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Retail technology companies could do far more to help the charity sector and it would cost them hardly anything

Nick Booth
ebay 300x225 Retail technology companies could do far more to help the charity sector and it would cost them hardly anything

(Getty Images)

One of the most enduring popular myths about the modern economy is that there’s an easy fortune to be made in online trading, if you can only be bothered to make the effort. The implication is that the unemployed really ought to jolly well pull their socks up and start a business.

Everyone seems to know someone who makes a fortune selling their old their knickers online to Japanese fetishists or buying and selling jewellery or antique furniture. Maybe I hang around with the wrong people, but I’ve never managed to find anyone who has succeeded in these supposedly easy lines of business. Not honestly anyway.

Believe me, if I could sell used knickers online I’d be doing it. But eBay frowns on that sort of thing. I really don’t believe this trade exists but it’s one of the great urban myths that people refuse to accept doesn’t exist.

I think the problem with eBay trading is that the margins on second hand goods are too low. If you are using the most popular platforms for trading online, you have to pay a painful percentage of your revenue in fees and commission to eBay and Amazon. Which means you need to achieve quite a mark up to make all your effort of finding a product, writing a detailed description of it, taking a picture and despatching it, worthwhile. That only works if you can get the goods cheap. But there are very few valuable items that can be obtained free by fair means.

There are plenty who use foul means though. Stealing from high street chains is one option, but it’s risky as they’ve got teams of eagle eyed security men in place. The charity sector makes for far easier pickings. I have met people people who work in charity shops, purely to get their hands on the best bargains, which they then sell on eBay. I’ve seen the desperadoes who nick whole bin liners of clothes that were left for Cancer Research.

The man in my local British Heart Foundation shop says there are too many thieves piling into the charity shops of Surbiton (yes, Surbiton of all places!) for them to do anything about it. As soon as he goes out the back to sort out some donations, the shoplifters raid all the best stuff from the front window.  Which is why he never puts good stuff in the window any more.

The poor charity volunteers can’t stop the thieves and they don’t have the technology to even capture the images of the thieves. Wouldn’t it be a grand gesture if one of our technology companies came to their rescue? Maybe a nice security company would like to donate a CCTV system in aid of a charity. Surely this publicly spirited act would be great publicity for the company anyway. By donating a camera and CCTV network, they could help the second hand shops raise millions more for good causes – and do their public image no harm at all.

Are there any public spirited security companies out there willing to do something tangible to help charities? Come on, donating a few cameras and a few hours of your installer’s time will cost your company next to nothing and bring you masses of good publicity. Provided, of course, that the punters don’t steal the cameras.

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  • a_no_n

    Are there any public spirited security companies out there willing to do something tangible to help charities?

    even if you took the word security out of the equasion…unless there was some gaudy PR spectacle involved that the company can profit from the answer is still a resounding No.

  • http://twitter.com/OhThisBloodyPC OhThisBloodyPC

    Sadly, I think you may be right.

    Then again, how many people give to charity and expect nothing back?

    Look at all the people who go Cycling From London to Paris for charity. They get a free holiday out of your sponsorship. And they get the confidence boost of feeling good about themselves. Some of the money you pay actually pays for their hotel accommodation.
    I once asked someone about the charity they were doing their fun run in aid of. They didn’t know the first thing. So perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on any CCTV company that donates kit to help charities. They’re no worse than the rest of us!

  • http://twitter.com/OhThisBloodyPC OhThisBloodyPC

    Sadly, I think you may be right.

    Then again, how many people give to charity and expect nothing back?

    Look at all the people who go Cycling From London to Paris for charity. They get a free holiday out of your sponsorship. And they get the confidence boost of feeling good about themselves. Some of the money you pay actually pays for their hotel accommodation.
    I once asked someone about the charity they were doing their fun run in aid of. They didn’t know the first thing. So perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on any CCTV company that donates kit to help charities. They’re no worse than the rest of us!

  • http://computerstories.net/ Rowan Gonzalez

    I think successful corporations have an obligation to those who have been less lucky in the world.

  • http://twitter.com/OhThisBloodyPC OhThisBloodyPC

    Try telling that to Vodafone


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