Monday, April 7, 2014

Shopping the Goodwill Outlet Center: A First Experience and How-To

Back in my days as a Youtube thrifter (yes, that’s a thing), I was always jealous of my fellow Youtubers who had access to a Goodwill Outlet Center. They’d usually find pretty cool stuff for insanely cheap prices. It seemed like the Outlet centers were everywhere EXCEPT Eastern Washington.

Until now! My spring break got the kick in the pants it needed when my dad told me an Outlet Center had opened in Spokane not too long ago.

But, what’s a Goodwill Outlet Center?

To be blunt, it’s the end of the line. The bottom of the barrel. The Room of Last Chances. 

Merchandise is said to stay on a Goodwill sales floor for four weeks. At the end of that time frame, the stuff that didn’t sell is shipped to a Goodwill Clearance Center where it’s sold for incredibly reduced rates. Stuff like clothing, shoes, and accessories are sold by the pound (for pennies!) because Goodwill would rather give these items one last chance to be sold at a fraction of their original price than to dump it all in a landfill.

Pretty cool, right?

These items are wheeled out in big blue bins for customers to sort and dig through. They’re not organized by size, color, men’s or women’s items. I like to think that’s part of the fun. Kinda makes it like a treasure hunt. However, a lot of the items are stained, ripped, have holes in them, or are just too plain ugly for someone to want to buy.

It is possible to find good things amidst all the sweat-stained windbreakers and stretched out tighty-whiteys, I promise. It just takes patience, a good eye, and a little bit of imagination.

Did I mention it’s not for the faint of heart?

The whole warehouse smells pretty badly. If you’re like me and have bad sinuses, then it’s not too much of a problem. But every once in a while I’d catch a whiff of something foul coming from one of the bins and promptly move to another.

I managed to make two trips to the Goodwill Outlet Center when I was home. The first time was pretty overwhelming and I only ended up with one purchase, but by the second trip I felt like I had a better grasp on the whole thing. I even ended up with an amazing purchase, too! I’ll show you what I got and then give you some tips for shopping the Outlet Center, you brave soul, you.

First purchase: Navy blue seagull sweatshirt. Very oversized. Perfect for lounging around on a rainy day while drinking cup after cup of coffee.

Price: $1.50

Note: Not too worn, and a sweatshirt brand new probably goes for around $20. At a normal Goodwill it’d be around $7–10. And did I mention the seagulls are on the back of the shirt too?

Second purchase: Blue velvet dress. Fits perfectly and will be a nice piece for spring.

Note: Had some stains, but they came right off in the wash

And now for the crowning glory of them all… the find of all finds!

Third purchase: Corgi tapestry.

Price (including dress): $2.34

Note: It was laid out nicely on top of a bin for me, I swear. I have no idea why anyone would want to get rid of this! This was the find that really made me believe you can score some great things at Outlet Centers.

I'm turning into a crazy corgi lady, I know it...
But look at those sweet little faces!

Alright, so what did I learn?

  1. Brace yourself. Outlet Centers are not for the faint of heart.
  2. Keep some hand sanitizer in your purse or car for afterward—or if you’re really having a tough time stomaching it, wear some latex gloves while you dig through the bins. Many people do.
  3. Keep an open mind. If you’re crafty or know how to sew, you can always alter or repair something that looks promising.
  4. Grab a basket when you walk in. Once you accidentally drop that adorable t-shirt with a goat on it, it’s gone (true story).
  5. Be careful! I know the signs on the walls are ominous (“Watch out for sharp objects and broken glass”), but really. You should probably listen to them. Maybe even carry some bandages and Neosporin in your purse/car, to be on the safe side.
  6. There will be bras and underwear. Lots of them.
  7. Have fun! It always, always, ALWAYS helps to bring along a friend who you can joke around with and who can give you an honest opinion on whether or not something is worth the buy. One of my favorite thrifting pastimes is to read all the funny names on clothing labels to whomever I’m with. Because Sag Harbor, really? Who thought that was a good name?

Until next time!

Are you adventurous enough to try your hand at a Goodwill Outlet Center?

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