Widely popular among bargain hunters, struggling college students, vintage fashion fanatics, and touring musicians, Goodwill Retail stores have evolved from ordinary second-hand shops to lush hunting grounds for discount divas across the country. However, a day at a Goodwill Outlet store ups the stakes from innocent thrifting to Hunger Games status, with women fighting to the death for the grand prize of scoring great deals and major bragging rights.
A best friend recently explained how she and her courageous aunt frequent Goodwill Outlet stores, also known as “The Bins” in some parts of the country, a clearing house, so to speak where items are initially sent, before they’re separated and distributed to other Goodwill Retail stores.
Without fail, women begin to line up at 8 a.m. before the store opens. Once inside, there's a mad race to scour the bins filled with possible gems like gently-used designer handbags and cute clothing, and even some items with the tags still attached. Every 30 minutes, bins are refilled with more merchandise and brought out, and the frenzy begins again. The hottest items are the handbags, as those bins are only rolled out once a day, in the morning when the store opens. And some shoppers have claimed that they've discovered money and other goodies left behind in the handbags. At the end of the day, the store resembles a war zone, with only the most skilled Goodwill warriors walking out with her hairdo in place and dignity fully intact.
The way my friend describes it, it sounds sort of like a battle scene from 300. And in fact, there actually is a new trend emerging called - believe it or not- Thrift Wars? It’s where two frugal folks go head to head to try to recreate a runway or celeb look using secondhand pieces. One daring shopper even had the nerve to reproduce Michelle Obama’s J. Crew outfit using finds from a Goodwill on 23rd St in Manhattan.
Unlike at regular Goodwill retail stores, merchandise at Goodwill Outlet stores is displayed in bulk, and is generally rotated multiple times per day. Even better, treasures are also generally purchased by the pound, unless it’s a large, bulky item. Some Goodwills even offer discounts on the price per pound, if you purchase larger volumes. The whole fast-paced process of digging for buried treasure just might leave you in Black Friday déjà vu!
So, the secret to amazing bargain hunting is out! But be wary - this shopping adventure is not for the faint of heart. As one experienced Goodwill-goer put it, “I was not kidding about the gloves and Purell. This place isn't disgusting, but it can be very messy at times. People will just lunge into the new bins and be generally unapologetic about cramming your personal space. There's really no describing the scene when they bring the new bins of stuff out. You just have to see it for yourself. Full-on scavenge.” - Yelp.com customer review
If you’re up for the challenge, Goodwill Outlet stores can be goldmines for vintage and gently used treasures. Also, be sure to keep an eye on your own basket of merchandise you’ve acquired, as other sly shoppers have been known to steal from each other’s baskets.
To make the most of your trip, I suggest pre-gaming at the nearest Starbucks, arriving early, and sticking to your guns!
Here are some of Goodwill’s Bargain Hunting Tips:
1). Stop in frequently. Most stores have a constant turnover of merchandise on a daily basis.
2) Some shoppers like to bring in a seamstress’ tape measure because sizes are not consistent between brands and sizes have changed through the years. This will ensure the items you purchase fit.
3) Some shoppers also like to bring an eraser to test silver items.
4).Find out store policies on markdowns, holds and the methods of payment your Goodwill® accepts. If policies aren’t posted, ask the sales staff about them.
To find the Goodwill located nearest to you, visit www.goodwill.org.