Comment: Charity risks defeating its own aims

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patients and their families have had to put up with exorbitant prices at hospital shops for years.

That doesn’t make it any easier to swallow when you are charged more than twice the price for basic items that you pay at the supermarket down the road.

Of course, no one can compete with the bulk buying power of the supermarket giants. Shoppers are a lot savvier these days and understand that, so we expect to pay a wee bit more at the corner shop, petrol station and, yes, stores inside hospitals. Like everything else though that understanding has its limits.

There will be a great deal of sympathy for the WRVS whose shops are staffed by volunteers, and whose profits are all ploughed back in to first-class work supporting older people, often when they are at a low ebb.

There is a point where the charity risks defeating its own aims, albeit in a small way, if it is charging too much for something that is being bought by or for older people who are stuck in hospital. Perhaps it could keep prices capped at a slightly lower level and invite donations with every purchase? Or take more steps to spell out to all its customers that every purchase is helping to fund its charitable work? Ultimately though it will be forgiven because of all the good work that it does.

It is harder for WH Smith to justify the amount that it charges. A bottle of pop may not be an essential, or the healthiest of options, but paying almost double what Morrisons charge for a treat like that will stick in the craw.

The only reason that people continue to pay those prices is that outlets in hospitals have a captive market.

The high street chain has promised to cap the prices of some items in its hospital shops in the face of bad publicity earlier this year. The evidence from the Royal Infirmary shows that it has not gone far enough.