Matthew Munson: An affection for charity shops

I’m not one for shopping. Some people get excited about going round the shops, often for hours on end. I don’t; if I’m asked to trail round looking for almost anything, I get desperate, ratty, and very unfocused.

Except when it comes to charity shops; I’ve got something of an affection for charity shops across Thanet (and, it has to be said, beyond). I don’t know why; I can’t quite explain it, except to say I rather like the challenge of finding something unusual, quirky, or a little odd. It’s become something of a challenge to me now, that I can spend a very pleasant Saturday trawling through the charity shops of East Kent, looking for a bargain.

You see, there are thins to know about charity shops; which ones are good for which types of purchases, and what to expect from each one – which volunteers will help you by having a root around in the stock rooms for that little thing you’re suddenly convinced you absolutely need.

‘Phases’

I go through phases of wanting to find different things, at as little cost as possible. So often, you’re paying for the name and label, which I refuse to do, as I have very little concept of what status comes with these sorts of things. So, I go in and hunt for different things; just recently, I’ve been become rather obsessed with shoes.

This has been something of a surprise to me, as I’ve never been one for shoes; not like my friend Di, who has cupboards-full of shoes. I’m fairly unimaginative with shoes, but when I’m hunting for them in charity shops, I become a man obsessed, examining pairs and discarding them just as easily. My last sojourn – during which I absolutely, categorically stated that I wasn’t going to buy any more bloody shoes – let me with a net increase of three pairs of shoes.

I might need an intervention soon.

The hunt

Then I hunt for shirts, hats, books (not necessarily in that order) and odds and ends that could well be useful. Everything I buy must have a purpose, as I’m not much one for gathering stuff in my home; I need to have useful stuff. I was out last weekend hunting for bargains, and managed to get the aforementioned three pairs of shoes (for under twelve quid, mind you), three t-shirts, and two books. I was tempted by a few other bits and pieces, but like I said, if it doesn’t have a purpose …

I usually go to Whitstable, Tankerton, Herne Bay, Birchington, Westgate, and Ramsgate on an average expedition – I told you it was a mission – and the best towns, in my view, for bargains are Herne Bay, Birchington, and Ramsgate. Nine times out of ten, you can guarantee that there’s going to be something there that’s going to be useful and a decent price.

‘Value’

There are the occasional shops that charge extortionate amount for a particular item, and I do find myself wondering why on earth they do that; people often go looking for value for money, so it’s not surprising to see the marked-up items sitting on the shelves week after week after week. I’m no commercial analyst, but I suspect there’s a lesson to be learnt there.

But yes, do hunt for bargains in charity shops; they’re brilliant places, full of little treasures, and who knows – you might start to find the hunt as addictive as I do.

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