10 Goodwill Shopping Secrets Employees Won’t Tell You
Thrift-store shopping can be a real rush—finding a diamond in the rough, getting a great price. Follow these Goodwill shopping secrets to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the volume of selection.
Donations Arrive Daily, and Inventory Moves Fast
Goodwill stores operate on an endless cycle: people bringing donations, employees putting them on the floor and customers swooping in. The inventory changes just about every day. If you ever strike out, then try visiting another day. Simple but effective, it’s just the first of our Goodwill shopping secrets.
Don’t Forget to Shop Online!
Employees say that some of the higher-value items that get donated to stores don’t end up on the shelves—they’re listed online. Goodwill’s online shop offers a variety of housewares, electronics, clothes, toys and more, sometimes sold by auction.
Know What’s Easy to Fix…
Look for valuable items at Goodwill. An ugly frame around a great piece of art is easy to remove (or vice versa!). A table with a chip is simple to correct with a furniture pen. A missing knob from a cast-iron pot is often replaceable. Picking up items with minor defects can save tons of money.
…And What’s Not
Scratched nonstick cookware is actually dangerous. Cracked wooden bowls or utensils can harbor bacteria. Wobbly chair legs might always annoy you. Smells are difficult to banish. Slow down and take time to assess your items for flaws that will keep them from being useful.
Donations Are Big on Weekends
When do most people have time to swing by Goodwill with bags full of stuff? The weekend, of course! Time your shop for Monday or Tuesday to see the spike in inventory. Arriving early in the morning generally lets you beat the rush.
Look for Special Occasion Items
One of the best secrets about Goodwill? The cache of quality, special items. Think nice glasses, vases, plates and table settings. Cool retro items, like patterned Pyrex dishes, often go for a song. Don’t forget to check for holiday items, too, from ornaments to tableware, which go for a fraction of the price of new.
Single-Use Appliances and Tools Are Big
Lots of people get certain single-use appliances and tools and wind up never using them. Think waffle irons, electric skillets, avocado slicers, lemon squeezers and juicers. If you’re in the market, check a couple local Goodwill stores first.
You Can’t Always Pick It up Later
Buying something large, like furniture or electronics? If you can’t carry them out right away, be sure to ask how long the store can hold them for you. In some cases, the store has a limited window, after which they may sell the item to someone else.
Look for Quality
Cast-iron skillets are famously better the longer they’re used, even if they’re rusty. (Here’s how to fix that.) Look for heavy-bottomed pots and pans; fitted lids are a bonus! Name brands are a good sign for most products, from electronics to cookware. For clothing, check the tag for natural materials.
Check for Discounts
Many Goodwill locations offer discounts for military members, students and seniors. They also offer coupons and email discounts. Check your local Goodwill for details.
Donations May Be Seasonal
People tend to clean out their houses during certain times of year. Summer, when yard sales are popular, is generally a good time. Busy periods, like holidays or back-to-school time, often see slow-downs in donations.