Saturday, 1 November 2014


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 redun-
dant 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 dis-
play?" 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 atten-
tion 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 re-
quests."  (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 pol-
icy 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 situ-
ation.  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 sat-
isfied", not alienate them by
implementing and enforcing
ludicrous dictats.  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 in
a self-indulgent attempt to satisfy their feelings of self-importance.

Rant over.


(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.)


Arfon Jones said...

I've had a similar experience, a charity shop would not sell me the item in the window because the high street was having a best dressed window competition on at the time and they didn't want to "ruin" their display!!

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

I had a similar experience in an East Kilbride charity shop as well but in my case sensibility prevailed. I was in looking for a wee side cabinet for my bedroom (EK does get some amazing modern furniture in its charity shops - never got one though) anyway in their window they had a really nice modern type sculpture (very different) that when I asked how much it was they replied "sorry its not for sale its a display piece" to be fair in this case I kinda got that as it was very much a designer piece and it did attract me into the shop. However when I said "oh thats a pity its a nice item" the lady in the shop said what you are saying ie " well the shops here to make money for charity" and sold it to me for £5 (like you I gave her £10 as it was at least worth that and for a worthy cause) - I can see that some pieces are there to set the scenes and to attract people in (like my item - I would have totally understood if they refused to sell it) after all they are a "business" as well and need folk in the door BUT a teddy should be sold (what if a wee kid saw it as opposed t a wee big "kid" lol) ) some folk cant make a decision to save their lives (and no decision was really needed in your case a total jobsworth decisons)

Kid said...

Madness, AJ. Charity shops shouldn't involve themselves in such competitions at the expense of making money.


Back around 1988, I wanted to buy an old Christmas tree in the window of an Oxfam shop and made enquiries. It wasn't for sale because it WAS part of their Christmas display, but I offered to buy them a brand-new one from Woolworths in exchange - AND give them a cash donation as well. The volunteer refused, but I went back later and asked the manageress, whose response was much the same as in your case, McScotty - "Well, we're here to make money." So I got the tree, but you should've seen the look on the volunteer's face.

Colin Jones said...

This isn't to do with charity but "we can't make an exception for you" reminds me of when my father wanted a book that he'd seen advertised and he looked for it in WH Smith's but they didn't have it so he asked if he could order it only to be told "we can't order things just for you, you know" - what great customer service !! As for charities - it's amazing how much doesn't go to the people it's supposed to help but instead to large salaries and flash cars for the charity directors. A few years back it was revealed that Terry Wogan was paid £16,000 for hosting the few hours of Children In Need - I've read that he's worth at least £15 million so he could have done it for nothing as he hardly needs the money, the greedy old git.

Kid said...

A ridiculous attitude, CJ. No wonder some WHS's have been closed if they're not serving the customers' wants. I remember the Terry Wogan story, although £9,000 was the sum that I read, although it probably ran higher by the time all his 'perks' were counted up. (Those hair weaves cost quite a bit, I hear.)

Steven Docker said...

Can I believe this? Yes. Does it surprise me? No. Is madness like this confined to just charity shops? No. Two years ago my Mother passed away and everyone at work chipped in for flowers. After the funeral there was about £130 left over which I decided I would double and donate to the local hospice - they run a shop in the high street where I live. I walk into the shop with £260 in my hand and try to give it away - 20 minutes later I walk out utterly flabergasted after being told "We can't take the money unless we give you a receipt and we can't find the recipt book, can you come back another day?" No, I bloody well can't come back another day. Cue phone calls to higher-ups and much running around by the two volunteers manning the shop while I stand there felling just a little bit annoyed. In the end (after 20 minutes) I actually did manage to get them to take the money. It truly was a surreal and very disappointing experience. Mind you, after complaining to the hospice management I did get a grovelling apology.

Kid said...

First of all, condolences on the death of your mother, SD. Staggering that what should have been a touching moment in commemorating your mother's life by making a donation was ruined by the sheer ineptitude of the people manning that particular shop. Not to be unkind to ALL volunteers, but many of them have personal issues which they try to resolve by doing things such as helping out in charity shops. (In fact, many of them have pressure put on them to do so by the Job Centre.)

Essentially, what I'm saying is that a lot of them are there as some kind of therapy in order to help themselves, and assisting customers isn't their main priority. Harsh but true, I'm afraid. (Of course, that doesn't apply to all of them.)

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

Condolences on your loss Steven, its an awful time for anyone to go through without that happening - ...surreal but well done for sticking with it and getting the money out there where it is very much needed - take care

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