I volunteer at a local op-shop for a few hours a week. I started volunteering three years ago when I was recovering from a long illness – I was feeling better than I had for a while but still not ready to go back to work. The op-shop I volunteer for is attached to a shelter aimed at re-homing cats.
I thought I had heard all the annoying things people say to op-shop workers:
- Do you want to buy this dress from me – it’s only $35!! [NO. We are an op-shop and are totally reliant on donations. Also I wouldn’t buy that raggedy pink satin dress for $2, let alone $35.]
- If I buy it and then I don’t like it can I get my money back? [NO. Have you even been into an op-shop before? Sure you can bring it back but we won’t be giving you any money for it.]
- Can you order me this item in a different size/colour? [NO. Again really, you’ve never been into an op-shop before? We are totally reliant on donations, and while it sucks that you can’t find that item in the size/colour you need, we can’t help you there.]
- Can you check out the back to see if there’s anything else like this? I can watch the till while you’re gone! [NO, and I am NOT STUPID!]
- Are you just charging me this much because you think I’ve got money? [NO, I was charging you $10 for a full dinner-set because that is a fantastic price – would you say that to the folks at KMart who would charge you four times as much? I find this whole conversation very confusing.]
And I thought this was the full list until yesterday when I was asked:
“Why are you following me around? Do you think I’m going to steal from you or something?”
To which my honest [albeit unspoken] reply was “Dude, I’m just futzing with the scarves and didn’t even really register you were there. But with the unprompted reference to stealing? Yeah, I’m going to be watching you now.”
Until I started volunteering I had no idea that people would steal from an op-shop. But they do! Blanket statement: IF YOU SHOPLIFT FROM MY OP-SHOP YOU ARE A SCUM-SUCKING PIECE OF SHIT. Also? You are taking food from the mouthes of tiny, tiny kittens.
Volunteering at this op-shop is awesome and boring and irritating and rewarding, sometimes all in the same hour. Before I started volunteering I assumed that the customers would be students and hipsters looking for cheap vintage clothes – oh and actually me, because I’ve been an op-shop customer since I was 7 (my nanna used to work at an op-shop). But in reality we have people who can’t afford to shop anywhere else, people looking for bargains, people who are ethically opposed to buying new things – a huge cross-section of the inner west.
I know some of our customers are in dire financial straits. Many of our customers suffer from addiction problems and/or mental health and/or social problems. Seriously, for some of them the contact they make with an op-shop worker might be their only social interaction for the day. Yesterday a woman started chatting with me about various things – teapots, indoor plants – and because I was in the middle of doing something else my side of the conversation was pretty much limited to the “uh huh, oh really!” type of comments. When she left she said “thanks for letting me talk”.
Sometimes I find it hard to strike the balance between working on behalf of the charity (ie, getting the best price possible) and doing my best for the customer’s needs (which might have nothing to do with a commercial transaction).
Here Mr Puss sleeps in a most uncomfortable manner:
He wanted to sleep in the sideboard. It meant nothing to him that the sideboard was covered in piles of junk, perhaps that was part of the appeal.