Op Shops, Thrift Books and the thrill of the book hunt

Op Shops. I’ll be writing more about op shops in future blog posts so I feel I should explain more about them now. If you’re in Australia you won’t need to read any further but if you’re elsewhere in the world and you don’t understand I do ask you to read this.

The phrase Op Shop is a contraction of Opportunity Shop. It is a shop set up by charities to raise money to help fund their activities, it can also be a place for people of the older generation to volunteer to help them get out of the house or to help them keep busy and finally it can also be a place where those with little income can buy cheap clothing. For our purposes it can be a place to find little gems, thrift books that sell. Most of the goods will be donated by businesses or families therefore they can have absolute rubbish or absolute gems.

St, Andrews Op Shop, Brighton, Victoria

Some of the larger shops are run by paid staff and generally the prices are rather higher others are run by a mixture of paid staff and volunteers but others are totally run by volunteers. You’ve got ones run by the Salvation Army, St Vincents de Paul, The Brotherhood of St Lawrence as well as various smaller charities such as the animal protection society ones. They all have their good points and their bad points and there’s a lot of controversy about them among op shop goers. Many of the ones run by the Salvos (Salvation Army) and St Vincents (Vinnies) are run by a paid manager with volunteer staff and they have to make a certain amount of money each week so they put up their prices accordingly. It’s possible to find name brand clothing at any of these shops for a fraction of the retail price and also possible to find the manager has put too high a price on them so they never sell. The Red Cross has op shops dedicated just to clothing, but I never visit them.

One of the wonderful things about op shops is that you never know when you’re going to find a treasure whether it’s thrift books with value, a dress or a collectable ornament. I get really excited about op shops and watch for them wherever I go. In fact, unless I go to an op shop on a regular basis I get withdrawal symptoms. You might notice I’m concentrating more on the thrift books side of things rather than the clothes, furniture, collectables or LPs, I’m sure there’s a good reason for that but it escapes me at the moment.

One thing I’ve noticed that has been relatively recently introduced is computers. No, they don’t sell computers, the cash register is now computerised. The programme is quite comprehensive but I do wonder how the volunteers cope with the introduction. Many of the volunteers are of the older variety, in fact, a lot of the ones I know are over 80 and some of them can’t even operate a mobile phone let alone a computer so I just wonder what would happen to them. One of the Vinnies I visit frequently disposed of their old cash register and introduced the computer, shortly thereafter they had to close for a day as so many of their volunteers had resigned. I understand that it’s all on the screen and you just touch the screen, but some of the people I know would not even be able to work that so they would not be able to continue in the op shop. When the Vinnies introduced this computer I was so incensed by it I wrote a blog post about it for my blog.

Should you wish to buy pre-loved books from me you can find me on http://www.suzs-space.com , you can have a conversation with me on Twitter @SuzsSpace), you can read further blogs by me including the one about op shops on http://suzsspace.wordpress.com or if you’re really lucky you might find me on Facebook, I’m told I keep popping up there but I have yet to find myself.

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  • I had a cross-cultural moment here. We call those thrift shops in the U.S., and for us “OP” in the book trade means “out of print.”

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