesn't sit right with me to think of it going to a volunteer for next to nothing - that way the charity doesn't benefit so much and the shop isn't so much of a resource for the community. I had a big clear out recently, and my husband took lots of shoes and bags to a charity shop over a few weeks. He said that the assistants always asked when he was planning his next drop-off so that they could get first dibs. I never saw a single item in the window.

TinSoldier Sat 02-Mar-24 20:45:30

Following on from what I posted upthread.

I don’t doubt that there are some shops that may be run along more casual lines. It seems to be a general misconception among members of the public that volunteers can take donated goods for themselves. We had the occasional customer who would donate goods and come back a day or so later to check if they were out on the shelves, asking pointed questions if they weren’t. The inference was that a staff member had already helped themself. I lost count of how many times I explained our policy to customers. Also, that we only had so much shop space. We had shelves and shelves of goods out the back, ready to replenish the front rails and shelves and boxes and boxes of stored seasonal clothes. Goods that hadn't sold after two weeks were moved on to another branch.

The charity I worked for had many branches. Managers know the kinds of goods that sell well and those that don't. Similarly what sells well in one branch may not sell well in another. So we had specialist branches for different kinds of goods. We all sold a general range of clothes, shoes, books, DVDs, toys, costume jewellery and bric-a-brac but we also had specialist branches for, say, formal wear, vintage books and music. Anything of that kind was sent on immediately to the other branches.

We sold precious metals and stones via a dealer who gave us a good price rather than put goods out on the shelves or under the glass front counter and risk having them stolen. We had an eBay shop for anything else particularly valuable.

Perhaps other charities don’t have sales targets. We were a small branch open six days a week but tucked away on a fairly affluent housing estate. The quality of donations was good. When I worked there, five years ago, our monthly sales target was £25,000.

The sale of rags and paper to merchants, the precious metals and eBay proceeds all went towards that target but we had to make over £1,000 a day from that and counter sales. That's a lot when most shop sales were for 50p to £5.

No way were we going to let staff take goods that were saleable. It was run on a professional basis like any other business.

BlueBelle Sat 02-Mar-24 21:09:41

Yes our charity shop is exactly as you describe Tinsoldier
Ours runs very professionally and a lot of our goods and books do go on eBay we have dedicated people working on those
We have a chain of 46 shops and some will sell more expensive labels so what sells at one shop may not be what came in through the doors

Doodledog Sat 02-Mar-24 22:01:45

The shop my bags went to was the ‘boutique’ branch of a chain, which is why I chose it, as the bags were good ones.

I’m not saying that all charity shops are the same - I know that people on here have said that theirs are not like the one where my mum worked (in support of a local hospice). I also don’t know if my bags sold for a fair price or to the staff - just that the assistants asked my husband when he’d be back with more.

I know for sure that things were creamed off by staff where my mum worked though - as I say, they saw nothing wrong with it and were very open about it.

TinSoldier Sat 02-Mar-24 22:40:14

Not a lot of people know this but legally, a charity is obliged to offer the donor the proceeds from the sale of goods that have been donated (less a sales commisson plus VAT).

Few people are every likely to want to claim and if the donor hasn’t registered for Gift Aid, the receiving shop won’t have any way of contacting them.

Strictly, shops should be collecting the contact details of all donors and telling them how much their goods have raised but it would be a huge administrative task. For the most part it’s assumed that the reason people donate goods is to raise money for the cause.

But if a donor wanted to know what a particular item had been sold for that would be the route of enquiry to go down.

If anyone is concerned about what is going on in a charity shop, they have a right to complain - to the shop or to the charity’s head office in the frst instance - then to the Funding Regulator if the complaint cannot be resolved.

Oopsadaisy1 Sun 03-Mar-24 08:10:24

The Charity shop I volunteered at had a strict rule that goods had to be on the shop floor for 24 working hours before a Volunteer was allowed to buy it for the label price, all price tags were dated.

Primrose53 Sun 03-Mar-24 09:09:50

Doodledog my BIL was also asked if he would be “back with more”. My SIL died 2 years ago and he had to dispose of literally thousands of knitting patterns, expensive knitting magazines and a room FULL of craft books in pristine condition for knitting, crochet, patchwork, embroidery etc.

He took the first boot full and the ladies were overjoyed. When he went with the next load they asked if there was more to come as it was so popular and sold really well that they would clear an area and make a special craft corner. He didn’t mind a bit being asked.

mae13 Sun 03-Mar-24 09:17:58

I volunteered in a Save The Children shop - some of the staff treated it like a free lucky dip.

Patsy70 Sun 03-Mar-24 09:41:00

There are one or two volunteers in the charity shop where I volunteer who take advantage, coming into the shop when they’re not working, helping themselves to a cuppa and biscuits, then looking through clothes etc. which have not yet gone on display. However, the managers are aware of this and deal with it diplomatically. If I buy something, then decide it’s not right for me, I return it, but wouldn't ask for a refund. I’m also a gift aider, so my donations are a generous contribution. Plus the fact that I so enjoy working with a bunch of lovely people. 😊

J52 Sun 03-Mar-24 09:48:36

Just before Christmas I was in our local charity shop, where one of the volunteers ( off hand at the best of times) was buying a large amount of boxed, good condition articles. Presumably for gifts. The quantity and type were unlikely to have just been on the shelves, but looked as if they’d been ‘gathered’.
The volunteer on the till totted them up and asked for £35. The purchaser then asked for staff discount! The volunteer on the till responded that over £40 had to be spent for staff discount.
Now anything that I have to donate either goes to clothing the homeless, or to other specific charity causes.

TinSoldier Sun 03-Mar-24 09:49:18

The whole ethos of volunteering is that a person gives their time freely for no reward of any monetary value.

If volunteers are taking stock they are stealing. It’s no different to a paid employee of an organisation helping themselves. They should be subject to a warning or dismissed.

If a manager is allowing this behaviour, they should be fired too.

Doodledog Sun 03-Mar-24 09:54:11

I repeat that I am not saying that the things in my post are typical - just that they bear out the experience of the OP.

MissAdventure Sun 03-Mar-24 10:00:03

I'd call it worse than "scrounging".

Spuddy Sun 03-Mar-24 10:12:58

I totally get what you're saying and I agree with you 100%.

Some years ago, in between doing paid jobs for other companies, I worked for various charities as a shop manager/assistant manager/supervisor and I trained volunteers with special needs and the disabled and elderly, the amount of scrounging that went on with a lot of volunteers was awful, they were basically stealing donated goods.

One of my volunteers was an ex-charity shop manager herself, she managed that shop before I took over, then she became a volunteer at the same shop. She was obsessed with bathroom things so as soon as any beauty stuff and shampoo, decent bathroom mats and towels etc. was donated she literally lifted the lot and put it in her own bags. From what she told me she ''had a bathroom overflowing'' with such things.

Another in another shop was obsessed with Mills & Boon books, we put them on sale for only 30p each paperback and 40p hardback. Before we managed to get them out of her hands to price and put them out for sale, she'd snatch the lot then read through them and scribble out any sexual words/phrases in black ink but she loudly announced she hates any sort of porn, she'd damage them by blotting out and she'd sit there reading them all the time instead of volunteering so of course because they were damaged I couldn't sell them. She also volunteered with the shop directly next door and did the same there, but for some reason they worshipped her so let her get away with it while I gave her a mouthful and told her I'll have her done and sacked for theft if I ever see her do such things again AND she'll have to pay our shop full price for each item, as I threatened with the ''bathroom'' lady, reminding them both that those who were kind enough to donate things weren't donating to the staff for their own personal use, it was for the charities, so because of their arrogance, selfishness and thieving, the charities weren't getting the money and the customers weren't getting goods.

There were various other incidents too over the years.

Those sort don't go to volunteer, they just go to scrounge and scavenge and steal.

We had what we called ''sin bins'' in our staff quarters where if an item donated was a bit too damaged to sell, no matter what the item was, then it would be ''sinned'' and volunteers could help themselves to what they wanted as long as it was bought up in front of the manager/whoever was in charge at the time and the manager would then put it through the till as a staff discount.