The Anatomy of a Cat

For vet trips and other medical situations, obviously the medical terminology for your cat’s body parts are the best words to use. But this is the internet and we’re all cat ladies, our actual genders irrelevant. Cats are ridiculously adorable floofs and we have a need for these far more appropriate terms for their body parts.

catone

Scritch Place: the space behind a cat’s ears, which is the best place to scritch your cat.

Ear Floof: all of the lovely long hairs inside your cats ears, presumably to make them extra cute.

Mane: the longer fur around your cats cheeks, just like a lion’s mane.

Boop: the soft, skin-coloured part of your cat’s nose, which is a perfect little button to press and say “boop”.

Blep: any part of your cat’s tongue that is currently sticking out of their mouth, especially if their mouth is closed.

Toofs: the super-cute little fangs that your cat shows you when they yawn.

Toe Beans: your cat’s toe pads, looking like little cattwojelly beans.

Peets: the cute little feet of your cat, made of soft pads for their sole and toe beans.

Sassy Pants: the extra fluffy floof that is your cat’s thighs, and looks like a pair of pantaloons.

Belly: the whole underside of your cat, all soft fluffiness and highly tempting to rub vigorously.

Nope: any part of your cat’s underside that they attack you for petting, named for your cat’s attitude to you touching it.

Bingo Wings: just like the sassy pants, the fluffy thigh/upper arm part of your cat’s front legs, like the loose skin older people often get but much cuter.

Bib: most easily identified on tuxedo cats, who have white fur there, the part of your cats chest that’s still visible when they sit up tall.

 

 

Your New Year’s Resolution Doesn’t Need To Be a Revolution!

Soon it will be January, and you know what that means. The gyms will be packed with slightly chubby people overexerting themselves, the health food shops will be stocking up for people who don’t even like green vegetables, and your workplace will be unbearable as most of your colleagues go through withdrawal for the caffeine, alcohol or tobacco they’ve gone cold turkey on with no preparation. Yes, it’s the time of year people desperately try to better themselves with New Year’s Resolutions.

Before you make your resolution, think about the one you made last year. Did you keep it up all year? Do you even remember what it was? That’s the thing, isn’t it? Everyone makes these grand declarations and puts their full effort in for a month or two, before dropping it like a lukewarm potato, and ultimately forgetting the whole thing until the next New Year.

The simple fact of the matter is, the reason most people don’t keep to their New Year’s Resolution is because they going too big and having a revolution instead, without any real plans to help them continue that major change. Without anything solid to support this big revolution, they revert back to their life as it was before. Take it from someone who’s getting ready for 2017 having kept their resolution all year; this is how to achieve your New Year goals.

The first thing is to think of something achievable. Yes, you want to be a better version of you, but if you never exercise is going to the gym twice a week for an hour anywhere near likely to be something you can keep up forever? Or, maybe, you could go at least once a month or join a fun sports class. Likewise, instead of quitting cigarettes cold turkey for the year, aim to cut down and end the year cigarette-free.

Similarly, if you don’t really want to do something you aren’t going to be motivated to do it. You don’t like ‘healthy’ food, you don’t really want to start that dramatic diet, and you aren’t really that worried about your weight. So don’t make that revolution, make a resolution related to a more enjoyable self-improvement: Read a book every month; Learn a new language; Take up a hobby.

Of course, it’s not as simple as just having an achievable goal; if only it were! Plenty of people make New Year’s Resolutions, keep to them perfectly for a month or two, and then just… stop. There are a few simple things you need to do to keep your resolution all year. The biggest barrier would seemingly be forgetting, so setting yourself reminders is a sure fire way to prevent that reason for resolution drop-off.

Depending on what your resolution is, there are a few good ways to keep it to mind. Put a picture of the activity in places you’ll see it often, such as on your fridge or as your phone background. Write yourself a note on your calendar, inside the cover of your notebook, or on a sticky note by your workspace. Subscribe to a YouTube channel related to your resolution so it’s uploads remind you, or rename your alarm to get daily reminders. As long as you can’t forget all about it, you’re doing well.

It’s not enough to just remember, you have to get into the habit. Once something is part of your routine, it’s easier to keep doing it than it is to stop. If it’s something you want to do daily, do it the same time each day and maybe add it to your morning routine – do your exercises as part of your getting up and ready for work or school, read a novel during your commute, or swap your breakfast for a healthier choice.

For other things, set aside a set time each week; go tidy the attic every Thursday after work, go for a jog on a Saturday morning, or watch YouTube tutorials for the skill you want to learn on a Monday night. Soon enough you’ll be into the swing of it and won’t even need to think about it. Joining a class or club can help too, giving you motivation while you’re still getting yourself in the habit.

The point of New Year’s Resolutions isn’t just to do them, of course, but to achieve something. Keeping track of milestones can help you stay motivated, whether you’re tracking how long you’ve kept it up or tracking how much you’ve changed or learned. Make a note in your calendar every month, marking how well you’ve kept your resolution that month and how far through the year you are. For a “Do X every week” type resolution, keeping a list of what book, film, etc you read, watched, etc not only helps you know what you’ve done but also show you have many weeks and months you’ve done it for.

If your resolution is weight or health related, it’s obvious to weigh or otherwise health check yourself regularly to keep track. For other body goals and skills, however, you can check in other ways to see how far you’ve come. Take an online test each month to see how much you’ve learned, make an item with your new skill every month and compare it to the previous months ones, or keep note of your exercise times and distances.

Achieving your goals might be reward enough, and between the life changes and watching your milestones pass by might be the best end result for you. It’s not always enough, though, and giving yourself other rewards can give you a bigger sense of achievement and celebration. Treat yourself whenever you reach a milestone!

You could relate it to your resolution; going out for dinner if its food related or buying a nice new novel if it’s something to do with reading or fiction. It doesn’t have to be related, of course, and you can treat yourself with a video game purchase or allow yourself as much TV time as you spend on learning your new skill, for example.

If you manage to keep your New Year’s Resolution until the end of the year, you’ll have that happy feeling of achievement, be improved as a person in whatever way you chose, and ready to carry on, upgrade or choose something else entirely for the next year.

The Mysterious Tiny Pocket in Your Jeans

Every single pair of jeans in the world has this tiny pocket inside the front right pocket. It’s just a fact of fashion, like jogging bottoms don’t have flies or that socks have heels and toes. We all know that it’s there, and while we mostly just ignore its entire existence, we’ve all had that moment of confusion. Why is it there? What is it for? Why is it so small?

Most people have never used it, but some have tried to come up with uses. Some are attempted answers to the origin with various success, and some are simply trying to find any good use. There is a clear reason for it to be there, one revealed in the pockets name, but first let’s look at the guesses and ideas.

Some people call it a condom pocket, and there a numerous reasons that this cannot be the origin and it a terrible idea. For one thing, jeans were invented in the 1800s and while condoms as we know them were beginning to be invented, latex condoms weren’t invented until the 1920s and condom use wasn’t socially acceptable or well known until the 1980s. As well as the likelihood of the pocket being for condoms being practically zero, keeping a condom in a trouser pocket is going to damage it and make it unsafe to use. Just like in a wallet as you open and close it, a condom in your jeans pocket is being subjected to repeated friction as you move your legs, wearing the thin latex even thinner and making it far more likely to tear when used.

A lot of people call it a coin pocket, and say it’s for keeping small change. One problem with this is that coin purses have existed for much longer than trousers, let alone jeans, so it’s a bizarre reason to design a tiny pocket. The other problem is the size and placement of the pocket makes it really hard to get said money out. People who claim this as the truth don’t tend to use it, as it’s just impractical. It is, however, also known as a coin pocket, and it has developed a coin usage.

There is, in the USA, a tradition of challenge coins; coins issued by mostly military organisations to prove membership. The challenge is presented at a bar, when one person with a challenge coin gets it from their pocket and taps it on the bar. All others present must produce their own coins, if they have them, and tap them too. If one person doesn’t have a coin, they buy everyone else a drink, but if everyone has a coin the challenger buys everyone else a drink. The usefulness of this small pocket to hold challenge coins has been officially recognised, but this still isn’t its original name and function.

Of course, for people who don’t care what its purpose is, it can still be a useful pocket. While keeping condoms in there is a bad idea, there are plenty of other small things people like to have on hand that fit nicely in this tiny pocket. Some small pocket knives and flashlights are specifically designed for it, and it’s a good size to keep other tools and trinkets like bottle openers or a ring you’ve had to take off for a while. It’s also perfect for keeping your keys, maybe with the keychain or fob hanging out for easy access if you have the same problem as you would with money. Things like chapsticks also sit nicely and easy to access in them too.

But what is it actually called, and what is it actually for? It’s simply called a watch pocket. Before we had wristwatches and long before we carried the time around on our phones, people wore pocket watches and had loose watches to tell the time. Jeans were invented for cowboys and frontiersmen, and keep their watches safe and close to hand they were designed with a small pocket to keep their pocket watch in. Searching for “tiny jeans pockets” brings up countless articles that point this out, all referencing back to the Levi Strauss blog entry explaining the name. Doing an image search for the same even brings up pictures of pocket watches in watch pockets. It’s all so simple, and the fact we don’t use pocket watches in day to day life is probably also why it’s not a well known fact.

The Reality of Fundraising

I started a fundraising job on a Monday, and handed in my uniform on the Thursday. The reason isn’t particularly a fault on my part, nor any fault on my team or supervisor, but a fundamental issue with the role; people are really horrible. I applied for the job because I wanted to do something that made me feel happy and like I’d made a positive difference. Instead, only four days in, I felt awful in myself and disgusted at humanity.

To be clear, the job was as far from ‘chugging’ as charity fundraising can be. I was paid an hourly wage, rather than on commission. We were indoors, at a train station, with a clear area in front of a large sign and two tables. We followed the PFRA code of conduct; not stepping in front of or obstructing people, not taking advantage of vulnerable people and never trying to guilt people into signing up. The company’s own code of conduct and system for rating fundraisers focuses on long term donors, so it was in our own interest to ensure people were genuinely happy to sign up and so wouldn’t cancel it as soon as they got away.

I started with enthusiasm and a good outlook. It was more hours and better hourly rate than my last job, my team was friendly and had a positive attitude and my boss seemed absolutely lovely. It was for a well-known charity that works in a field no one can not care about and is making a real difference. I know I have a genuine smile and friendly demeanour, and I know I don’t care about looking like a fool or talking to strangers.

I was prepared for rejection. It can take a hundred “hi, how are you?”s to get someone to stop, and it can take ten conversations with someone who stops to get a sign up. The more people you try and talk to, the higher your chances of getting sign ups. I had no problem with people ignoring me or replying with “no” or “I’m busy”. In fact, people who had clearly seen me suddenly pretending they hadn’t was pretty funny.

It was the sheer amount of people looking at me like I was something they stepped in, or like I was personally insulting them. As factually as you can understand that it’s not personal, that it’s not about the charity let alone you, that it’s probably about the state of their day so far, it wears you down. I had a woman happily talk to me for ages, then look horrified and angered when I mentioned that we were looking for donations; the sheer audacity Cancer Research must have, in her opinion, to not simply pay people to stand in the train station and tell her personally about cancer and how we’re improving the treatment, but to ask her to help!?

There were a few people who reacted in anger, not just to me mentioning money, but from my apparent rudeness in daring to say “good morning” or even be standing still and not talking to them. One person told me to “fuck off” and one person nearly walked into me then looked at me in disgust. It really is surprising how close people will walk to what is obviously a charity stand when they can’t stand being greeted by charity fundraisers. Walking between us and the tables, walking through the one-person-wide gap between the tables and the banner, even resting their stuff on the table and looking at our leaflets. All just to glare and stomp away when talked to.

So it wasn’t the job I thought it would be, and it was harder from a keeping happy and positive side than leafleting on the street was. People are happier for some kid in scruffy clothes to push leaflets trying to sell them things into their hands right outside the small entrance to the train station that they are for a smartly dressed person working for a good cause to greet them when they walk past the easily avoidable stand. So much, so tiring.

At least I could go home knowing that by doing a good job I was saving lives, right? Well, I could have, had I been doing a good job. I got one sign up on my first day, a great start, and another on my second. Two thirds of the way into my three in three days starter target. Okay, so they were both people that clearly walked by us wanting to donate; it took barely any explanation and just the mention of the sign up form. And then, nothing. I came in on my third day ready to get my third sign up in the first hour. I was following all my coworkers advice and greeting every person I could. Nope. I wasn’t making the difference that I was hoping. It was definitely a downer, due to my high hopes and the expectations day one gave me.

I was still determined, then one person just… broke me.

He stopped to tell me why he refuses to donate to or support Cancer Research. He lectured me about the animal testing he says they do. I haven’t looked it up yet; it’s not important. I would agree that unnecessary animal testing, that is, testing on animals for non-life-saving reasons such as cosmetics or for testing things that are already proven, is unnecessary and I would not support it as I would prefer it did not happen. I feel the creation of life saving cancer treatments is at the very least in a grey area, as we can hardly go from theoretical to human testing.

He told me that animal testing is ‘bad science’ because animals and people are not the same. Ignore the fact that humans have had pigs’ hearts as transplants, and the success of medicine tested on animals, apparently. He skipped over my attempt to change the subject. No, all animal testing is useless and by definition animal abuse; it’s not just the medicine testing, he insisted that all animal testing is in battery-style cages and they use beagles and cut their vocal cords so they can’t cry. He painted a Nazi-esque sociopathic doctor doing it for the hell of it, and told me repeatedly that I am promoting animal abuse for fundraising for Cancer Research.

Bear in mind, of course, he is just some man with nothing to back up his statements, who has gone to the shorter, white and apparently female fundraiser, not the black man around his height. It’s me he wants to lecture and harass and tell to quit. Shaken, but not quite beaten yet, I asked him what the alternative is, hoping for him to stumble over the idea of testing on humans.

No. He instead tells me cancer is hereditary and that by “allowing people to carry on living” after being diagnosed with cancer we are just causing it to stay in the gene pool. Lifestyle factors aside, I was suddenly aware I had been confronted by a man who was genuinely arguing in favour of eugenics. You expect to meet the worst people that exist if you work in a prison or with dangerous people; a social worker, a police officer, an addiction counsellor. This man was just some man in a suit, going to work through Victoria station.

My team leader told me you get people like that sometimes. I’m not going to lie, I cried. I handed in my uniform that same day, and hope to never meet anyone that horrifying again.

The Bees by Laline Paull – a book review

A gripping novel about the life of a bee. It’s literally about a bee in a hive of bees, and yet I could not put it down. The snippets of reviews on the cover and inside covers include the legendary Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale), compares it to Animal Farm, and hint at the ways it discusses our own society. It is definitely as well written and exciting as they all say… but perhaps I missed something, as while I devoured the tale I saw no parallels with our own existence. The characters have incredibly human-like emotions, motivations and actions, but are strongly and undoubtedly apian.

Paull’s understanding of bees is seemingly unending, and I felt not only entertained but educated. The details about the caste-like kin structure of the hive, the ways they communicate, the movement and appearance of their bodies, are so precise and realistic that I almost felt to-scale myself. You might know that all but the drones are male, and that only the queen bee lays eggs, but by the end of this book there will definitely be some facts you’ll be surprised to learn. On the other side of that coin, some facts about bees that are basic knowledge to humans are shocking plot twists; despite knowing exactly what was happening or what secret was being hidden, the tension and the mystery were palpable and thrilling.

The true existence of bees in this novel is not only illuminating, but interesting in thoughts of humanity. It may not hold a mirror to our lives but the gender politics, religiousness and strict social roles have clear messages for us and dystopian tones.

Bees are a strong matriarchy, but the book still shows a reverence for maleness that we also find insidiously hard to avoid. While their ruler and god-head is the obviously female Queen, the drones are all revered, worshipped and waited on hand and foot (or rather, foot and foot, as they’re bees). This revelation about the gender roles in apian society saddened me, if I’m quite honest, but without spoiling the story it has a kind of satisfying twist ending that some might know about.

The structure of society, both the ‘kin’ hierarchy and the connection to the queen, are overtly religious and smack of horrifying, dystopian theocracy. The Queen is immortal, holy and without flaw. Her connection to them is that of a living Goddess, blessing them and being prayed to daily. The female society addressing each other as sister (though, as all were laid by the Queen, they literally are) feels very nun-like, and the highest ranking bees are called Priestesses. While I find the idea of religion being used to create a dystopia dull, as it can be heavy handed and (ironically) preachy, but this is one of the best examples. It doesn’t feel like a “religion is bad and dystopias are caused by religion” lecture, but just one aspect of the terrifying lives of bees and a coincidental truth.

Our protagonist, born to be the lowest class of humble cleaner but destined to ascend that role and achieve greatness, is a very strong dystopia stock character. It’s a well-used and stark mark of a totalitarian society, and strikes everyone with goals with horror. Every single bee has her life’s role, duties and social status decided before birth, pigeon holed into a physically distinguished caste. True to Paull’s gentle touch throughout the book, however, this isn’t portrayed as utterly evil and unbearable. The cleaners are shown to be incapable of the tasks higher roles require, and content to clean as their instinct commands them. Even our chosen one main character, who surprises everyone be being able to talk, make royal jelly, make wax, and forage, finds solace in tidying and camaraderie most in her own kin.

All of the issues presented are simply the way that bees are; this is less a cautionary tale of a twisted, worst-case-scenario than it is a story of a generic society with a corruption problem and a rebel who makes changes. I had that pure reading experience, emotionally invested in the characters, caught up in the narrative and my mind full of images of bees. Whether or not the morals or themes appeal, it’s a great story that happens to have a non-human setting. It’s more than worth the read; it’s worth the accolades and prizes it got and you’re missing out.

Costume Creativity: Basic Hallowe’en Ideas… But With Some Twists

It’s nearly Hallowe’en, and you haven’t decided on a costume yet. Every year you just lump with a classic costume like ‘generic witch’ or a more cosplay style pop culture reference like a recently deceased celebrity as a zombie. Yawn. But don’t panic! It’s easy to make more of an impact at your Hallowe’en parties with very little cerebral effort (that means thinking) and impress people with one of these twists on the costume classics:

Werewolf:

A monster less popular these days, possibly due to the effort it takes, the lack of realism in many portrayals, or the lesser place of wild animals in our lives. Either way, a werewolf costume is a retro-feeling costume that’s easy to make feel unique.

Were-What?

Not quite as silly as the Wallace and Gromit film “Curse of the Were-Rabbit”, taking the typical werewolf approach to another animal makes a funny twist. Ripped and muddy clothes go well with big, furry, carnivorous animals for an old school scare. A were-rabbit could be scary; give it the creepy full-head mask look for an uncanny creepy feel.

Big Bad

A fairy tale twist on horror, or a horror twist on fairy tales? The wolf in granny’s clothing is easy to be funny, but that was done with high viewership in Shrek. Keep this one dark with blood or even evidence of eating Little Red Riding Hood herself. The other Big Bad Wolf was in the Three Little Pigs, so another scary tale costume can swap red fabric for some bacon…

Ghosts

It feels like a staple, but the simplicity of ghost costumes makes them feel boring. Despite the fact that it’s unlikely anyone you know has every cut eye holes out of a sheet and put it over their head to be a ghost, it’s a stereotype. Put some effort in, or don’t because ghosts aren’t as overplayed as they feel.

Accuracy

Step one: dress up in as accurate a historical costume as you can, be it Victorian or the 80s. Step two: make sure all of the clothes are white, paint your exposed skin white and use temporary hair colour to make your hair white. Boom. You now look like an accurate [into time period here] ghost! It’s high effort, but highly spooky and impressive.

Deadspread

Far less effort and far less spooky is this jokey option. Riffing on the classic bedsheet costume, take a coloured or patterned sheet or even a blanket and cut eyes in it. The deliberate fail of a basic ghost costume that isn’t even plain white is well worth the giggle, and you won’t feel like you wasted time and money if the laughs don’t last all night.

Witches

This classic costume is mostly confined to the ladies. It’s also one of the most common costumes with most of the more basic twists just as common. Characters, including Harry Potter and plain clothes witches like those in Charmed and Sabrina, done. Gothic or punky, making it more of a regular fashion outfit with a pointy hat, done. Good or cute witch, done. Luckily there are some untapped ideas.

Wet-ch

From the Slavic kikimora to the English Jenny Greenteeth, watery witches are a global terror. With a wet-look costume and some culturally specific accessories, such as a kikimora’s bare feet or Jenny’s big pointy teeth, this witch might be hatless but is definitely horrifying. You’ll definitely make a splash at a party, at least.

The Three Graeae

A group costume, yes, but a group costume to rival all others. The Graeae were the trio of witches that Perseus meets in his quest to kill Medusa. They sometimes took the form of hideous old women for those who want to wear fake warts and cloaks, and sometimes the form of beautiful young women, for those who want to sexy it up. Oh, and they only had one eye between them, which they took in turns to use and passed to each other by hand.

Skeleton

Watch out, there’s a spooky, scary skeleton inside you right now! The ever present fear of death not only hangs over us and makes us terrified of our insides, but gives us great amusement in Hallowe’en costumes (and decoration). Maybe it’s that deep down we know that it’s something that exists non-scarily in our everyday lives, or maybe it’s the ridiculousness of unconnected bones managing to stay upright in a human shape.

Muscle Man

While skeleton costumes are easy to make at home, ready made skeleton costumes exist to save you time and artistic effort. Likewise, muscle costumes exist. No, not those padded strongman tops, but another insides horror. Unsettling in a way skeletons can’t be, this probably isn’t safe for children’s parties, or safe from anatomical criticism from any doctors or medical students you might know.

Beast Bones

What’s a little creepier than a human skeleton? An animal skeleton, of course. With some different bone structures to play with, including wings, tails and legs, there’s space for creativity. Most obvious of all, of course, is the skull. Birds have beaks, deer and goats have horns, big cats have big teeth. Swapping the two tone face paint for a strangely shaped mask is a definite costume win.

Seven Surprising Things You Learn Working In a Charity Shop

People Shoplift from Charity Shops

This surprised me the most. The heartlessness of coming into a shop staffed by volunteers, raising money for a charitable cause… and nicking stuff. The pettiness of stealing things that are being sold for a pound. It’s not even like it’s poorer people stealing, either; it seems to be people who could easily afford the items at full retail price.

I walked in for an afternoon shift just as a full rack of jeans was discovered missing. There was just an empty rack, so whoever it was had just picked them all up with no regard for size or style and left with maybe ten pairs of jeans. More experienced staff said those jeans will likely end up on a market stall or on e-bay.

You Find Out All Kinds of Personal Things

Most people are aware that old ladies will happily tell everyone all about their latest surgery, but it turns out that all kinds of people will also happily tell charity shop staff the gory details of their personal lives. Women tell me at the till about their changes in breast size and point out the size of the bras they’re buying. People tell me exactly what reason they’re buying clothes for and exactly what they think of a relative who’s wedding it is.

The most interesting anecdote of all isn’t mine, but a coworker’s as they told me how weird it gets sometimes. An attractively dressed woman with a lot of make up on came in, and looked at revealing clothes and high heels, as she has done since when I’ve been in. This time, apparently, a man came up to her and asked her if she was working. After a moment of her panicked face, she told him to wait outside. Turns out she’s a sex worker. The funny part of the story is that my coworker says she carried on shopping for nearly an hour while the man stood around outside waiting!

People Act As If the Prices are Extortionate

It’s a charity shop. The things are mostly second hand and none of the clothes cost more than a fiver. There are some truly lovely, good quality items that seem to be brand new, and they’re priced higher than used and basic items while still being charity-shop cheap. Someone, people still try to sweet talk themselves discounts or complain about the price.

I helped a woman shorter than me, getting a handbag down off of the wall for her. We chatted about the designer label, the likelihood that it was real leather, and the as-new quality it was in. She took it to the till, but then asked in surprise if the price on the label was right; apparently £14.99 is a shocking price to ask for an as-new bag that is nearly £900 new, and she left without buying anything.

People Donate Brand New, Quality Items…

Having never really had a lot of money in my teens or adult life, I’ve only really given old clothes to younger relatives and more recently sold them on eBay, or binned them if they were too damaged. The things that go to the charity shop are things you don’t need to replace (and thus sell for money towards the replacement) and things that wouldn’t fit a relative. Seeing some of the great clothes and other things we get in the charity shop is a heart-warming reminder that people who are better off do actually donate their possessions rather than share and sell for extra money.

Just as the nearly £900, barely-used designer handbag, I’ve put out, neatened up or sold some items that it really reassures my faith in humanity to find donated. We’ve had brand new items, still in their packets, including mid-range shirts. I can tell many of the books donated to us have never been read, their spines stiff and pages pristine, and one or two even with the unfaded receipt still tucked into the back cover. Much of our nicest non-clothes items are PDSA items such as pet-themed décor, but even that gets donated; I’ve sold a painting and wondered who painted it, who donated such a lovely item.

…and Old, Broken Rubbish

Unfortunately, people also seem to see charity shops as a dump where you get to feel good about yourself, and we get people attempting to ‘donate’ all kinds of rubbish. We don’t take electrical items and things like bike helmets, as it’s near impossible for us to know if they’re in usable condition. We find that clothes are too ripped or that battery items have old, mouldy batteries in them, but that’s a judgement call.

It’s when people try to give us obviously cracked bike helmets that would be dangerous to use, puzzles and multi-piece toys with many pieces missing, or things that are blatantly of no use to anyone that’s most frustrating. I’ve even had to explain that no, we don’t take kitchen cupboard doors with no hinges or handles!

People Have Zero Common Sense

While it is a volunteering role for a charity, it’s also retail work in a high street shop. As such, you get all the same realisations of customer ignorance. There’s something about walking into a shop that makes people forget how to read, use logic and count, and it seems that charity shops are one of the worst for this.

The typical occurrence of people handing you clothes with labels on the top with huge £1 stickers and asking you how much they cost happens, as does people looking at a sign that says “3 items only in the changing room” then asking if the curtained area is a changing room or how many items they can take in. I had to repeatedly explain to a customer that while I personally did not know if the watch she was buying had a battery in it, it had been tested and did work. She walked over to a display while I rung her purchase up on the till, then asked if I had, in that time, tested the watch.

Charity Shops Are a Local Charity, Too

While the point of charity shops are already charities, raising money for animal, medical and international charities, the shops themselves provide a charitable service to the local community. In selling the things people have donated, charity shops are shops selling cheap second hand things that people can afford easier.

A woman came in to buy her kids some holiday clothes, as new clothes for 4 children can get very expensive very quickly. A couple of people come in regular, donating the puzzles they’ve completed and buying up new puzzles to do. In a conversation I had with a customer, I realised he was a homeless man buying an interview suit for less than £10. Working in a charity shop gives you a real insight into their role in the community.