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400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

This young lady was wearing a mink coat she got for FREE!

HOLLAND - Utrecht (Wk.2 of 2 weeks)
Week 28 of World Tour

Give-Away Store

In Australia we have Op (Opportunity) Shops. These are similar to Salvation Army Stores, where people can buy used (donated) products for just a fraction of their normal cost.

But in Utrecht, Holland, they have a Give-Away Store.

And this is how it works …

You walk in.
You see something you like.
You take it and leave.

And no-one chases you down the street to get you to pay, or rings the police to charge you with shoplifting!

Wow! So what’s this all about?

Well, Holland has lots of buildings which are being legally squatted by the public. These are rundown buildings with no intention of being renovated, but also no intention of being knocked down in the foreseeable future. So many of these buildings are being inhabited by poor, homeless artists, who claim a room for themselves and cope best they can in these buildings which often have no water, gas, electricity or phone utilities.

Anyway, the Give-Away Store is in the shop front of a building on the main street of Utrecht. And it isn’t being used by anyone. And no-one wants to live in it because it’s the main entrance to the building, and all the tenants have to walk through it to get to their rooms in the above floors. So after discussing it amongst themselves, the tenants decided to open it to the public (on Tuesdays only), and give things to the public for free!

The people of Utrecht have warmed to this very noble cause, and generously donate clothes, toys, books and household items to support this very novel idea.

But I was surprised to see the store being manned by a couple of the tenants.

“If everything is free”, I asked, “then why does anyone have to be here?”

So the young lady in the shop explained. “Yes, everything is free, but we have some of our things in the back of this store. There’s a computer, a desk, two couches and a chair. So we don’t want them to think they can take those items as well. But in reality, we find most people are reluctant to take anything at all. They find it hard to accept the idea that they can simply come in and take whatever they want. And so when they find something they like, they always come up to us and ask if they can take it. And, of course, the answer is always YES!”

I don’t think there are any other Give-Away stores in Utrecht, or anywhere else in the world (please correct me if I’m wrong). And if you can’t see a benefit in starting up such an operation, then think about this.

These tenants aren’t paying anything for the space. And they aren’t paying anything for wages because they roster their time in the store, and they only have to be there maybe once a month, because it’s only opened once a week. BUT … the biggest benefit of them all is … they get first pick from all the things being donated to their Give-Away Store. And what a huge benefit that is! I was there in mid December, and it was very cold. Yet even though the front door was wide open to the cold harsh elements of nature, the young lady I’d been talking to wasn’t in the least concerned. And why would she be. After all, you couldn’t possibly get very cold dressed in a very long and warm mink coat!

This article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey

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