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Tuesday, 15 May 2007

The Charity Shop Lottery Scandal...

Just for clarity, especially after Istvanski missing the tongue in cheek nature of my description yesterday of Neil Warnock as 'lovely', I'll just preface this with an irony warning. It's a bit like those ones for excessive violence, bad language and scenes of an overtly sexual nature that elicit hearty cheers and choruses of "way-hey!" from myself and S. every time we hear them before The Sopranos comes on: "the following post may contain ideas that aren't meant to be taken completely seriously and, indeed, the views expressed may, on closer examination, be diametrically opposed to those held by the author him/her self..."

There, I hope that leaves no room for ambiguity. Or subtlty, for that matter.

Anyway, in time-honoured Ronnie Corbett fashion, I digress. Without boring you all rigid with any more ramblings about my producer, tottering in on his slingbacks and so on, they've opened a new charity shop in the town centre, where the 7/11 used to be. Sign of the times or what? 7/11, that bastion of Thatcherite union-bashing, open-all-hours-we'll-have-this-place-functioning-like-a-third-world-country-before-you-can-say-cheap-labour-supply-plus-knock-off-goods-sold-at-a-hideous-mark-up-equals-maximum-profits, its very name made to seem lightweight by the new Blairite insistence upon 24/7 (what a *hideous* use of numbers that is) replaced by a Romanian Relief store. One can't help but wonder how, ten or fifteen years down the line, the opening of the first British Relief store in Bucharest will be greeted - "bloody Brits - they come 'ere, work for 400 Leus (yes, don't worry, I did have to google it - and, shamefully, Bucharest too...) under the minimum wage - sleep in their white vans, wake us up at 5 in the morning blaring out Level 42's Greatest Hits and then expect us to clothe and feed their families back home..."

Obviously this is great news for me - another place to spend hours rootling around for Steely Dan L.P.s and hardback copies of the first three Martin Amis novels and so on. But it did start me thinking about the ethics of it all. I know competition is "a *good* thing" and everything, but can you have too much of a *good* thing? I mean, take our high street. The new kid on the block will be battling it out with the following good causes (and Oxfam):

British Heart Foundation
Scope (Cerebral Palsy)
MIND (Mentalists)
Cancer Research
Princess Alice Hospice
FARA (More Romanians)
PAWS (Pets/Animal Welfare)

Now, obviously, we British are very charitable people, but our pockets are only so deep. So, which of these fine and upstanding charitable enterprises (and Oxfam) would be first against the wall in the event of another Cameron-inspired Black Wednesday style economic down turn? (Gordon is *so* gonna whup his arse over that, isn't he?) Indeed, as consumers, which of these fine and upstanding charitable enterprises (and Oxfam) should we be favouring? I mean, is Cancer more in need of our moolah than Heart Disease? Or Africa than Romania - I mean, is there a Which guide? Or a League table we can consult?

Let's cast aside any quibbles that these places shouldn't be cast in the same light as other businesses. Sure, British Home Stores would probably make a better fist of getting rid of the odour of the deceased's clothing that seems to cling to these places no matter how much they rebrand and up-market themselves), but they seem to want us to treat them as businesses so, perhaps we *should* let the market decide...But in the old days (ah, the good old days!), a deeper, more compassionate impulse of fairmindedness - the same that enabled these stores to operate with voluntary staff and consequently lower admin. costs and overheads that their current, well-salaried overseers allow for, btw - would have prompted the average Charity shopper to distribute their largesse as equitably as possible. So, the concerned shopper might pick up a duplicate copy of Wings Greatest from, say, the PAWS shop for 50p, a couple of Tom Robbins novels you knew you'd never read from the MIND (40p) and still have some shrapnel left for that complete Fawlty Towers video set from the SCOPE shop (£1). Nowadays, you're lucky to find a badly creased and dog-eared Mills & Boon for less than a quid. So, perhaps we're right to shop more discriminatingly - and correspondingly resent the notion that because a cause is good one can expect to be fleeced in the same joyless fashion one is in every other walk of life. It's sad though to think that nowadays, the fates of Romanian orphanage, Cancer and Heart disease patient and maltreated puppy alike rest, like so much else, on the whims of the market...

L.U.V. on y'all,


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  1. This is the kind of response you'd probably get from the general public ...

    British Heart Foundation? People should stop eating cakes and chips to prevent heart disease. Scope? Never heard of cerebral palsy. Cancer? Stop smoking. MIND? Pull yourself together. Romanians? Scrounging foreigners - charity begins at home.

    Therefore, the only ones on your list that would remain open are Princess Alice Hospice and PAWS (provided the animals they're raising funds for are cute).

    I love the free market, don't you?

  2. Well - as a local I shall be giving the Roma a go as I've been finding the BHF a little pricey of late - especially the Roger Whittaker 7 LP set I had my eye on. Do you think there is a factory somewhere that produces Eau de Secondhandshop? Why do they all have that peculiar rancid odour which is a mixture of unwashed clothes and fruit rotting in a bin somewhere where you can't ever get to it? Princess Alice Twickers is the worst - I retched last time I attempted to go in there and had to make a hasty retreat...

  3. Sorry Bob, but for just a moment there I really, really thought that you too had a fanatical hatred for 99% of the referees just like our Neil.

    I really believed that you had found yourself a kindred spirit, what with your "Isn't life wonderful" type bulletin on Munterspace that you sent out.

    Trust me to get it all arse over tit again. That's why I never comment on your Martin Amis related posts. I never forgave his dad for putting out dross like "Lucky Jim" 'cos I never got the references.