Working in shop you’re on your feet all day, getting dusty and dirty. You have to have your toes covered for health & safety reasons so no flip flops allowed, and you absolutely must wear flats.  I tried helping at a shop in heels once, never again…

So I told the shop Manager I would help and her response was “MEL!!!! That’s brill, thank you soooo much!”, so I guessed she was pleased.

I turned up and walked into a pleasantly busy shop and was welcomed by a lovely lady on the till. I explained I was there to help for the day, and Manager Sue came running into the shop to greet me. First things first – cup of tea.  It’s the one thing I’m very traditional about, before work starts, the kettle goes on. Once the tea was flowing I got on with the steaming!

Steaming is quite therapeutic; but you need to not zone out otherwise you spend far too long trying to get every last crease out of a linen jacket. Steaming is undertaken for hygiene purposes and to freshen up and clean the item, some creases will steam away but not all of them. It needs to be done quickly and efficiently.

After a couple of hours of steaming and sorting, one of the volunteers brought in some cake for the staff and volunteers to share. How lovely! I do love a nice piece of cake. That was devoured in record time, and then work continued.

After you have sorted a bag of donations and sorted the items can be sold, they need to be hung and a size block popped onto the hangar.  Then they are steamed, tagged and priced in most of our charity shops (although this is not applicable in the pound shop, for obvious reasons).  Then after we have a load of lovely clothes on the rail, we take an armful of 10 items and put them out onto the shop floor.  Our Exmouth shop is very busy so items need to be put out in the shop very quickly and frequently.  I strode into the shop, beaming with my armful of steamed clothes ready to sell, and – eek!  All the shoppers are staring at my arms, eager to see what bargains I am carrying.  One asks to look at a dress I have, I struggled not to drop the other items in order to give her the dress.  A top goes next.  Then I managed to put all the other items onto the rails, though I don’t suspect they stayed there very long!

In the afternoon I had a lesson on the till. Many people are frightened of tills, in case they ‘go wrong’ or beep at you when you’re not expecting it to.  Thankfully I had a good teacher and managed to not experience any random beeps.  The till is a nice place to work; people are happy to be buying their bargains, and I quite enjoy looking at what they’ve bought because I’m nosy like that.

The end of the day soon came around – time really does fly when you’re busy!  Sweating profusely, I said my goodbyes and wandered off to find my car.  Although it was hard work and rather hot being the middle of summer, I thoroughly enjoyed my day.  I think everyone should volunteer in a charity shop once in their lives, to witness what goes on behind the scenes –a lot of time effort goes into the preparation work!

Would you like to have a go volunteering in one of our shops? Find out more about the roles that help support us.