What is Goodwill Bins?

What Does the Goodwill Bins Mean Thrifting?

The Goodwill bins, also known as the Goodwill Outlet or Goodwill Clearance Center, represent a mecca for avid thrifters. Unlike regular Goodwill stores, the bins offer goods by the pound rather than individually priced. This unique shopping experience provides the ultimate thrill of the hunt for bargain hunters willing to put in the time and effort. Let’s dive into what the goodwill bins mean for the world of thrifting.

The Evolution of Goodwill Bin Stores

Goodwill Industries opened its first retail store in 1902 in Boston, focusing on reselling used goods to fund employment programs for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment. The Goodwill bins concept emerged much later, providing an outlet for the surplus donations that regular Goodwill stores couldn’t handle.

The first GoodwillOutlet, or GWO, opened in 1970 in Phoenix, Arizona. The stores allowed Goodwill to capitalize on excess donated items by selling them from massive bins by the pound rather than individually tagged and priced. This new model enabled high-volume processing of donations while offering extreme discounts on secondhand goods.

The outlets proved so successful that Goodwill rolled out the program nationally throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Today, there are over 150 Goodwill Outlet locations across the U.S. The growth of these Goodwill bins stores provides affordable shopping opportunities while furthering Goodwill’s mission of empowering individuals through training programs and employment.

Navigating the Organized Chaos of Goodwill Bins

Navigating the Organized Chaos of Goodwill Bins

Stepping into a Goodwill bin store brings organized chaos to a whole new level. The massive warehouse-style facilities contain rows upon rows of large blue or green bins piled high with everything from clothes to housewares, books, toys, electronics, and more. Shoppers grab carts or bags and dig through the bins to find buried treasure.

New bins are continuously rolled out, making each visit a unique experience. Employees restock the bins throughout the day as shoppers rapidly dig through and empty them out. Regulars know to come early and often to find the best selection. Late in the day, the pickings get slim.

Warning signs advise shoppers that they are responsible for any damage they cause to goods. Breakage is part of the process when rummaging through bins hastily. The disorderly free-for-all is part of the bins’ appeal for devoted thrifters.

How the Pricing Works

The pricing structure is what makes the Goodwill bins such an incredible deal for savvy shoppers. Instead of individually marked items, everything is sold by the pound. Hard goods like housewares, decor, electronics, books, toys, etc. are typically $1.69 per pound. Clothing and textiles might be just $0.99 or $1.49 per pound.

Shoppers factor in the weight of potential purchases as they browse. Lighter items like t-shirts and blouses are more budget-friendly than heavy glassware or books. Scale stations are scattered throughout the store to weigh loaded carts and bags before checking out.

On the flip side, the weigh-in process deters theft. Customers can’t easily conceal a heavy wave of goods underneath a light piece or two. Attempts to sneak in lead weights could also backfire. The pricing method self-regulates for fairness and honesty.

For super-savvy savers, outlet deals get even better on discount days. Some locations offer certain color tag sales, often 50% off already low bin prices. Shoppers might flock on the right color tag days to snag clothes for $0.50/lb or glassware for $0.85/lb.

The Thrill of the Dig

So what drives people to enthusiastically comb through huge mounds of secondhand stuff by the pound? The answer: The sheer thrill of the dig. Pent-up anticipation builds as shoppers ponder what treasures might emerge from each newly rolled-out bin.

Bin diving appeals to the hunter-gatherer instincts still encoded in human DNA. Our ancestors once foraged to find food, clothing, and tools for survival. Modern bin shoppers forage through junk piles to snag chic clothes, vintage decor, or rare collectibles. The hunt for the ultimate score taps into natural scavenging tendencies.

A bin might contain 95% junk but that elusive 5% keeps diggers motivated. Finding a $200 designer coat for $3 or a limited-edition collectible toy for $1.50 brings a rush of dumpster diver’s delight. Thrifting addicts are hooked on riding the wave of adrenaline when an unlikely great find emerges from the heaps.

Tactics of Savvy Goodwill Bin Shoppers

The most dedicated Goodwill bins devotees have honed strategies for thrifting success. They study store schedules to find out when new bins roll out. Some arrive 15 minutes before opening to queue up first.

The veterans have learned what categories of goods get put out on certain days. Monday might be electronics and housewares, Wednesday books and toys, and Friday clothing. They plan trips around merchandise schedules.

Seasoned shoppers also note which locations tend to get the best stuff donated from upscale areas. Hitting the bins in affluent neighborhoods improves the odds of scoring pricier brands and luxury items.

Once in the bins, the technique is critical. Using both hands to toss and sift speeds up the process. Creating a hole toward the bottom is one approach to working through a dense bin efficiently. Shoppers develop a sharp eye for quality and brands most likely to yield profits either through resale or hard-to-find collectibles.

Risks and Downsides of Goodwill Bin Shopping

While the bins offer unmatched savings potential, the experience does come with some caveats. The disorderly free-for-all over coveted treasures can turn competitive. Bargain hunters have to guard their carts closely. Squabbles may break out over who saw a valuable item first.

The jostling also heightens the risk of injuries or collisions. Shoppers often get accidentally jabbed by hidden sharp objects. Unsecured towering piles of goods could come crashing down. Those venturing into the bins need thick skin, both literally and figuratively. An “elbows out” attitude prevails over manners here.

Germophobes may also find the bins disturbing. Shoppers come into direct contact with many used items handled by many strangers. Dust, grime and mustiness abound. Hand washing and sanitizer are a must during and after a bin session.

The time investment is another downside. Finding the best stuff requires patience to dig deep and thoroughly. That $100 designer dress may be lurking under six layers of junk clothing. Bin diving is not for the faint of heart but the payout potential keeps devotees coming back.

Who Shops the Goodwill Bins?

The bargain bin bonanzas attract a diverse and devoted crowd intent on scoring goods for a fraction of retail prices.

These are the main shopper tribes found browsing the bins:

Budget-Conscious Families – For families on tight budgets, the bins allow them to affordably clothe and entertain multiple kids. They can deck out children in apparel for pennies on the dollar compared to mall prices. Toys, books, and games at $1.69 per pound make family fun more accessible. Large families can yield big savings.

Extreme Couponers – For super savers who thrive on getting deals, the bins offer the ultimate discount. Couponing whizzes can stock up on household essentials like linens, kitchenware, and home decor on the cheap. Glassware, vases, picture frames, and more come in at just over $1 per pound typically.

Resellers – Many bin shoppers are small-scale entrepreneurs sourcing inventory to resell online or to vintage shops. Resellers may specialize in clothing, electronics, books, or collectibles. Scouring the bins to find coveted brands, rare retro items, and unusual vintage goods to flip allows them to maximize profits.

Collectors – Specialty collectors also appreciate the opportunity to expand their stash. Digging through masses of donated goods increases the odds of completing collections of art, memorabilia, antique decor, dolls, etc. Avid collectors may focus bin trips around certain themes.

Crafters & DIYers – For those who repurpose items through crafting, sewing, upholstery, or other DIY projects, the bins provide raw materials on the cheap. Fabric for quilting or reupholstering, trim and buttons for embellishing clothing, and craft components can be sourced affordably.

Green Consumers – Environmentally-conscious shoppers also frequent the bins. Finding used goods saves items from landfills and reduces the consumption of new resources. Green shoppers may specifically target clothing and home goods bins as reusable alternatives to buying new.

Goodwill Outlet Shopping Tips

Goodwill Outlet Shopping Tips

Here are some top insider tips for making the most of a bins shopping expedition:

  • Get there as early as possible – 8 am or earlier if you can. The newest bins tend to come out in the mornings.
  • Bring bags or carts to hold and transport goods easily. Backpacks work for lighter items. Sturdy reusable totes can hold heavier things.
  • Be prepared to commit some time. Thoroughly sifting through bins can take a while, especially on crowded days. Allow at least 1-2 hours for digging.
  • Have a game plan. Know which sections you want to hit first depending on what you’re seeking. Prioritize where you’ll spend most time digging.
  • Keep an eagle eye out for valuable finds. Scan for popular brands, rare vintage items, unusual collectibles, or quality furniture pieces as you dig.
  • Be willing to make a mess. Toss things around and really dig deep into bins. The best stuff often sinks to the bottom. Don’t just skim the surface.
  • Check shoes and bags for any hidden treasures. Sometimes people stash valuables like cash or jewelry into pockets and purses.
  • Inspect items closely for flaws. Make sure clothing doesn’t have stains, rips, missing buttons, etc. that would lessen value.
  • Be prepared to walk away from a picked-over bin. If other shoppers have already cleaned it out, move on to a fresh one.
  • Wash all items well upon returning home before using them. Bins items have been handled extensively.
  • Have fun and enjoy the hunt! Even if you leave empty-handed, you’ve gotten exercise and the thrill of the dig.

In Conclusion

The Goodwill bins offer dedicated thrifters the ultimate experience of sourcing secondhand goods at unbeatable per-pound pricing. The process involves a chaotic, messy free-for-all that isn’t for everyone. However, the lure of scoring coveted treasures keeps devoted bargain shoppers returning to dig through donations for finds to resell, reuse, or add to their collections. While competitive and requiring time commitment, the thrill of the hunt makes Goodwill Bins a unique thrifting adventure.


What are some tips for finding the best stuff in the Goodwill bins?

Some tips include getting there early, having a game plan for which sections to hit first, being willing to dig deep and make a mess, inspecting items closely, and moving on quickly from picked-over bins. Going on discount color tag days can yield more deals too.

What should I bring with me to the Goodwill bins?

Bring large bags, carts, or backpacks to hold your finds. Have gloves for sifting through bins. Wear old clothes and sneakers in case you get dirty. Bring hand sanitizer and washing supplies. Cash for checkout is preferred.

What is the best time of day or day of the week to go to the bins?

Early morning right as they open is best, especially on restock days (often Mondays). Color tag discount days will draw more crowds. Watch the schedule at your local store.

How much can I expect to pay per pound typically?

Prices average $1.69/lb for hard goods and housewares. Clothing and textiles range from $0.99 to $1.49/lb. Some locations offer half-price days where the per-pound rate drops significantly.

What items are typically not allowed to be purchased by the pound?

Higher-value collectibles, antiques, and fine jewelry will have individual price tags. Also, car seats, mattresses, weapons, and hazardous chemicals are prohibited. Check local store policies.

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Tony Jimenez

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