Understanding the Goodwill Outlet Concept
The Goodwill Outlet, fondly referred to as “the bins,” is the final destination for donated goods before they are either discarded, recycled, or, in the case of textiles, shipped overseas. Items wind up here for several reasons: they failed to sell in stores due to damages, high prices, or simply being too quirky. Overflowing donations also find their way here. It's Goodwill's final attempt to extract profit before absorbing disposal costs.
Goodwill Outlets are located all over the United States. The one I shopped was in Chaska, Minnesota. To find a Goodwill Outlet near you, simply Google = Goodwill Outlets in (your state).
Navigating the Outlet Experience
A typical day at the Goodwill Outlet is characterized by a flurry of activity. Giant bins of goods, roughly measuring 4 ft x 10 ft, roll out every 15 minutes to an hour, depending on factors like store policies, goods volume, and staff availability. During this process, customers must stand behind a white line, eagerly waiting to dive into the bins once they're in place.
The products are loosely grouped into categories: housewares, shoes, accessories, clothing, toys, and textiles. Some outlets also offer furniture and books, though these are usually not part of the bins. Shoppers typically have about an hour to rummage through a bin before it is rolled back and its contents disposed of.
The Pricing Mechanism: Weight, Not Item
Unique to the Goodwill Outlet, most items are sold by weight, not individually. The checkout stands feature small scales to weigh products, or if you've shopped exclusively from one category, your entire cart can be weighed on larger scales.
Category names and prices per pound are displayed prominently on the walls around the shopping floor. For instance, in the Twin Cities area, housewares and clothes are $1.99-$2.49 per pound.
Exceptions to the Rule
Items not sold by the pound include glass and dinnerware, electronics, furniture, and books. In the Twin Cities area, glass and dinnerware are $.59 per item, electronics are $11.49 and books are $.59 per inch. Furniture prices are marked.
A Haven for Resellers
The bins attract more than just casual thrifters. Many shoppers are resellers, and they mean business. These individuals fill their carts with items like athletic jerseys or vintage toys, frequently consulting their phones to check resale rates. Others fill their carts with books, scanning them into their phones as they go. Read our article: Work from Home: Tips for Building an Online Reselling Business
A visit to the Goodwill Outlet is not for the faint of heart—it's a mission, not casual browsing. Yet, for those willing to embrace the chaos and invest the time, the potential rewards can be substantial. This is the essence of Goodwill Outlet shopping.
Getting the Best out of the Goodwill Bins
To elevate your experience at Goodwill Bins and make it more enjoyable, there are some key tips to keep in mind:
- Time your visit: While the bins are less crowded later in the day, the bins are refreshed less frequently as the staff focuses on finishing their tasks. Thus, the best time to visit is in the morning or early afternoon when fresh bins are rolled out more frequently.
- Be patient: Goodwill Bins is not the place to rush. Be prepared to spend some time, perhaps an hour or more, going through the bins. The real treasures surface when new bins are rolled out, so stick around for a few cycles until you get the hang of it.
- Quick selection: When a fresh bin is rolled out, place anything that catches your eye into your cart quickly. Inspection can wait until you are ready to check out. This strategy helps you grab potential finds without losing out on other items.
- Get there early: Arriving early ensures that you get a shot at the fresh bins before they've been sifted through.
- Be courteous: Remember, it's not a race but a fun experience. Avoid getting too aggressive with your fellow shoppers. There's enough for everyone!
- Bring your own bag: Some Goodwill Bins locations allow you to bring your own containers to store your items.
- Don't forget to ask for discounts: Goodwill Bins often offer discounts to seniors, military personnel, and students. So, don't forget to inquire about these offers.
- Protect yourself: Inspect items with your eyes first, and then use your hands for a closer inspection. You may even want to wear gloves.
- Be bug smart: Review guidelines from authoritative sources like the EPA to recognize evidence of bed bugs or other infestations.
- Clean your purchases: Wash linens and clothing thoroughly, ideally twice, with a good detergent. Toys and washable housewares should go directly into the dishwasher. Other items can be cleaned with heat, sunlight, or cleansers.
Wrapping Up: The Charm of Goodwill Bins
The beauty of shopping at Goodwill Bins lies in its unpredictability. It's not about finding exactly what you're looking for, but rather about finding something you never knew you wanted or needed. It's an exciting adventure that's filled with surprises at every turn. Remember to bring your gloves, dress comfortably, and keep an open mind.
At the end of the day, shopping at Goodwill Bins is more than just about buying items. It's a unique experience that you can't replicate elsewhere. And with a bit of patience, a sense of adventure, and a keen eye, you'll discover that the Goodwill Bins are not just a place to buy goods by weight, but a treasure trove of hidden gems just waiting to be found.