Thursday, May 14, 2009

Charity doesn't begin with old bras


Do you remember Mary Queen of Shops? You know, the show in which retail guru Mary Portas, who looks like a ginger Mary Quant in slightly too young clothes, goes in to save failing boutiques?

Well last night we watched the first episode of her new series Mary Queen of Charity Shops. It was great.

I'm a huge fan of charity shops, and I've been in and out of them since I was a teenager. War On Want, The Spastics Society, Guide Dogs For the Blind, etc., once for skinny ties and old overcoats and then concentrating mainly - and still to this day - on old records, CDs and DVDs. You can find all sorts of bargains which you can then either keep or more likely pop on eBay. I once sold a Nigerian James Brown single for £45. There's a rare gem to found among the endless copies of Paul Young's No Parlez or Make The Party Last.

It all depends how good they are of course, on the area. This is what came across in the show. The better the area, the better the junk, though it's hard to come by.

These places are always staffed by old biddies who are either sweet or plain mean or a bit bonkers or all three. There was a woman in the very good Winchester Oxfam Books & Music shop who, whenever you presented your purchase to her would remark that 'it was the first record I ever bought' or 'the first book I ever read'. Clearly it's all lies but she meant well. She's still there too.

The women in the programme had done variously between five and 46 years. There were hundreds of them operating out of one shop and it was a total non-money-making disaster, with a hapless regional manager and no shop manager. Mary works her magic. Or does she. I'll say no more because you'll want to see it for yourselves.

Needless to say, some of the rubbish they had dumped on the doorstep was an insult. Used nappies, bags of old underwear, complete with sanitary towels and the worst bric-a-brac that even people at car boot sales would baulk at. All the time you're watching that charity shop smell lingers in the air too. Can you smell it?

Are you a charity shop fan?

15 comments:

Simon said...

While the odd bargain can still be had, I'm worried that some of the local shops are turning themselves into businesses.

I don't mind the "new" products, but our local Oxfam is beginning to specialise in music and comparing their prices with Amazon. So I may as well just buy the CD new from the interweb rather than supporting the charity for a second hand one.

Five-Centres said...

What also came out of this show is that they are businesses. There are overheads and they need to make money. Prices will not be what they once were.

Planet Mondo said...

FC have you checked the King's Road charity shops there's two near the Vivienne Westwood end..

I've always been a terror for a them - my main shopping lists were..

vintage Levis - you won't find them anymore

Herb Alpert, Soundtrack, TV comp albums

Paperbacks - which I still buy from charity shops

But pre-No Parlez charity shop classics, that every shop HAD to have were...

Jaws in paperback

James Bond in Pan Paperback

And tobacco stained copies of this...

Bright Ambassador said...

I bought a Stanley Holloway single out of Oxfam alst year purely because it made a good blog entry. The assistant was 106 years old and YOU HAD TO SHOUT BECAUSE HE WAS A BIT MUTTON AND THE SINGLE WAS IN THE WINDOW DISPLAY SO I HAD TO ASK FOR IT!

Dan W said...

I hope you split the £45 profit with the shop. you've fleeced them there!

Charity shops are great for bargains for fancy dress. Have assembled both pirate and viking outfits for previous NYE nights from places in my hometown.

Also for university charity turned up Dracula for something like 99p and so forth, where Blackwells, the on campus and utterly uselessly staffed, bookshop charged something like £5.

Never seem to spot any hidden treasures though. First edition of Tales of Two Cities or Harry Potter elude me.

Beth said...

I want to be good at charity shopping but I'm a bit scared of going in to any actual shops. They make me feel sad and I worry that I'll end up buying a puce crimpolene two-piece out of shame and pity.

Roman Empress said...

I was in Chipping Norton this weekend and bought a lovely, short black blazer for only £3. I'm ashamed to say though, I've no idea what charity I was supporting.

Five-Centres said...

I suppose really the charity is irrelevant. You do your bit by just buying. I mean, you might want to support Cancer Research, but there might not be anything you want to buy. Scope may not be your bag but it's full to the brim of bargains. So what do you do? Just shop away.

Cocktails said...

Has this series started yet or were you watching a preview tape?! I hope so, because I am a sucker for Mary Portas and have to watch it. As an added bonus, my work features in an episode (not as a client, sadly I don't work for a charity shop) and I'm dying to see it. Mary looked immaculate, exactly as she does on telly.

Five-Centres said...

It's a preview, Cocktails due to air in a couple of weeks. She is fascinating to look at. They showed her at home with her, er, partner. If one of the places she was in was your workplace, it's swanky.

Cocktails said...

If it's swanky, it's not my workplace. My other half works has the swanky workplace - or at least the building where they shoot lots of Spooks episodes and Norwich Union ads...

Five-Centres said...

I wondered if that Norwich Union building was ITV in Gray's Inn Road? Am I right?

Cocktails said...

No, the Blue Fin building (IPC!) just behind Tate Modern.

Five-Centres said...

So that's what it's like inside. I had no idea.

Ishouldbeworking said...

The only reason you would ever want to go to Eastbourne is that it has excellent charity shops. Though one of them (not fair to say which) always smells of sick (you'll know straight away.).

I got a beautiful 50s swing coat for £15 a few years ago. It would have been a fiver a few years before that, but they've got a bit canny, not that I mind.

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