Thank who?

When I was walking past an Oxfam shop with my Dad a couple of weeks ago, I glimpsed a sign on the door saying that for any M&S item of clothing brought into the shop in a bag of unwanted clothes, you would get a £5 M&S voucher. “That seems too good to be true” I remarked (and as it turned out, it was! See later *.)

And then a week ago, I happened to be watching morning TV and saw Sarah Farquhar, Head of Retail Operations for Oxfam discussing the scheme with some trendy airhead suffering from a hangover or sleep deprivation who could not grasp the idea at all.

So on Friday, I stuffed some old clothes into a large M&S bag (just to make doubly sure!) and folded a faded pair of M&S pyjamas carefully on the top, keeping aside other M&S items for further visits. I battled through the snow to my local Oxfam shop and was rewarded with my £5 M&S voucher. Well, £5 off if I spend over £35 on clothing, home and beauty products in store, that is *.

What a disappointment. I can’t remember the last time I spent £35 in any shop other than the supermarket. Call me naïve and gullible - plenty do - but I picked up the leaflet in Oxfam and you do have to look on the back to discover the finer details of the offer.

So, far from the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good and £5 in my pocket, I am left exploding with questions:

  • Is this not just a ploy to get me to spend more in M&S?
  • Doesn’t such a scheme encourage us in our over-consumerism?
  • Couldn’t M&S just have quietly given the money involved in this project to Oxfam?
  • How much of this is to raise the profile of M&S and its Plan A?
  • Is there really such a battle raging out there for our unwanted clothes that we need this incentive to choose Oxfam above all others?

According to the Oxfam staff, the scheme has caused a noticeable increase in donations - and once through the door, people then buy…well, I did.

As I left, I was presented with a Thank you card, which set me thinking… who needs to thank who? Everyone seems to win - M&S gets increased profile and profit; Oxfam gets increased resources; I get an excuse to spend more money on things I don’t really need; humans in need across the world get help.

So why am I left feeling vaguely cheated?

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