CHARITY shop volunteers have been left sickened over fears that scores of clothes bags are being stolen from doorsteps.
Staff and volunteers at the RSPCA shop in York Road, Hartlepool, fear that bags donated by kind-hearted residents are being swiped by thieves.
Bosses say thefts are having a massive impact on the shop and they are losing 12.5p a bag and the cost to pay a driver to collect them.
Shop manager Linda Smallwood said as a rule, the branch expects to receive roughly 10 per cent of delivered bags returned containing unwanted goods.
But she said on recent rounds, there has not been any donations returned at all.
Ms Smallwood said there is evidence that people are definitely putting out goods, as some people ring the shop to confirm they have full bags waiting for collection.
But when the charity’s driver turns up, there is often nothing to collect, making volunteers suspecting a thief has made off with the goods.
Ms Smallwood said: “We can put 1,000 bags out each week and we might get about 10 per cent back.
“But we put about the same number out in the Peterlee area recently and there wasn’t one bag to pick up. It’s making us rather mad.
“What the public don’t understand is these bags cost 12.5p each and then there’s the driver’s wages on top of that. All that’s wasted.
“This has been going on about two or three years.
“A member of the public will ring up and say ‘I’ve got something for you’.
“But usually by the time the driver gets there, it’s not there, or there have been reports of another vehicle picking it up.
“It’s getting harder and harder for us.”
Ms Smallwood said the alleged thefts are resulting in low stock numbers and therefore less profit for the animal charity.
She added that winter stock was having to be put out on rails earlier to make up for a lack of donated summer stock.
The charity is urging anyone donating goods to look out for their van, which has the RSPCA logo on the side.
They should ring the shop on (01429) 283218 if they have any suspicions and the van’s registration number can be checked.
Anyone with information about missing charity bags in the Hartlepool Police area should call (01642) 326326 or Durham Police on 03456060365 in the east Durham area.