Do you ever wonder what happens to things that don’t get sold in thrift stores so they can make room for more stuff? When I lived in Montana, I had no idea there was a such thing as a Goodwill Outlet. It wasn’t until I moved to a larger city that this became a ‘thing’ to me. If you have never been to a Goodwill outlet, according to the Goodwill website, it is basically this:
Merchandise at the Goodwill Outlet Store is sold primarily by-the-pound (excluding heavier items such as furniture and books). Items sold at the Outlet are items that have not sold in Goodwill’s Retail stores.
They not only serve to help goodwill make money again, but they also keep these items out of the landfill. For me, this is a huge bonus reason to shop at these outlet stores. You can find them by Googling your local Goodwill chapter’s website or by even calling your local store. Goodwill Outlets sell things mostly by the pound. So rather than buying things individually, you buy them in quantity. For items like clothing, books, glassware, shoes and bedding, this can be a huge savings!
If you are not sure what to expect in the local Goodwill Outlet, here are some of my tips for the first time you go. Disclaimer: Goodwill Outlets are not for everyone. They are dirty, and some of the people are mildly aggressive and rude, but for a true bargain hunter, this place is a kind of paradise. I encourage you to keep an open mind.
Tips for Shopping at a Goodwill Outlet Store
Bring gloves and grubby clothes– Goodwill Outlets often have clothes and items that are dirty or even filthy. I like to bring gardening gloves, preferably ones that have those little rubber areas on the palm for grip. Not only will this save you from messing up some of your favorite clothes, but gloves can actually keep you from getting poked with random sharp objects and touching unknown stains that have germs lurking. I also wash and sanitize my hands after leaving and never touch my face in there. If you have asthma, it might even be a good idea to wear a mask.
Follow posted rules– Many Goodwill outlets have the rule that you are not to start looking through the bins as they are changed out (bins are regularly switched out several times an hour so make sure to grab something you like when you see it even if you aren’t sure if you want it yet!) or you must stand behind a line. Make sure you follow this rule as it is in place for safety as well as fairness. I learned on my first visit that if you don’t pay attention to the rules, you get grouched at by other customers.
Bring your haggling skills– While most of the items are sold by the pound, there are random things that they just sell for a price they make up on the spot. I have never paid more than I thought an item was worth and they are generally good about pricing things super reasonably (think yard sale prices!), be prepared to haggle if you don’t like a suggested price at the register. I have never had to put up a fight for something. They are wanting to get rid of this stuff, so they don’t fight you either. Some of my best buys were this old medicine cabinet for $1, some wood planters for $1 and a military sleeping bag for $3.
Examine clothing and bedding for stains, rips and tears– Many of the items in the clothing bins have stains, tears, rips and the occasional unidentified smell. Make sure you examine all clothing for these. Sometimes, it can simply be washed, other times, it might be an un-mendable tear in the crotch. On the other hand, if you find a blanket with a stain, it could make an excellent kennel or dog blanket.
Keep your eye out for new stuff– You may not expect it, but there are new items in these bins. I never understand how they end up here, but I have found items with tags still attached, even high end brands like Calvin Klein or mall brands like Christopher and Banks. If these items would have been in my size or even anyone I knows size, I would have scooped them up! That’s the fun part of this store; the hunt.
Keep an open mind– You never know what you will find here. I don’t go in looking for anything in particular because very rarely does that happen. Instead, I go in with an open mind and just do a treasure hunt. If you are a crafter, this place can be a virtual treasure trove of fabric, craft projects Pinterest ideas and some of it is even super vintage.
Expect to haul away anything you buy when you buy it– Some locations sell large items like TVs, sofas and exercise equipment. The Goodwill Outlet won’t hold these items if you buy them so make sure you have a way to haul it when you purchase it.
Don’t walk away from your cart– People in these stores sometimes tend to shop other’s carts, so make sure to keep an eye on yours. Also, the staff can sometimes mistake it for items that need to go back to be cycled through again or an abandoned cart.
Try to go when you can leave kids at home and you have lots of time– I’ll be frank- The Goodwill Outlet isn’t the most friendly of stores. The cashiers are nice enough; it’s the other customers. People tend to be grabby, pushy and frantic in there. This is especially true when new bins of household stuff are brought out. Add the random sharp and hidden objects and this place is not really what I would call kid-friendly. Additionally, digging and treasure hunting take time. That might be a huge drawback for you, but remember that the prices are extremely low (often 75-90% off what you would pay in a goodwill store) and you can really find some amazing finds and cheap clothes there so it is well worth it.
Start at the back and work your way up– I have found that the bins in the back tend to not be as picked-over. This is probably because those that don’t have time just look at the closest bins to the door and then move on.