Let’s Discuss – Haggling at Charity Shops

Posted in Second Hand Shopping.

Last week I wrote about the faux fur coat I picked up in a charity shop. I bought it from a shop I visit frequently and buy from often – the North Leeds branch of Mind. It was priced at £45 which I considered too high for a charity shop purchase, so after a chat with the manager (who I’ve spoken to a few times during my visits), I asked if she’d consider an offer. She was happy to, and five minutes later I left a happy customer.

I didn’t consider it ‘haggling’. In fact, I didn’t think anything of it until someone left a comment on the post saying I’d cheated the charity (and the people it helps) out of £10. And that got me thinking.

I’m a regular second hand shopper and visit a range of charity shops, supporting both local and national charities, on a weekly basis. I know many of the volunteers well and can often be found chatting away about my latest purchases. I would much rather buy my vintage faux fur jacket in a charity shop for a decent price, donating money to a worthy cause while I’m at it, than in an overpriced vintage shop or a high street store. But it’s still a purchase, and I’m still handing over my own cash. And I’ve spent enough of my salary in charity shops to know when something’s overpriced.

So, what’s better? Walking away without spending a penny because an item’s overpriced, which means it’ll probably linger on the rails for months? Or having a friendly chat with the manager and coming to an agreement everyone’s happy with? When I asked on Twitter, opinions were mixed. Some said they’d never question a charity shop’s prices on principle, while others said it’s better to donate something to charity than nothing at all. The response that summed it up perfectly for me was from belledidyoutell, who manages a charity shop. She said it completely depends on the situation, and I think that’s key to this discussion. I would never quibble over a few pence, or ‘try my luck’ to save more money. I would also never ask for money off in a charity shop I’d never visited before. But in this situation, it didn’t feel wrong to do so. If the manager had said no to an offer, I would’ve accepted with grace and left without the coat.

So, what do you think? Would you ask for an offer in a charity shop? Have you asked before? Does it depend on the situation or is it a clear cut case of cheating a charity? Share your thoughts and experiences below.

And in the interest of keeping things positive, here are a few of my favourite charity shop bargains…

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The faux fur coat in question, from Mind

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These vintage high waisted trousers were from St Gemma’s Hospice

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A cute floral tea dress, also from St Gemma’s

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This sunflower skirt is a summer favourite, bought from an RSPCA shop

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This Vogue mirror was another Mind find

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The wicker basket that holds logs for our fire was from Age UK

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A vintage bag from St Gemma’s

43 Comments

Louisejoyb

I agree that it’s better to be giving them something to help a cause than not at all if you think it’s too over-priced, at the end of the day you’re still helping regardless of what you pay! That fur coat is gorgeous, looks so cosy and warm. How do you find so many lovely things in charity shops?! Can never really find anything decent in ours.

Louisejoyb xo | Bits&Bobs

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daisychain

If our local charity shops weren’t constantly overpriced and seemed to have wiggle room, I’d probably try and haggle,
however the ones here are so expensive that I guess they need every penny from the less than stellar sales.

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Victoria

I think if you hadn’t of bought it at the slightly reduced price it would have sat on the rails because £45 is too high.

I also think the comment left by Helen on your other post was very unnecessary.

Readers of your blog will know you shop in charity shops a lot, much more than most people, and I didn’t even register it when you said you had haggled.

But I suppose some people have different opinions on these things, such is life.

x

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Ginger Pickle

I agree with your post, I don’t think it’s wrong to do but yes it really does depend on the situation. I bought a vintage dress from a charity shop but the zip was broken and I didn’t think it was worth £25 especially because it was faulty. I asked the manager if I could have some money off the dress and she said yes, she never even knew the zip was broken. So that was nice, and I never felt bad or anything after because I had donated some money to charity. It is better than not donating at all, I totally agree with you.

Jade x

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Glamouroglogist

I think it is the Managers call and if they are happy with the price they got then that is all that matters.

Except on those occasions when you hear someone buying a rare something or other for 5p then selling it at an auction for £000s.

You can’t take advantage of a charity shop – who are probably not experts in all areas – but you can work with them to ensure they get a fair price for a product.

I think you did right.

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Please may I?

Don’t know why people think you shouldn’t haggle, like you said you spend a fair amount of your wages in the shop.

Plus you give back by giving them your clothes.

X x

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brokenangel

Anything under about £40 id just pay over that I would think twice. Im not a great secondhand lover and prefer new so not something ive ever actually done

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Funny Little Frog

I’ve never thought to question a price in a charity shop, but then I’ve never bought anything over about £5 and as you’ve said it does depend on the situation. I think there was nothing wrong with you gettin a reduction for the reasons you’ve stated xxx

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Rach

As I said on Twitter, I was surprised you’d haggled, as it’s something I’d never consider doing in a charity shop – but then I don’t buy clothes from charity shops, so I didn’t really know if it was the norm or not.

I hadn’t really thought about the fact that it was better to give them a reasonable amount than walk away without it, that’s a really good way of looking at it.

I read your blog in googlereader so hadn’t seen the comment until I popped on to have a proper look, I think it was an unnecessarily harsh comment, I’d be interested to know if she posts a comment in response on this post.

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Chloe Likes To Talk

I think that the charity shop manager mentioned has it pretty much bang on too. It’s all about context. We all like a bargain, but trying to knock money off just to save yourself a few pence on an item that is fairly priced is (in my view) wrong. But if you don’t think something is reasonably priced and you are confident you can make a happy agreement with the charity shop, then you’re doing everyone a favour.

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Rhianne

I have asked once with a camera that was a little bit more than I was willing to pay and a bit deteriorated in the Horsforth St Gemmas (I love St Gemmas!). I ended up chatting with the volunteer who was a bit of a camera expert and it turned out it was a great price and worth the couple of extra pounds… I ended up paying the extra and I’m really glad I did as he was totally right.

We go charity shop shopping pretty much every week too and I think its definitely dependant on the situation and how much you want the item, I’ve only felt the need to ask once and most things I see that I feel are really overpriced I just leave them to be honest.

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Kristy

I have a few local charity shops where you have to haggle as nothing is priced individually. I have never haggled in one of the big charity shops but I have seen over priced unsold stock In the refuse bins behind the shops! I think any money to the charity is better than things being thrown away which is what actually happens sadly.

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PushPineapple

I agree with you; it depends on the situation, and in this case I think you were ok to haggle. Like you said; it’s better to give something to charity than nothing at all! Xo

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Ellie

It does depend on the situation, and £45 is pretty high for a second-hand coat. I personally wouldn’t try to haggle, for a mixture of reasons but mainly because I’d feel uncomfortable – but again, it comes back to the situation. However, it is better to give something over nothing at the end of the day, and if you felt comfortable doing it then there’s not a problem, as everyone has different opinions.

🙂

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MillyCupcake

I think this is a really interesting topic,and I’d like to put in my view on it.

I volunteer in a Charity shop 2 days most weeks, (My mum has been volunteering there for almost 10 years too)and I agree that it really does depend on the situation.

I’ve been put in many an awkward position by customers asking (and in some cases demanding) money off items, sometimes a petty amount, or on items that are a bargain anyway.

I often get people asking if I by these 3 items etc can you round it down to a tenner, in most cases I say no. If I think the price is appropriate and if I think that if they don’t buy it them someone else will pay the full amount then what’s the point.

Each item is priced by whoever is sorting the stock, so it could be me or a lady in her 40’s or a lady in her 70’s we may all have a different opinion on what an item is worth. There are guidelines for us to follow but most of it is guess work. So prices could be deemed too expensive or to low by other volunteers or customers. I generally go by what I would pay for it, if you offer me a reasonable price and I think the price on the ticket is a bit steep then I’ll accept.

The most annoying thing is when people think they’re a real bargain hunter and try and haggle. We sometimes get gold jewellery donated which we get properly valued, and people try and offer us pitiful amounts for it, it’s like they’re trying to rip us off, we’re not stupid!

Also when talking about pointing out marks and defects etc, most of the time these defects have been taken into account when priced.

But the main point is it depends how it’s been asked, if the person is polite and courteous, and is not being ruse in any way then I don’t mind them trying even if the answer is no. Oh and people that get arsey and rude when you say no really offend me, I’m a volunteer, I’m not here to take your crap!

I think what Jen did was fine though, It’s a high value item, that wasn’t at a rock bottom price and if Jen would not have bought it, it may have been sent back to the warehouse as it hasn’t sold. in which case it could have ended up being scrapped for rags (which the charity would still get money for but not much at all)

Just reading a few comments above, any stock that ends up in a refuse bin is unsaleable as in broken unusable or beyond repair. Even clothing that’s torn can be sent off for rags money. No charity shop that I know would ever throw out perfectly good items. It would usually be sent to a warehouse where it could be given to another shop to try and sell.

Sorry this post is so long, I didnt mean to get on a rant!

xXx

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invisible_squirrel

I haggle over price for absolutely everything so I don’t see as being a big issue!

I buy from charity shops all the time but only cheap items. I did see a pair of hideous pink suede boots the other day in Scope for £35 which I thought was really pricey, especially as they weren’t even branded!

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Hannah

I totally agree that it depends on the situation. I don’t really go to charity shops but even if I did I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable about haggling if I honest believed that the item was too high or if I was buying a large amount of stock. £45 in a charity shop is a lot of money and it’s definitely better to spend a little less than the shop not take any money at all. I used to hate haggling but after doing a lot of travelling I don’t mind at all. I think people don’t like the idea of haggling because they aren’t used to doing it. Anyway, if you honestly believe an item is too high go for it but if you’re just trying to save yourself a couple of quid on an already cheap item than you should think again because that’s wrong

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Steph0188: StephanieDreams

I actually think about this a lot, as I find my charity shops in my local area pretty high prices- compared to what I hear others talk about anyway.
I have never bought anything of huge expense, but every now & again I do have a good shop and will visit all the shops in my local town.
I always think it’s ‘not right’ to ask for money off, as it is a charity shop, but at the same time I’m glad you did and at the end of the day, you’re totally right about actually buying it! LOTS of items don’t get bought, so at this one has gone.
I think I’ll think differently about asking next time, I just think where mine as been under £10 items really, even though I think they’re ‘expensive’ it’s still pretty cheap, so I feel a bit wrong for asking.

LOVE this post Jen, so so glad you posted it!
x

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Claire

Such an interesting discussion! I agree that in this situation it was completely fine, and as you said it is better than leaving the coat behind, maybe never being sold at all!
I think pricing is a little off at time in charity shops, and as Milly mentions thats down to the varied volunteers, so if something is marked too high in my opinion, I wouldn’t be afraid of asking for a lower price in a charity shop that I am a regular customer of. Sometimes even the volunteers knock things down at the tills without me having to ask!
Obviously for low priced things I wouldn’t do it and I think that is when it gets a bit cheeky.
At the end of the day, any money is good money for a charity, so I think you did the right thing!
Claire
xox

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Cat

I was one of the people who replied on Twitter that I wouldn’t, but would in a vintage shop without question. I agree that any money going to charity is better than none, but it just wouldn’t cross my mind to try to get something cheaper. I think the vintage shops I go to price stuff high and then knock something off at the till point even if you don’t ask, so you feel like you’re getting a bargain. I’m not sure if that’s the case with charity shops.

I really hope my comment wasn’t one of the ones that led you to later tweet about people thinking you were “heartless” because that wasn’t my intention at all!

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Jetleyface

Wonderful post, I do think it depends on the price of the item and how much discount you are asking for.

I personally have never haggled in a charity shop but the ones in my local area are very good at pricing, and will put a reason if the item is discounted. I also have never haggled as I am not sure if I have ever paid over £20 for an item.

£45 for a charity coat is rather expensive and if you are comfortable with talking to the manager I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t ask for a mini discount so that you could afford the item 🙂

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Elly Snare

Interesting post – read your writing on the coat but didn’t see the comment in question. I appreciate why someone might say that, but it’s also a little ‘knee jerk’ as (just to jump on the bandwagon) it depends on context. My local charity shop has everything priced but when you buy a few things they normally round it down to the nearest pound; other places there’s no wiggle room for that sort of activity.

I wouldn’t haggle in a charity shop because I regard it as my main source of clothes shopping, much like a high street; and as I wouldn’t haggle there, why would I haggle in a charity shop? However I do actively shop more in cheaper charity shops. British Heart Foundation is notoriously overpriced, as are some Oxfams, so I avoid going there: plus they’re too popular. I visit the less-known charity shops as they have a) better stock because less people go there and b) cheaper prices. This has made it very awkward as I start getting antsy when I have to pay above £10 for clothing – no shit!

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Lowri

To be honest, when you go to a charity shop you have the intention to not spend much money.. that’s why things in charity shops sell; because they’re cheap! I wouldn’t have paid the full £45 for the coat, purely because it is from a charity shop, so yes I would have haggled or more than likely leave it there (I would probably be too shy to haggle. At the end of the day you gave to charity, I don’t think that coat would have sold at all if you didn’t buy it, purely because of the price, I think most people wouldn’t even think to haggle!

The Deer Head

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Jen

Thanks to everyone for your amazing comments. It’s really interesting to hear your differing opinions, but I think we’re pretty much in agreement that it really does depend on the situation.

In my original post I didn’t give any background or context to my purchase – for someone who just landed on that post, without reading anything else from the blog, I can understand the knee jerk reaction from the commenter.

Glad this post has caused such a great debate, and thanks again to everyone who’s taken part so far. And Cat – it definitely wasn’t you who promoted my annoyed tweet this morning! 🙂

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Clare

Glad you are getting a more positive response now!!
In the circumstance you did nothibg wrong, the coat, in my opinion, was over priced, and it sounds like the manager knew that. We expect a certain amount of compromise and flexibility on the higher priced items but it does irritate me when people ask for a pound off a preice of bric-a-brac…
As others have said, it is better to have that money in the til than to have the garment on the rail…a couple of days later they may have got even less for it! Most stock had a 2 week self life before being transferred on.

Clare (belledidyoutell)

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girl&bird

such an interesting post. I often feel affronted when I see Primark or Peacocks items priced at £6 in charity shops, as i simply don’t think they are worth most of what they cost in the first place. but, if it’s a lovely item i’d almost alway pay it. I suppose personally, it just makes me think about how much i really like the item. And often, the charity shop “steals” (obviously not literal steals!!) even out the items that are slightly over-priced.

I have, however, seen a sign in a local charity shop sying something along the lines of “please don’t embarras yourself and staff by attempting to negotiate on price”. so they obviously take a very strong view on it!!

Annah xx

girlandbird.blogspot.com

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My Passport To Style

Nothing hacks me off than over priced charity shops, my feeling is that I donate plenty off stuff and that charity shops are not only about raising money but about being a resource for those that are quite frankly less wealthy and hence shopping there. If I had more money and would not probably spend hours of my precious time in search of great vintage finds it would be easier to just go to a vintage store or buy on line.So I say good for you! Sharon xx

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Alex

I haven’t ever been in the situation where I’ve needed to. I’ve asked recently in a vintage store and in H&M about discounts but in both cases the item was damaged (knackered zip and missing buttons respectively) and I took the view that if it’s going to cost me money to repair and replace parts of it then yes, I’ll definitely ask for the equivalent value to be knocked off the price. Worked in both cases btw.

If the same thing happened when I was charity shopping then yeah, I’d ask. If it was a case of considering something overpriced then I’d probably do exactly what you did ie it’d have to be somewhere that I’d been before and it would have to be something that I really wanted. They can only say no.

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dinoprincesschar

I must admit, although i used to be a frequent charity shop visitor, and customer, more recently I haven’t been bothering with my local stores. Their prices have put me off even visiting in some cases. Which is a shame, as I have no issues with buying second hand or from charity shops at all, and have spent a lot with some of them in the past. BUt a lot of them seem to have jumped onto the “vintage” price tag bandwagon, with items which are not vintage, but expensive.

I have no issue with making a request to reconsider a price, i have done this in high street stores with itmes requiring a little attention, and been successful. I would usually haggle at a car boot, and would be prepared to pay an amount i consider reasonable, just like shopping anywhere else – if i don’t consider the price reasonable i will not buy it.

I don’t see how this situation is any different really. I think that it’s all about context, you do get some people who want something for nothing, they’re easy to spot a mile off – we used ot have a guy who came into the bar i worked at who always complained about his second drink about half way through it, in the hope of getting it for free. That’s not like your situation, which i think is more acceptable still givent hat you are on good terms with the manager..I know some shop owners in my town who would offer me a discount on what i buy from them, based on the repeat custom and the quantity i have bought from them over time, does that make that unacceptable as well? Am I cheating them out of money they were entitled to?

Basically, after thinking out loud for a bit above, i think you were right to ask if you weren’t sure about the price, and if the manager had said no, then fair enough. As it was, the charity was better off by £35 from an item which someone donated to them.
I don’t think you did anything wrong.

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Mrs B

What an interesting post Jen. I’ve been shopping in and donating to charity shops for more than 30 years now, and had some amazing bargains over the years. Eg in the 1980s I had blonde hair and liked to dress like Marilyn Monroe (in my head anyway!) and got some fabulous 1960s Jackie O suits and cocktail dresses for a pound or two.

I would never normally haggle on price, but did once over a china dinner service – the pattern had worn off many of the plates, so I only wanted it for the cups and saucers where the pattern was still clear and pretty. The manager said that this was the design and the plates were meant to look like that – I said no they weren’t, they were just worn. She agreed in the end and reduced the price for me. It didn’t occur to me to feel bad about doing this, but I can understand why some people might question it, and be concerned about the charity losing out.

As others have said it’s all about context. It saddens me to think that people try to save a pound or two by bullying volunteer shop staff. I also think that if someone buys a bargain Clarice Cliff or whatever and sells it for much more, they should make a donation to that charity to say thank you. But equally, shops do sometimes have damaged or over-priced items which they may find it hard to sell. It’s about balance, being courteous and appropriate. And remembering that whilst you may have (a little) spare cash for pretty clothes and trinkets, the charity may be supporting people who are getting their food from a food bank. It’s a win win situation if you can have a reasonably priced new outfit and they can keep bringing in the money they need to do good work.

Mrs B xx

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Rachelle

Its really interesting to see other different opinions on this topic! I don’t think anyones intention is to ever ‘rip-off’ the charity but people can come across that way if they demanding a reduction or haggle without reason just to get a ‘bargain’. I’m a regular charity shopper and I don’t think any of the shops I go into would have a problem with a little haggling because I’m a loyal customer, generally have a chat with all the volunteers and donate items too. However if it was a charity shop that I’d never visited before I don’t think I would ask for a reduction. I agree with a lot of people when I say it really does depend on the situation.
At the end of the day the charity have been given these items for free and while I completely understand that they want to raise as much money as possible surely having a faster turnover by selling more cheaper items is better than having the same stock sitting there for months because people deem it overpriced?
Rachelle x
http://inspiredbytheretired.blogspot.com/

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Vix

I’d never dream of haggling in a charity shop, if I love something I’d buy it knowing that my purchase is helping a worthy cause.
When Mum died I gave all her clothes to a more expensive charity shop as I wanted as much money as possible to be raised so that hopefully, one day, other families won’t have to go through the same pain and suffering as my beloved Mum and ourselves did.
At the end of the day charity shops exist to raise money for good causes and fair play to shops that stick to their guns and put a reasonable price on an item. That coat would have been £75 in a vintage shop.
If you feel comfortable haggling then that’s entirely up to you, Jen. x

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Fashionsamnesty

Ive bought some great bargains in charity shops there’s absoulty nothing wrong with trying to get a better price for something even if it is in a charity shop at the end of the day if you didnt haggle ten pounds off they would have lost out because you wasnt prepared to pay the full price what use is a coat to a charity shop they need your money so no its not wrong i applaude you for shopping in charity shops

http://fashionsamnesty.blogspot.com/

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northwest is best

Interesting post. All charity shops are different, but in the charity shop I volunteer in we never negotiate on price. This is because people will expect a discount every time they come in, because we’re a specialist shop so the stock is cherry-picked and high-quality, and because we want to get a fair price for each item – after all, someone has donated it expecting it to raise a decent price for charity. How would you feel if you sorted and washed some clothes to donate to a charity shop, then saw them on sale in a 50p basket? Embarrassed and disappointed. Finally, we’re short on volunteers at the moment, and there just isn’t time to get into long conversations with customers. I find it frustrating that I can’t chat with customers more and explain pricing, but there’s too much to do behind the scenes. Hopefully we’ll have some new volunteers starting soon!

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Perdita

“How would you feel if you sorted and washed some clothes to donate to a charity shop, then saw them on sale in a 50p basket? Embarrassed and disappointed.”

Nope. And I find it a little presumptious to assume I/we would (because to my mind it would be incredibly shallow to even think of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ with my old clear-outs). Seen my stuff in the bargain basket, was not bothered. 50p more to Barnardos and more space on my shoe rack. I don’t want the stuff anymore, and if it’s my old high street cast offs why should I care?

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Minimum Mouse

I don’t think what you did was wrong, but personally I would not feel comfortable haggling in a charity shop. Having said that, I do find it a shame that some charity shops do overprice their goods and end up selling less as a result, which means that they make less money for their cause. Since they did not pay for their stock, I think they would be better to price things more reasonably and have a higher turnover of stock.

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Anonymous

Lets get it right your makeing a donation its what your comfortable paying thay get it for £0

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Anonymous

‘thay get it for £0’ – but the charity still has to pay rent, rates and operating costs on the shop such as heating and lighting – and that’s before they make any money for the charity itself. And you’re right about it being about what you’re comfortable paying – if you don’t like the price, then you can always go and buy the same thing for less elsewhere – if you can find it. A polite request to negotiate on the price is one thing, the entitled view of ‘I’m making a donation so you will just have to take what I’m prepared to give you’ is another. It’s a transaction – the charity shop has an item for sale which you either think is worth it at the price, or not. If not, don’t buy it, no doubt someone else will unless it is grossly overpriced and then the cost will come down. Just like any other shop.

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Amber Rose Theron

I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking if they will let you have a little money off.. If you ask nicely and within reason.
In the recent years, charity shops have literally shot up in price due to popularity so I think people have every right to ask to buy something for a more reasonable price.
I remember when I was younger, everything in the charity shop use to be like under a pound, now it is actually ridiculous. Some charity shops charge more than high street stores. We have to remember that the things we are buying are second hand and if we want to spend £40 on a coat, we will go to a high street shop and buy new.
Personally, I would never spend more than around £5 on a garment from a charity shop, unless it was new or exceptional. Or if it was a coat (particularly fur), I wouldn’t spend more than £15. Mainly because I simply cannot afford it and out of morals.
Just my opinion.
If you want the real bargains, hit car boots or even cheaper, jumble sales where everything is like 20p…

http://www.amberrosetheron.blogspot.co.uk

xo

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Lettie Garvey

Great ways suggested. Informative and interesting thank you for sharing. I dont think it is wrong to ask as long as your being reasonable.

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