Goodwill, Badwill, Questionablewill

by Katy on July 19, 2012 · 35 comments

Many Non-Consumer Advocate readers assume that the reason why I’m able to find so many great things at Goodwill is because Portland, Oregon thrift stores are magically superior.

Yeah, I wish.

I’ll let you see for yourself. Here are a few photos from a recent trip:

It’s a lamp styled like ancient cave paintings. And the woman has a kindergartener from her crotch right up to her clavicles. Perhaps it was designed to be a reproduction deterrent for teenage girls. Ouch.

A bronze painted plaster bust of President Kennedy. Bags under the eyes, check. A super wrinkly forehead, check. Hair like Justin Bieber, check. Even Marilyn Monroe would turn down this hot mess.

A crafted Mrs.Buttersworth bottle. Every thrift store has one. Go head and look in your own thrift store, I dare you!

 A hodgepodge of glass and pottery items. A few cute vintage items, but mostly overpriced.

I was momentarily enchanted by this “Job Jar.” My family used to do our own version of the job jar when I was a kid. The jar would be filled with slips of paper describing different household chores. And mixed in with the dreaded “Scrub the basement toilet” would be “Go read a book for 15 minutes” and “Go give mom a hug.” Of course, it’s not actually necessary to have a single-tasking jar for the job, which is why it’s at Goodwill in the first place.

But did you spy this lovely little antique Frankoma pitcher, perfect for my 1914 Craftsman home, and priced at only $4.99? I had  hoped it would be worth hundreds of dollars, but it actually only sells for $19.99 on eBay. (Hey, a girl can dream!) However, this puppy came home with me and now holds flowers on our entryway table.

Sometimes the best stuff at Goodwill is the stuff you leave behind.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Laure July 19, 2012 at 4:11 am

Although I don’t have any Good Wills near me now, the biggest difference I see between yours and those I have frequented is that yours appears clean. The shelves don’t appear to have never-been-cleaned-since-installed-in-whatever-the-building-previously-was. Interesting how much of a difference that makes, but I can actually tell what color they are — white, and clean at that! Very nice pitcher.


Dogs or Dollars July 19, 2012 at 4:23 am

I have been musing quite a bit on the time and skill involved in successful thrifting. Particularly for clothes, but also for stuff. Those musings include how I ain’t got it – the time or the skill.

Thoughts on how to cultivate that?


lesley July 19, 2012 at 5:00 am

My best suggestion for you is to choose a store and go there once or twice a week, even if you don’t buy anything. Make it fun; get yourself a new book or something. As you continue to go back to the same store, stuff will catch your eye, and a lot of times it’ll be a bargain.

Also, I used to go to the same store Katy goes to, and no, it’s not magic 🙂 If you just keep going to your local place, you’ll develop an eye for what’s good–and the other thing you need, which is the sense to put stuff back! I had a serious issue with that last one at first, but I wasn’t very frugal then. And here you are on this blog, so you’re way ahead of me already.


Pollyanna July 19, 2012 at 5:03 am

DorD – it’s been my experience for clothing finds, you really need the time to look. Our GW doesn’t organize clothing by size, it’s by type (pants, shirts, jackets), by gender, and then by color. So I have to have the time to flick through all women’s tops to find something good (or not!) — but it is very rewarding to find a nice LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, Chicos, etc. shirt or blouse. You have to know your brands and look for quality (extra buttons at the bottom for replacements, etc.), and thoroughly check them out for holes, stains, etc, and check fabric content so you know if it is going to work for you.


Kristen | The Frugal Girl July 19, 2012 at 4:33 am

I’ve actually never seen a painted Mrs. Butterworth!


Su Mama July 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

Oh Kristen, you need to come to Katy’s mama’s house. I have at least 50 of those festive ladies, most of which are pretty predictable, like the one Katy shows here. BUT! A few years ago, I discovered on eBay a woman whose day job was in a Jesus t-shirt factory, but whose passion was elaborately embellishing Mrs. Butterworth bottles. What she produced was Real Art. I have a pair of hers done up as John Lennon and Yoko Ono, John with a guitar, Yoko holding a bag labelled “John’s Money.” My favorite, tho, is her incredible Cleopatra, complete with a presumably-sacred cat at her feet. I am, ahem, obviously no minimalist . . . .


AnnW July 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm

You Must post pictures of these! I have never seen one either, but I live in the East where Log Cabin syrup reigns supreme. 50! Do you have a Cher? We have to see these. Ann


Pollyanna July 19, 2012 at 4:58 am

The pitcher is lovely, I am glad you bought it. I was afraid when I looked at your pictures I would see something on your Goodwill’s shelves that I had to have, and then I’d be in a predicament (I am in NC). I have two Goodwills that I frequent – it looks like ours are about the same as yours.


Jennifer G. July 19, 2012 at 5:07 am

I actually DID spot that pitcher the photo of all the containers and dishes!


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary July 19, 2012 at 6:25 am

I just don’t seem to have the temperment for shopping, whether at the thrift store or elsewhere. My problem with thrift stores is the TIME they take, time I’d really rather be spending doing nearly anything but shopping.

So, if there’s something sizable that I’m looking for (e.g. right now I’m keeping my eye out for a large dresser), I’ll stop by regularly to see if I can find it. And every time I bring donations there, I wander through. On my last stop at the thrift store I purchased an adorable and very small purse, the kind that you might use when you go to a fancy party just to hold wallet, keys and phone, for my daughter. [She’s been going to some fancy parties (Bar Mitzvah events) and was always struggling with where to carry her phone.]

My (adult) step-daughters love shopping and they make fantastic purchases at thrift stores. I am in awe of their abilities, but the idea of spending my time shopping so carefully makes me feel like crawling into bed.


Pollyanna July 19, 2012 at 7:47 am

Barb, I admit I love the “thrill of the hunt” at a Goodwill or Thrift!


Jo July 19, 2012 at 6:53 am

Portland thrift stores are amazing… the reason pickings are slim is that there are professionals snagging most of the deals as they come out.

For kicks, head to the main goodwill at ~8:50am (they open at 9:00am)… you’ll see what I mean. You will see the same group of people clean carts of the best deals as they roll out throughout the day.


Angela July 19, 2012 at 6:56 am

Yep. Your Goodwill looks like all the rest….not a lot of magic. We are a Goodwill family (7 of us) and nearly everything we wear is from Goodwill, mostly name brands, things that would cost a lot if new. We probably spend an hour each time we go, so it is an investment in time but has saved us thousands of dollars!


Anne July 19, 2012 at 7:22 am

I was reading yesterdays column about decluttering and wondering how you could possibly have anything left to declutter. Not only do you seem to be constantly taking things to charity shops or recycling them, but I seem to remember you took seven (?) vanloads out a couple of years back.

I think perhaps the neighbors are sneaking over after you go to sleep and dropping off their unwanted goods. Perhaps a stronger house locking system would cut down on the need to declutter. 😉


Krystal July 19, 2012 at 7:51 am

There is always a standing joke between a friend and I about mugs with pets on them. Not just “Basset Hound” with a photo and description of the breed, but actual mug memorials for deceased pets. For example, a photo of the animal and the pet’s name in quotations. Or In Memory of [pet’s name] with a photo of the pet. She managed to find a memorialized bunny mug in Eugene. Most crap I pass up at the Goodwill, but those mugs are the perfect 49 cent laugh.


Lili@creativesavv July 19, 2012 at 8:06 am

Thrift-shopping is one of those activities I have to be “up” for. I know I could spend a couple of hours and not come home with more than 1 sweater or pair of jeans. But then again, mall shopping would be the same for me. I could spend several hours and not find a single thing that I wanted to take home.

But that said, on 50% off days, I’m there! My two daughters and I head to the thrift shop, lists in hand of what we’re looking for, and really focus for 2 to 3 hours. We never just browse, but have specific items we’re looking for, and usually find. The variety in a thrift shop far exceeds what you’d find at the mall. Last I checked, Macy’s discontinued their selection of painted Mrs. Butterworth bottles.


marie July 19, 2012 at 10:02 am

I love to look for Finds at GW. But for clothing, I can buy new off most stores clearance racks cheaper. Fred Meyers 50% off clearance is much more reasonable than GW.
I once found this huge burgundy vase,I’d been looking for one! It was in GW’s (antique) section. The tag was $49.99, I offered less and was told they don’t barter. So, they kept it! P.s. no markings on it to make it an antique.


Reese July 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Wow new for cheaper? I found shirts for $1.99 to $3.99 at my local Goodwill and I don’t think I could find those brands cheaper anywhere!

I am obviously missing out 😉


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land July 19, 2012 at 12:28 pm

It doesn’t need to take long to stop. Just run in, see if anything catches your eye, and run out. I can be in and out in 5 minutes.

I’ve never seen a painted Mrs. Butterworth bottle, either, but this might explain why unpainted Mrs. Butterworth bottles sell pretty well at garage sales.


Another Jackie July 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

My eye was immediately drawn to the prairie green Frankoma pitcher. I live just 15 miles north of where that was made in Sapulpa Oklahoma. I used to see local honey packaged in that pitcher being sold at a health food store. Now that the pottery has shut down I think you may see the value rise.


rosarugosa July 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Count me as another who has never seen a crafted Mrs B bottle before! I check out our Salvation Army on occasion, but I honestly don’t need very much stuff, so there isn’t too much there for me. And one does need to be careful about buying things that aren’t needed, e.g. your last post was about decluttering 🙂


Charla July 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Glad you got the Frankoma pitcher. I collect the robins egg blue color of Frankoma. You missed the faceless people next to the ugly Kennedy bust – I forget their name but they’re collected by several on the east coast; my sister-in-law has a whole display of them.


Diane C July 20, 2012 at 6:35 am

I saw “them” too, Charla! I think the series is called “Willow Tree”, but I can’t tell from the photo if they’re the genuine article. My sister has a few of them, but I’m no expert. I was specifically reading the comments with “them” in mind, so thanks for pointing “them” out. Does any one else recognize if they’re “real” or not?


Elaine in Ark July 20, 2012 at 8:28 am

I’ve seen those at the Christian book store, only they were angels. My best friend gave me one holding a dog, and I love it.


Holly July 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Compared to my goodwill (in central NJ) yours IS far superior. Yours looks clean and organized. The items on the shelves look clean. It looks bright and well lit and like someplace you’d want to go. Ours is a dusty dirty dungeon. They organize things by color. That’s right. While this may help you find dishes that match your kitchen, I can’t see what else good it does. All the clothes are not grouped by size, which would be useful, but by color. Do other Goodwills do that??? They do the same thing with the household stuff. The curtains, blankets and towels are not separated into useful categories. The pink towels, pink sheets, pink curtains, etc are all together, and wedged in so tight you can’t even see them. The other stuff just seems thrown on the shelves with little organization.

Can you tell I’m a librarian? ;o)


Katie July 21, 2012 at 9:08 am

Holly: I can kind of understand sorting the clothing by color (by size would be more convenient, but I’d imagine it’s too labor-intensive to sort and stock them that way), but the housewares by color totally baffle me, too. I’ve only started seeing this at the local Goodwills in the last month or so. The first time I saw it, I chalked it up to an oddball employee, but now it appears to have spread to the other Goodwill I frequent.

The Salvation Army does a much better job of sorting their stuff.

I’m a librarian, too. 🙂


Marianne July 23, 2012 at 11:50 am

I volunteer at a consignment shop and it is time-consuming to sort by size (and we are tiny). But the more difficult part is actually knowing what size to put it in — often clothes are shrunk, missing tags or seem to be incorrectly tagged in the first place, not too mention just general variance (like I can wear an Eddie Bauer “medium” but not an Ann Taylor “medium”).

Oh, and yes, I’m also a librarian. 🙂


Rachel C July 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Your Goodwill rocks compared to what we have here in Wisconsin!


Jean July 20, 2012 at 8:39 am

LOVE that pitcher! Finds like this are what keep me going back to the thrifts. My favorite around here is a little store run by an animal rescue/spay-nueter foundation. While it is not the behometh former grocery emporium size of the Goodwills and Red Racks, it is always clean and charmingly arranged in vignettes, and the prices are extremely reasonable. Because of its relatively small size and proximity to my office, I take a lunch break to scout it out every 2-3 weeks. Another place I like is our Junior League Resale Shop–the prices aren’t as low as Goodwill, but the quality is always consistently high and still a fabulous bargain compared to retail.


Jessica Wolk-Stanley July 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm

The Portland Goodwills are clean but in the 1970s they were less so and I used to have a strong “uh-oh” feeling when I’d go there. Since the 1980s they have become considerably nicer, but pricier too.


Katie July 21, 2012 at 9:11 am

The pitcher is absolutely lovely. The green glaze is gorgeous. I’m such an Arts & Crafts junkie. Maybe someday I’ll get my bungalow!


Katy July 21, 2012 at 11:48 am

I love it too!



Diedra B July 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm

I switched from one salvation army to another and hit the jackpot. I remember complaining on here before that I couldn’t find anything.


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