Is “donating” to charity just a way for some people to get rid of their rubbish?

Donations left outside the front door of Shelter in Northgate

Karl Pilkington, the former comic sidekick to The Office creators Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant, once admitted that he “donated” socks and pants to a charity shop because it was closer than the communal wheelie bins for his flat.

“You do not donate pants to charity shops,” Gervais chided him in a podcast.

“Washed!” Pilkington exclaimed, attempting to inject credibility to his actions.

Walking along an empty Northgate at 6.30am yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the piles of donations stacked in the doorways of the various charity shops.

Outside Shelter, the homeless charity, for example, there was a large collection of items which looked distinctly unsellable.

Ricky Gervais’s sidekick Karl Pilkington

Some pieces of coloured plastic whose purpose I could discern lay on the ground. Perched on top of the pile was a baby bath containing about 50 matchbox cars, many of which were in rough shape with much of the paint missing.

Myriad binbags and suitcases no doubt containing all sorts of treasures were also left in the doorway.

The Pilkington theory was to fill a binbag, placing what he called the “good stuff” at the top before the charity shop volunteers would have to work their way down to his underwear at the bottom.

Are people really walking into Oxfam shops and walking out with a pair of brown Y-fronts with yellow trim – a bargain at 10p?

A few years back, someone suggested to me that the Oxfam shop in St Peter’s Street was doing the charity a disservice because it was throwing books away in a dumpster at the side of the building.

In fact, it was doing little more than binning books that would sit unsold on its shelves for years. If you didn’t know it was a charity shop, you’d think it was a decent second-hand bookshop. And the market has got to be pretty limited for copies of Alan Sugar’s autobiography or a book of Jim Davidson jokes.

So if you’re donating to charity, it might be worth asking yourself whether the sort of things you’re giving away are actually going to sell.

If not, then all you’re doing is getting someone else to dispose of your rubbish for you.


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