Charity shops crammed with unwanted Shades of Grey

Updated: 

50 Shades of Grey

Charity shops are apparently receiving thousands of copies of 50 Shades of Grey as donations - but nobody wants to buy them. In many cases when the shops finally rid themselves of a copy, they'll get two more to take its place.

So what is driving this odd phenomenon, and is this the least welcome charity donation?


The odd trend was revealed by the Telegraph, who had heard about it from Cancer Research. The charity told the newspaper that while they were very grateful for any donations, the book just wasn't selling.

This was confirmed by WeBuyBooks.co.uk, which said it might try to give sales another chance after the release of the film in August next year.

It seems bizarre. After-all it became the UK's best-selling book of all time last summer, and has now sold 11 million copies in the UK and 16 million in the US. It made EL James the highest-earning novelist of the year - with an estimated £62 million - and was credited with introducing millions to erotic fiction.

Ditching the books

To a certain extent, it was bound to happen. It was a publishing phenomenon, so almost half of all households bought it and many of them managed to get all the way through it.

However, they were then left with the vexing question of what to do with the copy. It's not the kind of literary tome that people hang on to in order to read and re-read it for years to come. Neither is it the kind of thing they'd want to leave on the bookshelf for the neighbours to see when they pop round.

A survey by Travelodge in the summer revealed that it's the book that people were most likely to leave in the hotel after a holiday - showing at we value the potential luggage space more than we value a copy of the book.

Those who decided to carry to book back home were never going to keep it, so in the vast majority of cases, it's eventually going to find its way to the charity shop.

No second-hand demand

Meanwhile, given the vast publishing success of the book, anyone who wanted to buy and read the book has already done so. By December last year the British Heart Foundation found it was already considered to be the least popular Christmas present by 26% of people. This put it way ahead of weight loss DVDs, onesies and Christmas jumpers in the league table of unwanted gifts.

To add to the problem, the idea of buying erotic fiction second-hand is also fairly unsavoury to many shoppers.

It leaves charity shops with lots of supply and very little demand - and the problem that they can't even recycle the books because of the glue used to bind them.

Weirdest donations

Charity shops are used to receiving all kinds of strange things. There is even a blog devoted to the oddest things people have found - featuring everything from a portrait of a boy on the toilet to a video to entertain cats.

Homeless charity, Emmaus recently published a top ten of the weirdest donations:
1. Prosthetic Leg
2. An urn containing ashes
3. Bag of human hair
4. A birds nest (complete with Earwigs)
5. A coffin
6. Used and unwashed underwear
7. A set of dentures
8. 10 blown light bulbs
9. Sacks of potatoes
10. A personal diary with entries

The question is what's most likely to sell: the cat video, a coffin, or yet another dog-eared copy of the book everyone already owns and nobody wants?