Saturday, 9 March 2013

Volunteering or shopping

I have been thinking about this for a few days and thought I might put it out for discussion.

Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I had considered volunteering at my favourite Salvos store:  with this is mind I went to have a little chat with the manager.

Most of you know I love op shopping and the idea of re-using or recycling is my main motivation.  However, I do also sell some of what I buy on ebay.  This gives me a little money to put towards my other obsession; crafting.

I was somewhat surprised to learn that if you volunteer at the Salvos you have to sign something that says you will not re-sell.  Really?   Is not the purpose of the opportunity shop to sell stuff to make money?  Is it because there is some kind of discount accorded volunteers (I don't know, just surmising)?

This has caused me some confusion:  is the time I spend at the Salvos more valuable to them than the amount I spend there each week?

 Do I want to give up my ebaying in order to volunteer at the Salvos.

The answer to the last question is NO.

One solution is that I could tell someone else to shop for me but that just seems silly.

Another is that I could just find some other kind of volunteering to do.

I would be interested in the thoughts of others on this blog.

cheers,  Dianne


dsquared said...

That seems incredible! I can't think why it's a problem for an op shop if you want to re-sell what you've bought there. They get their money and move the goods on and out - isn't that what's supposed to happen? I'm staggered.

Kimme said...

Is that actually legally binding? What you do with something once you purchase it is your own business isn't it? Or are they just trying to deter people volunteering for the sole purpose of first dibs?

Anonymous said...

I must say that I didnt think that the sole purpose of buying from op shops was for you to sell them at a profit. I dont mind if you do this, not having a go at you but some people use it as their primary way of being able to buy clothes etc as they dont have enough money for brand new stuff.
how would the op shop know if you are selling it anyway??

Lyndel said...

well I haven't heard of that from any of the volunteers I know, but nothing about the Salvos Op shops would surprise me! They are 'big business', try volunteering at one of the smaller, independent Op shops who care about their volunteers and the general community.
I am sure the Salvos are putting this into volunteers 'contracts' so that you dont undercut them on their eBay sales.

Gina E. said...

Well, I don't know Dian - I can kind of see their reasoning; some people might want to volunteer their services at an opshop purely to get first dibs on the stuff that is donated, so they can make money for themselves. When it's put like that, it is a rather selfish reason to volunteer. I assume most opshops give their volunteers a discounted price for anything they want to buy, so the charity will miss out on a small percentage of profit if their staff buy up all the best things!
I think what Kimme said is right - would that be legally binding, and how would they prove it anyway?

Anonymous said...

I think it rather spoils the experience of other op shoppers if the volunteers are creaming off the better stuff for resale. I think you could be doing something else with your volunteering. The Salvos want people to keep all their customers happy, not just the volunteers.

DIAN said...

It has been interesting to read the comments of others: thanks for the feedback.

I probably should make it clear that my reason for volunteering was based on good intentions. Not on taking advantage.

On a recent trip op shopping with Gina E and Lyndell I bought quite a number of things in several opp shops. I bought shoes and toys for the little girls next door. $12.00

I bought a dress for my grand daughter. $3.50

I bought books for my husband $5

Oh and a fairy dress for one of the little girls. $5

I bought some old and stained doileys to use in my textile art.

I bought a tapestry for $5 which I resold for a small profit.
It is worth noting that most of the people who buy from me on ebay are in remote parts of the country and cannot easily access second hand goods - except through on line stores.
The toys and clothes for the little girls are returned to the op shops when no longer required. This seems fair to me.

Anonymous said...

Its a hard one and I can understand the policy. If there wasn't a staff discount then I think it would make things less complicated, but then the volunteers deserve one, so it's a hard situation.

In saying that I agreee the salvos are big business. They even have fashion advice on their website now.

I'm finding their prices (on everyday items) are just too high for me these days :(

objects of whimsy said...


I suppose they need to do this so they are not exploited by less honest volunteers.
Im guessing when you volunteer that would mean that you would be able to get first dibs on any donated item before it hit the shop floor.
As a volunteer your job would be to process the donated items ready for sale as well as selling them.

Its pretty easy to see that if they didnt put some form of agreement in place they could miss out on a lot of profit themselves if it wasnt ebayed or sold in the shop by the organisation.

The Salvos have had to become big business to be sustainable. There are more people needing help and less funds available from other sources so they have had to become a business to survive.

So I think its just a form of protection towards their assets.

I would happily sign it because you are there to volunteer as help not to score finds thats how I see it anyway.

These are good discussions that you are having here. :)

mootie said...

Hm simple solution volunteer elsewhere many other groups are crying out for volunteers eg disabled children,the elderly the lists are endless

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who volunteers at Salvos as part of "work for the dole" and she told me if anyone who works there wants to buy something it has to have been in the actual shop for a day available to customers first. I think this policy is very fair. Imagine 5 or 6 workers having first dibs everytime new donations arrive, there wouldn't be much left for the customers. I think you'll find Sales aren't the only op shop with the re selling policy either.

Anonymous said...

I say go for it (at another op shop that is). As an unemployed librarian, I thought I'd do something proactive to gain skills in another sector (plus do something to help others). Getting into Op shop retail seemed perfect. However, before signing up, I checked out a couple. I walked into an MS Victoria store -and seeing it had a good vibe - I signed up and haven't looked back. The store is great, customers great, I'm learning lots, and there are no nasty re-sell contract clauses. The only clause is that we be friendly to customers - a good standard I think. I write about my experience in a post on volunteering on my blog: 50 Shades of Unemployment - find at

By the way - I love your blog.

Stella said...

Did you aks why that policy had to come into effect? I think it's totally appropriate. It's not just 5 or 10 vollies they have to manage but in the 100s I'd say. They've probably been ripped off by opportunists. Not everyone volunteers for good intentions. I I agree with the first Anonymous the Salvos exist for clients and customers NOT volunteers. I volunteer at an op-shop and I am there to work and to service the organisation. Yes the lists are endless because they can't get decent and reliable volunteers.

Lee said...

hi,though I now reside in Perth I
love checking out your page weekly to check out all the shops I used to frequent have up for grabs. My
opinion is it's definitely another case of bureaucracy gone comepletely mad. op shops aint what they used to be! they've lost the plot with paid managers,stupid rules and the idea of big $$$$ signs in their schedule.once one buys something it's theirs to do as they wish,I say go volunteer somewhere else. Lee