Pricing up & haggling down: value negotiations in the UK charity shop



This article uses a micro-ethnographic approach to investigate the shop-floor presence of ‘professionalisation’ in the UK charity shop sector. Previous literature on charity retail has described how business-like, professionalising practices have invaded their operations (Gregson and Crewe 2003, p. 75). However, these arguments focus upon top-down processes, without observing how these are played out by actors within the physical space of the charity shop itself. A key component of second-hand culture is the variable nature of value within it – and value is all the more unpredictable in a time of global flux. Using the examples of price negotiation and haggling behaviours on the charity shop floor, this study concludes that professionalisation of charity retail is tempered by customer/worker interaction and social imperatives. Thus, charity shops house a hybrid of professionalised and non-professionalised actions and behaviours that demonstrate the value systems and humanity of shop actors. These ‘participant-driven experiences’ of value negotiation enable those on the shop floor to challenge the ‘iron cage’-like characteristics (Weber, 1977) that have infiltrated the 21st century second-hand world: bureaucracy, rationality and impersonality.


Charity shopshoppingbureaucracyhagglingpricesecondhandvalue
  • Issue: 17
  • Page/Article: 55-78
  • DOI: 10.18573/jomec.231
  • Published on 9 Dec 2022
  • Peer Reviewed