Goodwill Fails

by Katy on February 24, 2013 · 21 comments

Whenever I write about my local Portland area thrift shops, I always get lots of feedback along the lines of:

“You always find such good stuff. I never find anything good at my thrift shops.”

As if my Goodwills are packed to the rafters with nothing but priceless vintage gems priced pennies on the dollar. And yes, I do bring home more than my fair share of great finds. But I also walk out empty handed more often than not, and it’s not uncommon for me to buy something and end up returning it. (Portland Goodwills have a return-for-store-credit policy that works well for me.)

Just yesterday, I snuck a short Goodwill trip into my day, (it was right next to the errand I was running — honest!) and came across this great mid-century chair:

Goodwill Chair

  • Affordable at $19.99? Check.
  • Great lines? Check.
  • Sturdy? Check.
  • Similar to this $650 chair? Check.
  • Fabric in almost like-new condition? Check.
  • Super comfy looking? Check.
  • Receipt taped to arm indicating that the chair has already been bought? Check.


Goodwill Fail.

But that’s okay, I guess, there’s tons of other great stuff to be found, like this brand new looking pair of sheepskin Ugg boots:

Goodwill Uggs

  • My size? (Women’s size 11 — don’t judge.) Check.
  • Cool looking, but not at the expense of comfort? Check.
  • So comfy feeling that my feet felt sad and lonely after trying them on? Check.
  • Affordable at $23.75? Check.
  • Once home and away from the hubbub of the thrift shop they smell strongly of cat urine? Check.

Damn, and blegh . . . somebody come scald off the outer layer of my feet. Stat!

Goodwill Fail.

Luckily the trip was not a total fail, as I scored this vintage McCoy bowl:

McCoy Bowl

  • Affordable at $1.99? Check.
  • In near-perfect condition? Check.
  • With pretty feather-like pattern? Check.
  • Mesh well with my decor. Checkety-check!

Look at how it effortlessly it blends with the pottery on my mantle, and even pairs well with the yellow tones in my Maxfield Parrish print:

Mantle pottery

Finally, a Goodwill Win!

I was starting to think I was losing my touch.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Carla February 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm

LOL!!! Loved this post, and it’s funny to get comments like that isn’t it? Bummer about those UGG boots! Gross!!


Katy February 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I keep going over to the boots, (which are on the porch) thinking “Maybe I imagined it” and then having to wash my hands.

It’s that bad.

They are cute though, right?



Shari February 24, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I would be jumping up and down to come across that chair in a thrift shop! I’ve noticed here that our shops have raised the prices on furniture significantly over the past year. Said chair here would easily be $30 or $40. I’d still buy it however because my fabric stash is waiting for a few chairs like this one!

Did you return the boots? If not, you might want to try Febreeze Sport. I purchased a pair of like new Abercrombie and Fitch cargo shorts for $1.99 last summer. It wasn’t until I had them home and wet in the wash to pick up the musty smell. I purchased a bottle of Febreeze Sport for under $5, poured it into a bucket and then added the shorts (which were then saturated). One day later, I put them in with a load of wash and there’s not been a problem since. Those shorts for $7 were still a steal as my son will be getting his second summer of wear out of them and I didn’t pay the $69 retail (and I will most likely get my money back at our local consignment shop when he’s outgrown them). So…I’d be tempted to pour a whole bottle of Febreeze Sport into each of the boots and let it have a go.


Katy February 24, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I am about to leave the house to return them. I really don’t want to put my feet into cat-pee boots, even if the smell has been masked.



AFS February 24, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I loved this post too.
Funny how policy varies from area to area.
Here in the Seattle area Value Village will exchange an item within one week of purchase but no refund.
Goodwill will give you money back. I’m a lot more likely to make a purchase knowing if its not right in some way(size, color, smell) I can get my money back.
All the other stores are ALL SALES FINAL!!!!
I have only found two pair of second hand shoes that fit my big feet- you’re not alone.


Cheapchick February 24, 2013 at 4:12 pm

The bowl is beautiful. The part I don’t get is why Goodwill even sold a pair of boots that smelled like cat pee! And likely that is why they were donated – people – don’t donate trash!!


Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares February 24, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Actually, Goodwill says, if in doubt, donate it. Watch this video–you’ll be surprised:


Crystaal February 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Yeah, that bowl is really cute. There is a pink version selling on eBay right now for $32.50. Great find!


Erica February 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I think the biggest part of getting good deals and great scores from thrift shops is going often. Some stores put thousands of new items on the floor everyday, and each trip could be a new experience.

It’s also a good idea to find some you really like and visit those ones often. I prefer to get my clothing from a store near a college, my housewares from a store in the “nice” part of town, and my books from a store next to a book buy-back place that is very picky. Each of those locations tend to have the best quality at the best prices.

I once bought a beautiful white broomstick skirt with lovely beading around the bottom. Once I took it home and saw it in the sunlight I noticed an ominous, pale yellow stain in the center. 🙁


Diane C February 24, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Oh, that chair brings back memories…My parents had a very similar pair. One year “Santa” brought my brother a Handy Andy Tool Kit with “real” tools. You guessed it, he used his “real” saw to cut clean through the arm of one of the chairs. Boy was “Santa” in big trouble…not to mention my little brother. Thanks for the smile…


Katy February 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm




canuck66 February 24, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I think we have all had those moments. Lots of “wins” and a few “losses” and some “Why did I not buy that when I saw it?”

Wins: 1. a beautiful real leather simple black purse. Timeless and probably worth over $100.00 but only cost me $15. 2. An awesome real wool tan jacket. Very sharp and again classic. I can’t remember how much.

Loss: pair of pants I thought were boys but definitely were girls on closer inspection at home. And of course all those wonderful items I have brought home thinking they are wonderful but I really don’t need.

Why did I not buy that when I saw it?: 1. Couch in perfect shape for $29 dollars. 2. Two chair metal cafe set for $15 dollars. 3. New boys cords at the Sally Ann for only $1.99. Why did I not buy a few pairs in several sizes?


dusty February 25, 2013 at 4:07 am

So funny about your size 11 feet. As my mom said to me one time when I was a kid and my feet seemed to get bigger each week forcing yet another trip to the shoe store, “pretty soon you’ll be wearing the box”. My mother was hysterical!!


Jenny February 25, 2013 at 8:23 am

Uggh cat pee smell. I have two cats, so I’m familiar (one of which sprayed quite heavily until I got him snipped.) Once you smell it on an item, you always phantom smell it, even if there’s not trace of urine left. Especially leather.

Anywho, I LOVE the bowl, it’s adorable. I say take the shoes back and love your bowl. I have found that the Goodwills around me are all filled with a lot more crap than treasures, but I also don’t go very often. I’m moving soon, and the closest Goodwill is in a better part of town, so maybe I’ll have better luck there.


Tina S. February 25, 2013 at 9:38 am

Great post! I love Goodwill.

My favorite recent Goodwill find: a $2 remote that matched a Sony DVD player I had purchased at another thrift store (I bought it not remembering that most DVD players need a remote to operate them). I went to three other stores to find the right remote, and was afraid I would have to buy an expensive universal remote to get the DVD player to work. But then I went to Goodwill and…success! The DVD player works great with our old TV. We can watch movies again. Yaaay!


Katy February 25, 2013 at 9:42 am

Great find! It just goes to show that everything that was ever manufactured is sitting in some thrift shop somewhere.



Kailey February 25, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I lose a lot at thrift stores and I’ve realized it’s because I have no ‘vision.’ I love your yellow bowl but I would immediately think I already have a mixing bowl. I would never think to put it on a shelf and let it serve as decor.
I’m sure if I get my head out of the box I’ll start winning at thrifting….at least some of the time.


Katie February 26, 2013 at 9:25 am

Bummer about the boots. Way more of a bummer for the original owner, though! Those look brand-new and I bet they weren’t cheap.

Gorgeous bowl – it does go wonderfully with the print and your other pottery.


Laraba February 26, 2013 at 11:50 am

Ugh about the boots!

One thing that comes to mind is that regarding thrift shopping, you need to accept “who you are”. I personally dislike shopping almost all the time. I go to a thrift store when I am desperate to buy something for someone, usually a kid. Re the bowl, totally awesome, but I don’t do decor like that. Some small person would just knock that bowl on the floor and smash it into a thousand pieces if I tried to display it beautifully. So for me, being thrifty is mostly just not shopping. Of course, I DO need to shop and often do so on Amazon, which isn’t as cheap as a thrift store but at least I can do it at home and it shows up on my front porch in a package. But I rarely just buy something cute or fun or because it is a good deal because I dislike the process of entering the store itself. Which is its own form of thriftiness :-). (Thankfully, my husband is willing to go to our local kids’ thrift store and buy clothing for our children — I am extremely grateful.)


bean March 25, 2013 at 8:42 pm
JaneUlness April 9, 2013 at 9:25 am

Katy, spray them with fabreze or Lysol spray or both. Then fill them with kitty litter, or place them in a bag with kitty litter and seal for a week.


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