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5 Warnings to Shoppers From Ex-Goodwill Employees

There are things even the biggest thrifters may not know.

Goodwill is the go-to retailer for thrift shoppers. The company has more than 3,300 thrift stores across North America where people can spend hours upon hours hunting for hidden treasures among various donations. But whether you're the one donating the items or the one taking them home, there may be things you don't know about Goodwill. For instance, does the retailer sell everything that's donated? And is there anything you may want to pass on purchasing? Fortunately, those who have formerly worked for the company have the answers. Read on to find out what five warnings ex-Goodwill employees have for shoppers.

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You should always wash anything you buy at Goodwill.

top load washing machine

If you're not washing the items you purchase from Goodwill, you probably should start. Felicia Green, a former clerk processor at Goodwill Industries, explained in a Quora forum that she was often one of the first people to see what was being donated. As a result, she had one main warning for customers: "Guys, always wash everything you get from Goodwill. I can't make that clear enough," she wrote.

Some of the donations Goodwill receives are actually clean, according to Green. But unfortunately, this is not always the case. "Suffice it to say I've dealt with dead (and alive) mice, cockroaches, and pincher bugs. It's also extremely common to come across piles of cat hair, rat feces, and mounds and mounds of dust," she explained, noting that she still shops at the thrift store on regular basis despite this. "I just make sure everything I bring home goes straight in the washing machine."

You might not be able to get back things that were accidentally donated.

Close up of a pile of clothes going to Goodwill.

Even if you donated something to Goodwill accidentally, it's hard to get it back. An ex-Goodwill employee who worked with the company for three years shared several situations regarding this in a 2017 Reddit thread. Posting under the username u/johnsonstein17, the former worker said they often found money mistakenly left in a donation. "This one guy had left close to 1,000 dollars in a suit jacket pocket," they wrote. Fortunately, he got it back, but the Redditor explained that if no one had come to claim the money within a certain amount of time, it would have been entered as a cash donation.

On the other hand, some people don't end up getting their stuff back because things can be hard to locate. "There were often times people would come in and ask to speak to a manager, because something had been donated that wasn't suppose to be. Those were almost impossible to find, because our process was either like clockwork or there was [sic] so many donations that you would never find anything," the Reddit user wrote.

The Reddit user also said that while there is supposed to be a time limit in which people are allowed to retrieve items that were accidentally donated, it often ends up depending on a Goodwill location's manager. "My first manager was strict… about it. She made one lady buy back her own stuff," they recalled.

Your donations might not always make it on the sales floor.

goodwill store with donations outside front

On the other hand, if you purposely donate something and return to the store expecting to see your item on the floor, you might be disappointed. Former Goodwill employee Sarah Johnson tells Best Life that most of the company's thrift stores receive a lot of donations, making it impossible for them to sell everything they get in.

"Sometimes they'll send these items to other Goodwill locations or sell them in bulk, but other times they'll just be thrown away," Johnson warns. "So, just because you donated it, doesn't mean it will end up on the sales floor."

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There are things you should avoid buying from Goodwill.

entrance to goodwill store

Since everything sold at Goodwill is a deal, it might seem as if there's no reason to leave anything behind on the shelves. But Robert Wade Bess, a former Goodwill associate manager of roughly 14 years, warned shoppers that certain things are typically donated broken. "High-end cameras specifically come to mind—people don't tend to donate those unless they are well and truly busted—but this can apply to anything of complex operation," he explained in a Quora forum.

Therefore, Bess recommended limiting your purchases of certain products based on their price. "Since you aren't going to be able to return anything, I wouldn't purchase mechanical or electrical items with more than a $10 price tag that you can't fully test before leaving the store," he wrote.

The retailer is no longer selling certain items in-store.

closeup of a goodwill price tag

If you've found it hard to find high-value things at Goodwill recently, this is not by mistake. An ex-Goodwill employee named Jonathan took to TikTok last year to share that the company had started to stop certain items from making it onto the store floor. Working as a drive-thru ambassador, the TikToker said he was supposed to set aside "valuable" items so that they could be sold on Goodwill's online platform instead of in its brick-and-mortar stores.

"We were told that if we ever came across anything that we thought was valuable, to take it straight to the manager so it could be sold to our e-commerce store," Jonathan said, noting that items are auctioned off on the platform, as "Goodwill's version of eBay."

But even if a high-value item ends up making it to the store, it could still be pulled from the floor before a customer can get their hand's on it. According to Jonathan, Goodwill employees have scanners they can use to check barcodes on things that might be valuable, like rare books, video games, DVDs, and Blu-ray Discs. "Those get scanned, and if it pings in our system as valuable, they immediately get sent to e-commerce," he said. "[So] nowadays, you just can't find really good items at Goodwill."

NOTE: Best Life only includes information from social media and job boards when there is corroboration from multiple sources. These comments have not been independently verified, however, and are the opinions of the people who posted them.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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