Charity Shop Part 2: On the shop floor


I must have done quite a good job last week in the back room of the Willow Wood charity shop in Stalybridge because now I have been upgraded to working on the shop floor on the till. I met a lovely lady called Ethel who trained me on how to work the till. For the first time I felt quite nervous. What if there was a rush on? Could I cope? What if I forget how to use the till in the middle of the transaction? I could end up making a fool of myself. In the back room I felt it was easy and safe to get stuck in. Luckily, the shop wasn't as hectic as I thought it would be and the customers were incredibly happy and polite. Most people came in for a browse, said good morning as they passed me and then went away again. Others brought things to the counter and continued shopping until they were ready to pay. I was delighted to see that the items I had priced last week had been sold apart from two. I imagined that they had gone to happy homes. I soon got into the flow of things, bagging items and taking money. I wrapped and sold a rather large amount of porcelain dogs. Most of the things were priced and Ethel was able to explain the pricing structure to me that weren't such as books. It was lovely to chat to people and get a sense of their day. As I was volunteering I didn't feel the pressure of having a retail job. I felt I could take my time and people would stop and chat. A man bought a pristine Gerry Rafferty album and we hummed Baker Street as we remembered how the song went. One customer bought a hardly worn pair of trainers while another bought her husband some ties. Ethel told me that she wanted to volunteer after she had retired as a district nurse to give her something to do. I sometimes had to pop into the back room to ask for things to be restocked or get help with a customer’s request. While there I met George who was checking the electrical items. Many different electrical items are donated to the Willow Wood charity shops. George’s job is to test everything to ensure that it can be sold and is in good working order. The things he tests most are lamps, then blenders and irons. George told me he had managed to fix a set of hair curlers which if he hadn't would have caught on fire. He tests the equipment, fixes it with a sticker and the shop carries a certificate for the item. He looks to see that the equipment isn't damaged or that the wire doesn't come out, changes the plugs to fit in with regulations and checks that the fuse works and is the correct one. George used to work in maintenance and got involved volunteering for Willow Wood after a friend died there of cancer. The contents of George's briefcase made me laugh as part of his testing equipment as he carries a cassette tape and an Elton John CD so he can test audio equipment. It was a shame he couldn't have his own Gerry Rafferty LP but that wouldn't have fitted in the briefcase.

I returned to the shop floor and this time it was Ethel’s time to pop in the back to help a customer locate a rug he had previously bought. I worried slightly that someone would ask me something I didn't know and then a customer approached the counter with a hard backed book. Oh no. How much were they again? I said good morning and tried not to lose my cool. I looked inside the book’s cover and luckily the price had been pencilled in. That’s £1 please. I bagged the item and gave him his receipt and wished him a good day. Actually it wasn't that bad after all to be on my own in the shop for five seconds. When my shift ended I was sad to leave the Willow Wood shop but excited about the possibility of future volunteering opportunities.