If you’ve been to our site for over a week, you hopefully have stumbled across our regular Sunday “Thrift Treasure” series devoted to showcasing the awesome games we find at thrift stores. Scott has been been dedicated for about three years to sharing these (mostly) awesome discoveries, but we’re not new to this. We’ve been scouring garage sales, flea markets, auctions and thrift stores for pretty much as long as we’ve been married. It was only a handful of years ago that we discovered another resource for this thrifty behavior: Goodwill Outlet.
As you have probably read, we regularly seek out thrift stores when we travel. While en route to visit family in another state, on our way to a gaming convention or simply traveling for fun, we will load up the map on our iPhone and search “Goodwill near me” or “Thrift stores near me”. During a summer trip in 2013, we did this near Nashville and a Goodwill Outlet popped up on the list. We kind of laughed because in our minds all Goodwills are outlet stores in a sense. They’re filled with items that didn’t sell at a garage sale or that an owner donated because they were not in style, didn’t fit or were no longer needed. We figured it would be just another Goodwill utilizing a different marketing tactic by calling itself an Outlet. We couldn’t have been further from the truth. When we walked in, we were shocked at what we discovered. There were no shelves, no price tags and no sense of order. It was chaos.
Chaos that somehow managed to siphon time. Several hours later, we realized we were STILL there. Still digging with no end in sight.
In case you find yourself curious about why we got lost in the black hole that is a Goodwill Outlet, here’s how it works.
It’s clean and it’s messy all at the same time if that makes any sense. They keep the floors clean and free of clutter, but that’s about it. There is usually a section for larger items such as furniture, but beyond that, everything is stored in bins that are rolled onto the sales floor then removed after a designated amount of time. In that window of time, those bins become a mixture of discarded pieces, dumped out contents and chaos. But no different than a regular Goodwill or thrift store, you’ll want to wash your hands after leaving. I actually keep a pair of gardening gloves in the van in case I plan to be digging through the bins a lot. Not so much for the dirt, but because I once reached for something and cut my hand on some broken glass.
If you decide to go, there are a couple things you need to know. When they are first rolled onto the sales floor, nobody is allowed to touch anything until the last cart in the row is rolled into place and the wheels locked. Some Goodwill Outlet stores have lines painted on the ground that cannot be crossed until the employee says okay. Others work on the honor system. It’s first come, first served. As in… the first person with their hands on the item gets it.
While the bins are generally grouped by type (shoes, clothes, books) with each in their own section of the room, there is no rhyme or reason beyond that. To make things more confusion, the bins are a free-for-all and things get moved between bins so people can see what’s in them better. This is one of the reasons it becomes a time sink. You’ll go up and down aisles checking out the contents then walk by the same one and see new stuff that was tossed from the other side while someone was trying to self-sort.
What do you see when you look in this bin? It looks like an absolute mess, but it’s not. There is a LOT if you focus. Do you see the wrapping paper, craft supplies and stickers all still in the package? How about the artificial greenery for decorating? What about the Pyrex bowl? Keep looking because you never know what may get uncovered! If you’re one of our gamer friends hopefully you spotted what we did!
Unless a package is sealed, don’t expect it to be complete. Or for that matter, working. This is the final resting place for many of these items. Some may have been damaged or perhaps overpriced when at their original Goodwill location. Others may have been overlooked for the treasure that they are. There are all kinds of reasons they end up at the outlet but once there, they get little respect. Everything gets tossed around without regard for their condition. I’ve seen people open boxes and take just parts of an electronic that have value. Or remove everything from a box except the actual unit because you pay by the pound and most people do this so they aren’t paying for packaging that will get tossed anyhow. On our last visit, I saw a Dyson vacuum get passed over by everyone because the weight made it so costly. That’s common with larger or heavier items. If you see something interesting, grab it and put it in your basket. You can always evaluate it when you are done looking and decide if it’s something worth keeping or tossing back.
As I mentioned before, you pay for everything by the pound. The rates vary by location so you’ll want to check out the signs before you get your heart set on something. As an example, one location we visited had a different rate for books while another had one set rate for everything. One thing fairly consistent is that there’s a discount based on quantity. If you hit a certain weight, the price per pound drops. You may find it cheaper to buy a few extra things. One time we combined our purchases with another person in line to get the bigger discount. Once at the register, checkout is simple. The number of pounds of stuff you have in your cart multiplied by the price per pound. No looking up prices. No figuring anything out. The carts are pre-weighed so when you go to check out, they roll your entire cart onto the industrial floor scale to determine the weight. They deduct the weight of the cart automatically. If you only have a few items, they have a small scale on the counter to determine the weight.
Crafter / DIY supplies
Goodwill outlet is filled with useful items like clothing and glassware, but the main reason we like to go is for the random items we find for crafting. Remember the blood-spatter dice we made? Those were dice we found in unwanted games and scattered on the bottom of bins. We have found all kinds of game pieces that we’ve used to complete games and school projects. We’ve grabbed spools of thread and passed over loads of yarn. If you’re into crafting and DIY projects and have an eye for upcycling what the rest of us see as useless, then you’ll want to visit a Goodwill Outlet.
We’ve been multiple times and as the girls have gotten older our search parameters have shifted. In early trips, we were grabbing Nerf guns or Build-a-Bear clothes and accessories. In more recent trips, we’ve mostly only been picking up random board game pieces and in some cases, complete games! One thing is certain, we cannot resist the urge to stop and see what treasures lie beneath.
What is the best thing you’ve ever found at a Goodwill or Goodwill Outlet?