Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Goodwill treat, or trick?

Since last year was Madelyn's first walking Halloween, she needed a candy bucket. I sent my husband on the mission to find one for her at Goodwill in mid-October. I wanted a vintage-style plastic jack-o-lantern, like the kind I used as a kid. The one Gary purchased is much bigger than I had hoped for (since Madelyn was quite small), but he reported that there was not nearly the selection of plastic pumpkin candy buckets at Goodwill that I had confidently assured him there would be. So in light of that, this pumpkin was perfect.

Madelyn~October 2008~ready to get some candy
I'll have to explain her "costume" later this week
When I pulled out the Halloween decorations earlier this month, Madelyn discovered the jack-o-lantern bucket among them. My daughter is very fond of totes. She has a variety of purses, bags, baskets, buckets, and boxes that she will use for varying intervals to store and carry her "treasures." At any given time her preferred tote might contain a small stuffed animal, a set of alphabet flash cards, a ladybug ring, an acorn, or really anything small enough to fit inside that she deems of interest. It is adorable. So some days this month we've gone to a store or restaurant with a giant orange pumpkin in tow.
Last week I happened to notice the stickers on the bottom of our pumpkin bucket.

The sticker on the left is the label from the original store where this bucket was purchased (I think Target), before eventually being cast away to Goodwill, and then purchased by us. That price tag says $0.79. The Goodwill price tag on the right says $1.99. We are suckers.
Okay, so the buck and twenty cents more that we paid is not the issue here. $1.99 is a fair price for a classic jack-o-lantern bucket. I'm not complaining about the cost, but I find this comical. The original price is right there on the item, but the person at Goodwill labeling it didn't either consider setting the price to reflect the original new-item cost, or at least scrape off the sticker to avoid any potential customer agitation.
This scenario reminded me of my distaste for Goodwill. The fact is, they are by far the easiest place to donate unwanted goods. But most unwanted goods would serve a much better purpose being donated to a truly worthy cause such as a shelter or community outreach program. Whenever possible, I prefer to donate to these organizations, because I know that the items will be given for free to people genuinely in need.
Goodwill, on the other hand, accepts your castoffs at zero cost-of-goods, and re-sells them for a profit. Don't let that non-profit status fool you. While Goodwill Industries does utilize a large percentage of income to provide employment assistance and training, there are also a lot of people making a lot of money. Non-profits' income simply must be dispersed at the end of each fiscal year, and that isn't difficult to do. For example, after coming under the attorney general's scrutiny in 2005, the president of the Portland-area Goodwill chapter agreed to a 24% salary reduction from his 2004 earnings of $838,508.
All from those $5.99 shirts and $1.99 pumpkin buckets that Goodwill gets for free.
Everyone has a right to make money, and I am a proponent of the free market. I don't boycott Goodwill, but I think their non-profit status is a little hokey. Sometimes, like most people, I just need a quick way to get rid of some old stuff, and Goodwill has that figured out. Today, I went to Goodwill looking for a couple of items to create an acceptable Halloween "costume" for my Bah Humbug hubby to wear at our party this weekend. And I couldn't help but notice that amidst the piles and racks of junk, there were some really great "treasures" at excellent prices.
So Goodwill really has us in its grasp: they make donating SO easy, and--in spite of some pricing snafoos such as my pumpkin's 250% mark-up--sell decent stuff at reasonable prices if you can find what you're looking for. All that is required to shop there is PATIENCE and an impervious sense of smell (or a nose plug--it always smells so weird in there!)

1 comment:

Amber said...

As someone who worked for a non-profit and reaped a more stereotypical non-profit salary, I've always kind of huffed at the non-profits that pay people Corporate America salaries. I didn't realize Goodwill was one of those non-profits, though it doesn't surprise me.

Also, I have to say that the quality of goods, organization, and cleanliness of Goodwills out here is far, far superior to those I encountered in the Bronx. It almost doesn't feel like the same organization.


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