Whenever I walk around the lake at Bray now I feel a little bit of pride that I am contributing to such a worthy charity
When the coronavirus pandemic forced our shops to close for the first time in March 2020, our Retail Team quickly adapted and developed their online shopping offering. The existing eBay store grew to list even more donated goods online, to allow customers, old and new, to continue to shop our quality preloved items from home.
Recently, we caught up with Drew, one of our eBay volunteers, to hear all about his important role in this team.
"My name is Drew and I am an e-commerce volunteer based in the Distribution Centre at Maidenhead. I am one of seven volunteers who support the two staff members who run the Thames Hospice’s eBay shop.
"I have been volunteering for four months now. My path into volunteering came about by chance. I was about to embark on a planned career break, after 25 years in Central Government, when the coronavirus pandemic occurred. The plans my wife and I had to go travelling were immediately scuppered. So I responded to a National campaign for volunteers to support the charity retail sector and was quickly matched with Thames Hospice. I was attracted to working in the eBay shop because I hoped I could apply some of my own experiences with buying and selling online.
"I have been made very welcome by the eBay manager Julie-Ann, and the rest of the team at Maidenhead. Everyone values the contributions of volunteers, whatever the size of their commitment. The team has accommodated requests to do work from home, and volunteers do shifts spread across the week to minimise contact during lockdown.
"My primary role is to research items that are donated to the charity, decide what to sell in our eBay shop and then list the item – making sure the item is accurately described with good photographs, and priced at a level that hopefully generates lots of interest leading to a sale. The range of items we sell is broad. Clothes, shoes, toys and china make up a large proportion of our stock, but we also handle sizeable quantities of collectibles, for example, model railways and cameras. I was surprised to find out that over 20% of our eBay buyers are from abroad; the global marketplace has certainly helped us achieve good prices for vintage and rare items.
"There have been many memorable moments in my time volunteering: the excitement when I found a gold sovereign in the coin collection; the embarrassment when I realised I had modelled a men’s jumper on the ladies clothes dummy; and the astonishment when the first item I was given to list was a first edition Harry Potter book with a rare printing error. An important lesson I have learned is to be careful and thorough in how I describe an item, both to help reduce the number of questions and minimise the risk of an item being returned. I have enjoyed exploring the history of items that I would not otherwise handle, from china to clocks, and I have rediscovered the joy of LPs.
"In my time volunteering, I have certainly expanded my knowledge of the world of collecting. There are many days I feel like I am a curator in a museum: carefully handling an oil painting or an antiquarian book; researching the history of a 17th-century coin, or trying to establish the provenance of a silver tea service. It is also humbling to know that you are sometimes handling items donated from a family estate. We are grateful that the public continues to donate good-quality items. Every day is different and it is exciting to arrive in the morning and find out what donations have been found for us to sell.
"The eBay shop has between 350 and 400 items for sale at any one time, and we normally list an item for auction for 10 days. We try to get a good balance of items across different categories. The challenge is to price items so they sell, without missing out on maximising returns for the Hospice. As a volunteer I get the best job – doing the research and listing. The staff are responsible for the packing and posting – the critical part of the process. I have seen some innovative packing of oddly-shaped items; customers are sometimes surprised with an extra cushion as padding in their box! It is nice when we receive from grateful shoppers a thank you note, or a picture of an item in its new home.
"I have been impressed by the dedication of the retail staff and the efforts they have made to keep the business running in these difficult times. Personally, I hope that this is the start of a long volunteering relationship with Thames Hospice. Whenever I walk around the lake at Bray now I feel a little bit of pride that I am contributing to such a worthy charity."
Our services are free of charge to all those in our community who need vital hospice care but this is only made possible through the charitable support and generosity of our amazing community. We need to raise £38,363 each day to fund our services 365 days a year to the people who need us most.
We’ve never needed you, our wonderful supporters, more than we need you today. Please donate what you can to help keep hospice care available for those in desperate need.