Tips for Goodwill Shoppers.

October 26, 2010 § 2 Comments

I shop at a place stocked by a buyer who has no taste, and every kind of taste, and where everything is priced by function.

Shirts (long-sleeved) four dollars.  Shirts (short-sleeved) three dollars–making sleeves a bargain at fifty cents apiece.

It’s an egalitarian system in which the shirt that made its debut on a Paris runway and the shirt that strutted its polyester stuff on a rack at Kmart come out dead even.  And at three dollars (four if the sleeves are long) both are a bargain.

Clothes, like cars, depreciate wildly as soon as you drive them off the lot.  The shirt from the Gap, deprived of anti-theft medallion and the proximity of other Gapwear can be had for the price of a chicken.

Authors like me, along with teachers and librarians, professors and office workers, shop Goodwill.  College educated and professional, but poorly paid, we try to save for the day the car will need new tires, and for our largely fictional retirement plans.   For a person of average build, there isn’t an article of outerwear you can’t buy secondhand.

Shoes are a bit trickier.  Stay away from the cloth shoes dyed-to-match.  They look silly unless the wearer is in the arms of a man in a tux, an orchid pinned to her shoulder.  White shoes, cream shoes and ecru shoes are also a bad idea.  They’re invariably dingy and beaten down.  The best you can hope for is that someone with your shoe size has recently died while in possession of a nice variety of dark, well-made leather shoes.

Need furniture?  Thirty-five years ago my husband and I bought a vanity that had been shellacked to the bubble stage.  Stripping it down, we found we had bought a fine Victorian antique.  Strip any piece of Goodwill furniture purchased today and the cardboard beneath the shellac will dissolve.

Dishes are a sad prospect too.  You can’t find much china anymore, and when I say china I mean the heavy kind that was cheap when it was new, but nice to eat off.  Invariably white, flower decals adorned its edges.  Nine times out of ten when you turned one of those dishes over you would find the manufacturer was Homer Laughlin.  Homer made nice cheap dinnerware for middle and lower-middle  class folks.  Whoever came after Homer decided that what the middle and lower-middle really wanted was plastic.  Don’t even look.  It will just depress you.

Which is the foremost hazard of shopping Goodwill.  You are, after all, buying things whose next stop is the landfill.  So navigate carefully.  Stay away from the muzzy stuffed animals.  Stay away from the underwear bin.

Bring your daughter if you have one.  Together you can laugh when you try on the ill-conceived dress you thought looked good on the hanger.  Together you can find the genuine Angora sweater among the polyester knits.

Once it leaves Goodwill who will know that your gorgeous sweater cost just four dollars?  No one.  Unless, of course, you brag.  And you will.  The right reaction is, “Wow, you paid only four dollars?”  But there will always be some who will hear what you paid and where you paid it and act like they’ve just caught a whiff of something bad.

Pay no attention.  Anyone who would rather pay forty dollars than four is a bona fide fool.  And what is the value of a fool’s respect?

Less than the price of one short-sleeved Goodwill shirt.

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§ 2 Responses to Tips for Goodwill Shoppers.

  • I notice this blog has no comments. My guess is that most of your friends and associates do not agree with the philosophy behind this little tip. They smile but run along thinking to themselves “Her roots are showing.”
    But just to make you feel better, my wife and I love shopping at the Goodwill and other such establishments and have done so all of our married life.
    I once had a head hostess working in a restaurant that I managed. I told my wife she must have a very successful husband because her outfits cost more than she could ever earn working at the restaurant.
    One day we bumped into shopping at the Goodwill. She had good taste in clothes and was able to pick and match some very attractive outfits and even jewelry and other bobbles. She always looked like a million bucks. And nobody knew but her … and me.


  • carolyn says:

    Part of the fun of Goodwill (and other similar thrift shops) is the thrill of the hunt…. you never know what you will find! And agree with the commenter above, if you have a good eye, you can find the linen, silk, 100% cotton, designer labels, etc… for much less!


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