What price training for charity shop volunteers?

The last time I took a donation to a charity shop, it was a great experience.

I took an unwanted jewellery box, full of costume jewellery, to a Cancer Research UK shop. The volunteer behind the desk could not have been more excited or grateful for my gift. I left with the warm glow you get from doing something good.

So, this time, having had a pre-Christmas clearout, I was expecting something similar. I took a bag of clothes, in good condition, to an Oxfam shop. But the woman behind the desk looked at me blankly as I handed over my donation, and promptly shoved my gift on the floor.

I must have been looking at her expectantly, because after a few awkward seconds she said, “er, yeah, thanks.”

As I had planned, I told her I also had a bag of unsellable clothes at home, some of which were torn or had broken zips. I asked whether it would be helpful if I brought those in so the shop could sell them as rag.

She looked at me blankly again. “You want to do what?” she said. When I explained again, she called the store manager over. His response was unenthusiastic – he said they’d recycle them for me if I wanted.

I managed to stop myself from saying that I was trying to do them a favour rather than asking them to do one for me.

I left feeling deflated, and even a little annoyed. From speaking to colleagues it has become clear that I’m not the only one to have had this experience.

I understand that it’s expensive for charities to invest in training volunteers. But these little interactions at a grass-roots level play a crucial role in shaping the public’s perception of charities, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they also influence people’s future charitable donations. Investing in volunteer training would surely pay off in the long term.