Went into an Oxfam Book shop it doesn't mattter where, and had a good browse. I saw several books and a CD I would have bought, but to be honest and upfront about it, they were far too expensive. I know the second hand book market and the prices that are fair and sensible, and the Oxfam pricing policy seems to sit at the highest end of that.
That comment and what follows is from a friend of Oxfam. I am fully committed to the work of Oxfam. It's a charity I've supported for many years. The money raised is crucial to the wellbeing and improvement of life for many thousands of people, and at times Oxfam's work is a life-saving intervention. They need all the money they can get. So why did I not buy the books that interested me.
Put simply, and probably a bit controversially, I don't like being ripped off, and I don't think a charity should price itself out of the market. A CD that is £4.99 on Amazon, was deemed a collector's item and priced at 10.99 second hand. A two volume set of theology was twice the price of another second hand book seller who deals in theology and is not cheap. Add to this that Oxfam as a charity receives discount on local authority rates, is staffed by volunteers, and receives its book stocks as donations and at no cost. So why is that stock priced so high?
Now I did buy a book - it wasn't a bargain but it was a fair price which I was glad to pay. It was an anthology of Aquinas' theological writings, an Oxford hardback published in 1954. In that deal there were two satisfied parties. So I wonder if there's a need to be a bit more realistic in pricing policy, and demonstrate an interest in the customers satisfaction as well as the main mission of making a difference in human life and welfare in a fragmented unequal world - actually the main mission is possible because of customer loyalty, volunteer time, public generosity in donations and a fine track record in using funds with strategic generosity and care.
One other point easily missed in these austerity days. Charity shops started as places where those on low incomes and others struggling to get along in life could go and find warm clothing, and other necessities for knock down prices compared with the retail market. In the interests of maximising income and profits, there are now policies of only taking what is 'like new', or labelled designer, and these are priced beyond those who are looking for recycled good quality clothes at prices affordable to them. Nobody is saying charity shops should become clearance houses for worn out cast offs. But a balanced stock, with an eye to local customer base, and a commitment still to supporting the poor whether here or overseas, would restore a balance that is in serious danger of reducing the credibility of charity shops as places where the word charity stiull retains someof its meaning as gift and grace to the poor.
The need for a review of pricing policy and customer service is increased when you come across articles like this.