I recently had the opportunity to poke through the ShopGoodwill.com facility for Goodwill Industries of The Columbia Willamette. My tour guide was the ever knowledgable Dale Emanuel, known simply as “Goodwill Dale” at my house, as she shares a name with my husband. She and I go way back, remember when she gave me a behind the scenes tour of the main Goodwill store?
For your visual reference, here we are taking a selfie in front of one of the pay-by-the-pound outlet bins. #friendshipgoals
The facility itself is an enormous warehouse, located right next door to the Hillsboro Goodwill Outlet store. You could almost miss the entrance, as it’s unmarked. When you enter, you experience a surreal Wizard of Oz moment as the world turns from black and white to color, or more realistically from a suburban parking lot to a warehouse piled to the ceiling with priceless treasures. (Okay, okay . . . it’s actually “treasures neatly stacked on shelves.” But what kind of dull visual is that?) Either way, there are treasures galore!
I have to admit that my first response was dismay, as this building holds all the stuff I normally scout for when thrifting. But I quickly reminded myself that Goodwill’s mission is “To provide vocational opportunities to people with barriers to employment.” Not “To provide underpriced items for Katy Wolk-Stanley.” As Dale puts it, “To further maximize the value of donations.”
For those who are unfamiliar with ShopGoodwill.com, let me get you up to speed. ShopGoodwill is a multi-regional non-profit online auction site that sells both rare and popular goods. So although this particular facility is the largest in the nation, it’s one of many that coordinate their efforts.
Or more precisely:
“Participating Goodwill’s from across the country offer for auction on the site a wide array of art, antiques and collectibles as well as new and nearly new items pulled from their vast inventories of donated goods. From unique one-of-a-kind items to estate pieces, the depth of resources is enormous. Revenues from these auction sales fund Goodwill’s education, training and job placement programs for people with disabilities and other barriers.”
Once I got over myself, I began to enjoy in the wonder of it all. Everywhere I looked were hyper-organized treasures. (Sorry, am I using the word “treasure” too much?) Wagner and Griswold cast iron pans, Pendleton wool blankets, antiques and collectables, electronics, designer goods, American Girl dolls, Texas Instrument calculators, musical instruments, Dyson vacuum cleaners, Roombas, toys, books, Legos, jewelry and pretty much anything else you could dare to dream of!
I was quickly introduced to the dream team of Joshua Peterson, e-commerce operations manager and assistant-manager Heather. Of course, there’s Dale again.
I learned that certain categories of donations are earmarked for special treatment. For example, American flags are sent to The American Legion and taxidermy animals are donated to a wildlife educational center.
Hello there, kitty. Are you ready to serve an educational purpose?
A large portion of the warehouse is dedicated to GoodwillBooks.com, which runs the gamut from bestsellers to rare.
Of course, I took a picture. What you can’t see in this photo is that I’m pulling a Buffy The Vampire Slayer book from the shelf. I guess I should have clarified how to frame the photo before handing my phone over.
I also learned that not a single donated book goes to the landfill, and that Goodwill foots the bill for recycling all unsaleable books. (In 2015 alone, Goodwill donated 28,000+ books through the “Book of My Own” program.)
Legos and jewelry are big sellers, which both have a 100% “sell-through rate.”
All the while, the 90 employees are busy photographing, researching and listing the donations. (400 – 500 per day, approximately 3,500 at any one time!) You can see a lighted photo station in the background of this picture. Those large white plastic bags? They each hold a wedding dress!
Because my area’s Goodwill receives anything and everything through their 100+ donation stations, ShopGoodwill.com sells everything you could possibly ever think of. Recent items have included:
- A 4-foot square soapstone Taj Mahal, lit from within and weighing “at least 600 pounds.”
- A human skull marked “for scientific purposes.”
- A full size weaving loom.
- A life size Yoda.
- A rare color change sapphire brooch.
- An autographed Amelia Earhart book.
- This fancy-to-the-schmancy chair, which I think evokes a fabulous Donatella Versace vibe.
As the manager Joshua Peterson put it, “Not a week goes by that I don’t see something that I’ve never seen before.” (Not surprising considering that Portland area Goodwills receive over 218 million pounds of annual donations!)
Listings start at $5, with an average sale around $40, so there are opportunities for some great bargains. You can even narrow your search to your local region in order to arrange a pickup.
This site is perfect for all the people who complain that my Goodwills must be better than their Goodwills. Because ShopGoodwill.com is for everyone. Well . . . except for those in the taxidermy market. Don’t believe me? Then click here to scope out featured items.
May the thrifting odds be ever in your favor.
This blog post may read like a sponsored post, but it isn’t. I promise. I just *really* like Goodwill.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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