Yes, it’s true—I’m a terrible snob. So I had to get past the smell first. Goodwill must fumigate everything. How else can I account for the fact that, regardless of which Goodwill I frequent, every garment smells the same, even if it still has dry cleaner tags on it? It’s a reassuring thought, probably unverifiable. Sometimes it takes more than one laundering at home to remove the smell.
I had to get past the people who shop there. Although more and more “middle class” people do cruise Goodwill for bargains, many people who shop there don’t have the luxury of shopping anywhere else. It becomes a class issue, then, and members of poorer classes don’t always behave well or speak quietly. They yell at their children sometimes. And I, who have the luxury of not having raised children, am appalled, want to buy the child the cheap toy he is clutching and being told to put back.
I had to get past the disorganization and clutter. I like a little clutter at home, but not when I’m shopping. Housewares are all jumbled; sweaters slip off the hanger and to the floor. People don’t return things to the correct sizes after they’ve tried them on, so that I find a darling sweater that’s really a small in my medium-to-large section.
I had to get past the many off-brands hanging on the racks in my search for designer labels. I push plastic hangers, seeking quality and durability—Liz Claiborne, Land’s End, L.L. Bean, Briggs. It was lowering to discover that the trousers that fit me best were a K-Mart brand.
I had to get past my sadness over of our junk, throwaway culture. Racks and racks of clothing, some of the items still with their tags on. Stacks and stacks of dishes, books, VHS tapes. Baskets and baskets, some adorned with country motifs, some plain and sturdy.
So with all those barriers to my sensibilities, why do I go back? I shop Goodwill because I can’t afford consignment shopping any more, though I was once practically addicted to it. Generally, even clearance sales at major department stores have nothing to offer in my price range. Shopping at Goodwill has ruined me for trousers on deep, deep discount, still $25.00. This is especially true when I am losing weight, which I am doing again for the umpteenth time in my life, and am between sizes or going down a size, but not intending to stay there. I bought a pair of brand-name wool slacks for less than $4.00 last winter, and parted with them this year only because they were baggy and I don’t have the storage space for a just-in-case larger size wardrobe.
Goodwill also allows me to return items, with a receipt, within a week, with the tags still on. There’s a local thrift shop that has better prices, but it doesn’t allow returns, and because I won’t strip in their dressing room, I’ve lost money. (I’m also still sore that a great trench coat I bought there had bleach stains on the hem that I didn’t notice. Caveat emptor, indeed!)
I’ve learned that, at least locally, Wednesday is senior day, worth a ten percent discount. That’s only 38 cents on a sweater, but I’ve begun to understand that these little savings do add up. I’ve also struck it rich when the items I’ve found are at discount because of the color of the tags. Two weeks ago, I got two lovely cardigans—hard to find items—at half price.
When I am feeling sorry for myself, I ask whoever will listen, “Will I always have to shop at Goodwill?” Sometimes, though I think it just makes good sense, for the environment (reduce, reuse, recycle) as well as for my checkbook. It’s become almost chic to admit to copping bargains at thrift stores, consignment shops, and yes, even Goodwill. If they could just do something about the smell.