Have you ever encountered such startling levels of stupidity as to make you want to wring your hands in sheer frustration and despair - or even the necks of po-faced, petty perpetrators of moronic madness on a massively-monumental scale? (Yes, I know "massively" is redundant in that sentence, but I'm waxing lyrical.) Here is such a tale.
So, I'm walking past a charity shop in the main shopping centre of my town when I see a teddy bear through the glass frontage and decide to buy it for someone I know. I ask inside and am told it's not for sale - it's a display item only. At the back of the shop are various other teddies of diverse shapes and sizes sitting on a low shelf, which are for sale. "Can't you sell me the teddy I want and replace it with one of the others?" I enquire. In short, "No!"
"Why not?" I ask politely. "Because it's for display only, not for sale!" comes the reply. The shop's most expensive teddy is only £3, so I offer them a tenner for the one I want. "It's not for sale!" I'm told again. "But can't you use one of the other bears for display?" I again venture. "No!" I'm told.
I'll give you the abridged version of events, otherwise we'll be here all week. In short, over the course of several days, I speak to assistant managers, managers, supervisors at head office, blah, blah, blah, and ask why it's so bloody difficult to purchase a teddy from them and swell their coffers by a tenner - more than three times the amount they're asking for one of Ted's even bigger-sized pals. This is what I'm told:
1) "Our staff aren't trained to rearrange the displays." (Can you believe this cr*p? Not trained to take one ted from a shelf at the back of the shop and swap it for one near the front? Gimme a break.)
2) "We want our displays to look their very best to entice people into the shop." (Fine, but what's the point of enticing them in if you're then going to refuse to sell them the very item that caught their attention and which they want to buy? Isn't the raison d'etre of the charity to raise money?)
3) "Our staff are too busy to accommodate individual customer requests." (I pass this shop practically every day. It's in a remote corner of the shopping centre and as quiet as the tomb. I don't think I've ever seen more than two customers in the place since it opened last year, and the staff sit around looking bored for most of the time.)
4) "It's our policy. If we make an exception for you, we'd have to do it for everyone." (Well, then it wouldn't be an exception, would it? But we'll let that loopy lapse in logic pass.) I thought it was their policy to raise money for charity, by selling items that people donate for that very purpose - not to try and win the 'window display of the year' award and deter folks from spending cash by refusing to take it from them in exchange for that which they wish to purchase.)
I'm on my soapbox now, but consider the absurdity of the situation. They're turning money away, instead of grabbing it and saying: "Thanks very much, do call again!" Their mission should be to sell everything they've got as quickly as possible, and then replenish their displays from fresh donations - not say "I can't sell you the item you want because it'll mess up our display and we'll have to start again." No, we can't have them inconvenienced, can we? That would never do. Not even when some cold, hard cash is at stake.
Charities are run (so I've always thought) to benefit the recipients of said charities, not the organisers, and the best way to facilitate that is to (in the words of the song) "keep the customer satisfied", not alienate them by implementing and enforcing ludicrous diktats. They're there to make money for the less fortunate, not refuse it on the grounds that moving one soft toy into the position of another is "against policy'" or is beyond the abilities (or inclination) of the staff.
In the end, I got Ted, who now sits proudly in the living room of the person for whom he was purchased. I also bought the other one (which likewise went to a good home), thereby adding £13 to the charity's funds. Cash I had to practically force on them by kicking up a fuss and reminding them that such places exist to help others less fortunate, not to fulfill the ambitions of those who want to rule over their own private fiefdoms inma self-indulgent attempt to satisfy their feelings of self-importance.
(Incidentally, I should perhaps add that I had previously seen items in the window with 'sold' signs on them, and I subsequently discovered that display items could be sold, but had to remain in the window display until it was changed, which was usually every fortnight. The shop still operates this way today, so why I was never told that I could pay for Ted and collect him later at the end of his service remains a mystery.)