Do you, in your area, get those leaflets designed to look like charity appeals stuffed through your letterbox every week or so, asking for your unused items of clothing (in good condition) to be sold to help others in need? If you do, check the small print at the bottom to see if there is a registered charity number. There probably won’t be. (The point here is not that charities are better than anyone else at dealing with poverty. They’re not. It’s just an example of how some businesses will happily pretend to be charities in order to make a few bob.)
Where I live there are at least three commercial groups who come round regularly leaving large plastic bags to be stuffed full of clothing which they then cart off and flog. It’s a lucrative business. They even pinch each others bags of goodies sometimes.
One of these leaflets recently had in large red print across the bottom: “God will reward your good hearts.”
I took it down to my local Trading Standards Office and point out that the claim was totally unreasonable. If God is happy to sit on his arse and do nothing while millions starve needlessly I think it’s being a bit optimistic to expect him to reward me for giving my old socks and underpants to a private recycling firm. The man behind the desk gave me a puzzled look, then took the leaflet and consulted one of his colleagues. He came back a few minutes later and quietly apologised. “No,” he said, “there was nothing they could do.”
Apparently it’s quite acceptable to not only make these claims on behalf of God in churches up and down the country every Sunday, but now, even on commercial firms’ trading leaflets as well.
It seems that the Salvation Army is also willing to let a commercial business make vast profits out of people’s charitable donations of clothing – made under the assumption that because it is the Salvation Army, their donations will be used to aid the poor.
An article in the Guardian (31 January) describes how a firm in Kettering does very well out of Salvation Army charity. Its boss and three fellow directors have apparently made almost £10 million for themselves since 2008 through a deal in which they collect some 2,500 tonnes of clothes each month from the Salvation Army recycling banks and sell them in eastern Europe.
Trying to justify this Dave Hinton (or Lieutenant Colonel David Hinton, to give him his full Salvation Army title) stated “It would be naïve to believe or expect that such an operation would not incur administrative costs.”
The boss of the company, Nigel Hanger, was much more open about it though. Clearly not a man to mince his words, he stated: At no point have I ever not said what I am in this for, I am in business to make profit as best I can in the proper manner and to make as much money as I can for myself and my family.”
Doesn’t it make a refreshing change to meet an honest businessman?