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The Insiders Guide to shopping at Goodwill and other thrift

Updated on March 21, 2011
Outside Goodwill at the break of dawn.
Outside Goodwill at the break of dawn.


An Insider's Guide

for shopping thrift

The Guide to Goodwill


Herb Watson



 Chapter One:The Prices that Never Change


1.       There are two colors of tags at Goodwill that almost never go on sale.  The first ones are the orange tags.  These are used in the collectables section on items they know to be valuable from checking on ebay.(In all fairness, I must mention that they do charge around half of what the price is on ebay.)

2.       Black Tags.  The black tags are the fashion focus section of clothing they know are expensive and either in style or coming back into style.  Designer labels are to be found here and while the price tag might look really expensive to the average shopper, bear in mind that these clothes could easily cost ten to twenty times as much in the retail store.  Fashion Focus goes on sale once a year(and it usually has amazing deals) so watch closely for it.

3.       White Stickers with Goodwill printed on them.  These tags are for new goods.  While they are brand new some of the items are not cheaper than they can be purchased for in the retail stores.(Items to watch out for: Pillows, socks, raingear and gloves.  Things that are usually cheaper: Underwear, lightbulbs, scarves, some hats, hand soap, some holiday and some tools.)



 Chapter Two:The Prices that Can Change


1.       Sometimes a new items package will be damaged or removed from the product.  The product will be discounted by about half and placed in the appropriate section.

2.       Sometimes donations of furniture will be overwhelming. (A good idea is to bring something with you to donate in order for you to see how stacked up they are.)  If they look packed to the gills, go inside to find out if they will drop a price for you, chances are they will want it gone. (Hint: The older the tag the more likely they will do it.)



 Chapter Three:The Prices that Do Change


1.       Every week a different colored tag will go on sale.  The usual order is from blue to green to pink and then red.  Every Thursday thru Sunday one of these tags is 50% off.  The best deals to find on these days are in the clothing, collectables, wares and sports sections.  Electronics is another good one and you won't want to wait for Monday on the electronics because the managers will instruct the employees to throw out anything with that colored sticker before the $1.29 sale day on Monday.  If you can find a stereo on Monday for $1.29 you are either incredibly lucky or you were able to hide it successfully from the employees and the other customers.(Hint: You are not supposed to hide merchandise but consider that if you don't one of the employees will probably dispose of the item before you can get back to it.)

2.       Holidays are another good time to find incredible bargains.  The stores usually open an hour or two earlier than normal and trust me, get there as SOON AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN!  If the doors open at eight in the morning, make sure that you get there about 7:30 a.m.  One color of tag will be $0.99 while one or two others will be 30-50% off.  I know of people who have found leather jackets for $0.99.  The best deals to find on these days are in jewelry, clothing, sports, shoes, furniture, DVD's and accessories.

3.       Knowing an employee of the store you shop at might be cheating, but so what.  If you do have a friend who is a Goodwill employee it never hurts to ask them where the best deals are to be found.  Don't assume that a tag that is 50% off on a Sunday will still be there on Monday for the $1.29 sale.  Either buy it on Sunday or HIDE IT and come back first thing on Monday.  Hide it in the evening and retrieve it right when the store opens or chances are the janitor will find it before you.

4.       Keep in mind that other customers will also be hiding things.  If you saw something you wanted the day before but now it is gone, search throughout the store in all the little hidy spots before you give up.(Things are usually hidden behind clothing racks, under linens, behind pillows, inside luggage or in the various bins for hardware, bathroom and small electronics.)  People have also been known to hide things on top shelves or under lampshades.

5.       TURN IN SHOPLIFTERS!  If you see someone stealing, tell an employee!  One of the reasons that the prices seem high is because certain people rob the place blind!  Unfortunately, Americans have been taught not to sqeal on others.  Well, you can't have it both ways, dammit!  If you want lower prices than you need to be a rat and fink... or deal with the pricing.  If you don't help catch the crooks then you have no right to whine about the prices.  DO NOT APPROACH THESE PEOPLE!  Tell an employee or a manager and let them handle it.  Some of these shoplifters are mentally unstable, if you approach them and tell them that you saw them steal they may lash out at you or another customer.  We don't want anyone getting hurt over some little low priced item.  If you don't feel comfortable saying anything where they might overhear you then ask the employee where the manager's office is.


I hope this guide will help you when shopping at Goodwill.  Good luck and happy shopping!


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    • profile image

      Amy 9 months ago

      No, they do NOT charge half of ebay prices. Most of the time goodwill charges just as much or more than ebay prices. Its getting crazy. The stuff will be in WORSE condition, LISTED on ebay for say $100, goodwill will also put $100. I asked a mgr about this once, and she said they do it like that so when it goes half off someone will pay that, but someone might buy it at full price!!!

      I have news for you goodwill, just because something is LISTED on ebay for $100 doesnt mean it SOLD for $100. I can list crap on ebay for any amount I want, doesnt mean it will sell for that. A lot of people are going to thrift stores to try to make a profit, but cant do it when they are charging a few bucks less than ebay. Ill go to a garage sale and buy a shirt for .50 that a thrift store would charge $5 for.

    • profile image

      Thomas Ford 2 years ago

      I like the idea of ShopGoodwill. The problem is they have not way of keeping the individual stores honest. Just look at the post at any rating site or type comments into any search engine and you will see the level of dishonesty that happens on this site. From my personal experience, last week I ordered a silver statue when I received it it has not silver at all in the statue. If the site had a rating system like Amazon or eBay this kind of thing would not happen. 

      Please sign the petition

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      I have a friend who finds some nice things at goodwill, for great deals. I hadn't been in a long time and decided to go one day. Their sale of the day was the green barbs on clothing were half off. Those items can't be returned or anything, but it was a great deal. I saw all kinds of people there too, everyone wants a deal!

    • U Neek profile image

      U Neek 6 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Goodwill is one of my favorite stores! Thanks for the tips.