Hippy Hardware, The Recyclers, Wastebusters, the Op Shop, Mitre 11, the Reuse shop……..
There are many names for our Wanaka Wastebusters Reuse shop, it’s a place that nearly everyone in town has heard of, if not shopped at.
For my second foray into my behind the scenes blogs of Wanaka Wastebusters I arranged a day to be allowed to hang out with our favourite ladies and find out how a typical day runs.
The Reuse shop has undergone so many changes over the last 10 years. From sharing the space with the Baler (the machine that squashes all the recycling) when it first opened, with drop offs going into 1/2 of the shop and the produce being baled, changing slowly to how it is today. I have heard wonderful stories about how the floor was concreted by volunteers back in the beginning a meter square at a time over many weeks so that everyday work could happen around it.
I remember when I first arrived in Wanaka to visit a friend for a week…… well, as with most of us foreigners that end up staying in Wanaka, a week turned into a month, into a year……into 7 and residency!
I came totally unprepared for the changing of seasons or for kitting out a house/room.
My savings depleting pretty fast with all the fun times here in Wanaka I was swiftly introduced to Wanaka Wastebusters.
I have never looked back!
I reckon 90% of everything I have bought in the last 7 years has came from here and probably 80% of it finds its way back eventually to then get sold to someone else.
Anyway, you aren’t here to read my story, you want to know what goes on in that shop? Do we get all the bargains? What are the customers like? What are the staff like? What makes it different from other shops? Is what you see what you get?
Well let me begin…….
Saturday morning up with the birds… looking for something warm yet funky to wear, (no chance of hiding in the office out of the publics eye) I jumped on my bike, popped on some good tunes and off I went. As I was hurtling past the cows on my way, I noticed the belly’s on many were covered in frost,
it was a cold one alright, Holy Moly! I peddled faster knowing the quicker I got there the quicker I could light the fire and try and warm the shop up. That is one down fall of the shop, it gets very cold in the winter, the fire does make a difference, but for those 1st few hours on a winters morn… Brrrrrr!
Keen bean Ivy, I got there before anyone.
Coffee on, fire lit, fingerless gloves on, 60’s compilation grooving out the CD player with enough time for a wee sing song….I didn’t have long to wait for Naomi to arrive.
Naomi was my fellow worker for the day. She has been working at Wastebusters for the last 4 1/2 years. Originally from NZ, Naomi previously spent 16 years in Australia working as a dental therapist before moving back to Wanaka with her young family. Asking what made her want to work at Wastebusters, she replied “I love reuse, and recycling”, and this passion runs true through all the team here. Noami’s favourite thing is making people happy when they find a bargain, and her least favourite is definately theft which “makes her grumpy”
Meet the Team
There is quite a high turnover of staff.
The same as many places in Wanaka being a seasonal town, but we also have a good steady crew who have been around for a long time.
The shop staff were pretty constant for a long time but recently there has been quite a change around bringing in new staff. It’s been great for the shop to have new ideas and personalities around. It’s what keeps Wastebusters fresh and forever moving forwards.
What I’ve noticed over my time at Wastebusters is the shop isn’t just a shop, it’s also a place to catch up with others, a place for ideas to form, projects to emerge out of the piles of random goodies that get dropped off daily, a way of life for some folks.
So many people pass through these doors from every walk of life: Travellers, locals, holiday makers, seasonal visitors, everyone looking for a bargain, some just a social visit, others dropping off their recycling and goods for us to sell on. Wanaka isn’t the cheapest of places to live, and one thing that the reuse shop does, is give people the chance to buy that dining table they need, replace those ripped pants and generally have change of a fiver, to have a good standard of living without spending a fortune, and ensure that things have a longer life and don’t go straight to landfill because you have finished with them. It gives everything a chance to live again.
It wasn’t too busy on the day I worked there but I have seen days when it is non stop. Drop offs happening constantly, cars pulling up and a steady stream of goodies to sort out all the while having customers to serve, people to chat to, it can be a long day on the feet I tell you. In the shop we sell everything from clothes, linen, furniture, toys, electrics (we have an electrician come in a few times a week to test goods to ensure they are safe), books (we have a fantastic book area in our education section), bric a brac galore, kitchen goods, pictures, curtains, the list goes on, whatever people don’t want, if its good enough to sell on, we take it.
We operate on the good charity of the locals and tourists alike.
Without the regular drop offs, we would have nothing to sell. Very little actually ends up in landfill. We get a huge amount of clothes in, those of which we don’t want get sent to Dunedin to Savemart. Cotton items that are too far gone to sell, we keep for our wonderful cotton ladies.
The cotton ladies, aka rag ladies, aka scissor sisters, have been coming here once a week for the last 10 years and cut up all the cotton scraps, removing zips, buttons etc, bagging them up for resale to mechanics, workmen and anyone else who may want a bag of rags. We try to throw out as little as possible.
A common question asked is, “do you guys get the best bargains?”
The answer there is sometimes we do. The best way to get a good bargain is to be here everyday, and we are, but so are others. Everything goes out into the shop, everyone has the same chances to buy a bargain.
It’s also up to your personal discretion. I have had a time when a pair of boots came in that I loved, I waited and watch for a few days while many ladies tried them on, but after 2 days the boots were still there and in I stepped like Cinderella and her glass slipper.
It is hard to walk past all the fantastical treasures day in day out and not buy things, but it’s also a case of how much stuff can you take home. Everyday something will catch your eye, and everyday you have to just step back and think, do I really need that? Most of the time the answer will be no!
I did find it quite hard getting my head around the pricing.
As nothing is priced and we do work with people to try to ensure that everyone walks away happy, it can be tricky when customers come up with an item and say, “all i have is 50 cents!”
We do get a lot of feedback on ‘variation of prices depending on the staff’. We have been working towards standardising items, pricing those things that are extra good, having price guides for books, clothes and electrics and kitchenware is definitely helping to keep it pretty even across the board. It is a constant work in progress and there is no right or wrong. We do enjoy a good barter, and yes we do try and do bulk buy discounts. The ladies do their best but sometimes it is challenging when people fail to understand that this is our trade. We have over 26 full time staff and put over 1 million dollars a year back into our community in wages alone. Its the circle of life at Wanaka Wastebusters and we couldn’t do it without all the generous donations from the local community coming in daily that keep it all moving and grooving!
The shop is basically the first port of call for most folks that want anything from us.
The ladies have to deal with goods drop offs, businesses signing in and out for recycling drop offs out the back, people popping in to collect black recycling crates, coordinating sales with the boys out in the yard, taking calls from the public about all manner of things, organising moving ons (we run a service where for a fee, we can go out to houses having a clearance or moving, fill up our truck, and bring all the stuff here with no bother to the customer), keeping the shop ticking over and running smoothly, and also above all, being nice and keeping the shop looking fresh and tidy and shopper friendly.
After one day in the shop I had a new respect for those ladies.
It’s not always easy standing on your feet all day, sometimes in the extreme cold. If you have a day when you don’t feel like talking to anyone, you can’t hide away. You have to leave it at the door and turn your frown upside down.
On the upside, it is amazing to meet so so many wonderful people in our community, to be able to see the joy on the faces of customers when they do find that cookbook they have been looking for over 10 years for, seeing family’s being able to kit out their kids for the winter season up the hill without breaking the bank, watching people laugh for hours whilst working there way through our fancy dress range, seeing people leaving with the excitement of a new project, having people just hanging out swapping stories, catching up…. it’s a heart warming feeling, not one that you get in any old shop.
On that note, I think that’s all from me, for those of you that shop here, well, I don’t need to tell you how awesome it is, and those of you that don’t, give it a go! I guarantee you will find a bargain you will love.