Once upon a time…Oxfam and Remem­ber Me

I’m one of those peo­ple who can’t vis­it a char­i­ty shop with­out pick­ing up a hand­ful of books. And I’m always on the look­out for a find’ – a bar­gain piece of vin­tage cloth­ing that I know no one else will have. So I wish I’d vis­it­ed the Oxfam shop on Whit­worth Road, Man­ches­ter in May 2010 when shop­ping was mag­i­cal­ly trans­formed into a trea­sure hunt.

Written by
Aline Reed
February 12, 2015

Now here’s the clever bit. There wasn’t anything different in the shop’s stock – there was the usual mix of clothing, books, accessories and ornaments. But 40 of these objects came with a tag like this.


The tag indicated that the object was part of a project called Remember Me. For five days, people were invited to record any special memories or stories attached to the objects they were donating.

Isn’t that wonderful? The shop was suddenly filled with stories.

Let’s say you’d spotted a red silk bag. You like the look of it and noticed the tag. If you’d then scanned the QR code with a Smartphone, you’d get this – a message from the previous owner.

‘It was one of the very first things I bought when I went to visit my uncle and his wife, Noy, who live just outside Bangkok. It was also one of the very first times I got a tuk tuk and I nearly fell out in the middle of a motorway on the way back.

‘So I risked life and limb to get that bag!’

The Remember Me project was good business. All the items with a story sold within five days when usually it would take weeks to sell them.

The scheme was then rolled out to 10 Oxfam shops throughout Manchester under the name Shelflife. By the look of this website it ran until 2012.

You might think this is a slightly odd looking ornament missing an arm. But read the story attached to it and it’s suddenly far more charming.

I don’t know if the project is still running and I have a slight concern that the technology might be a barrier to participation. I’d like to have seen what happened if the stories were just written on the labels and you could take them home with you. But it’s a great way of showing how a story can sell.

About the author: Aline Reed

Aline Reed

Aline Reed is a freelance copywriter and creative. She worked for fourteen years at Bluefrog, a London-based agency that specialises in fundraising, where she progressed from copywriter to creative director. She has written fundraising campaigns for all kinds of organisations – charities, museums, galleries and universities. Her work has successfully run internationally in the Netherlands, US, Australia, Ireland as well as the UK. Away from fundraising, she writes book reviews for the Sunday Express and blogs about books and travelling.

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