Behind the scenes of goodwill

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Seattle – More and more cars are arriving Tuesday afternoon at Goodwill’s donation station, Renton, Washington. The employees in the fluorescent vests go back and forth and unload the weight of the day: a garbage bag filled with clothes, a fishing net big enough for 20 pounds of chinook salmon, a half-used hand lotion and a bottle of shampoo. Two plastic boxes packed with, a small tiller, a bath mat and a DVD player in a paper bag and a black lacquered trunk.

With a good pace of donations this summer, averaging around 1,600 per week, store manager Lisa Wojtech said the team would stack the goods in the blue bin and then haul them inside for sorting. They say they are watching. It’s not overwhelming, as was the case last year when millions of people trapped in their homes by a pandemic decided to withdraw their belongings and were inundated with goodwill across the country.

When stores and donation centers were closed in early 2020, many people threw away their trash and left. “It was horrible,” says Wojtech, who had to call the staff to clean up the mess. The real crowd of donations began as soon as the site reopened. In the Seattle flagship store (the world’s largest Goodwill store by region) near the intersection of Interstate 5 and Interstate 90, cars were mostly backed up to Sword Stadium.

This wasn’t a big deal for charities that used social waste to provide free vocational training and education to some of West Washington’s most disadvantaged populations. By wrapping the warehouse in rafters and renting storage space, Evergreen Goodwill (24 regional branches from Bellingham to Ballard) in northwest Washington was able to absorb the flood.

On the contrary, the disgusting demand to withdraw donations has underscored how much we rely on goodwill to help the enormous amount of what we eliminate each year. If goodwill didn’t exist, the community would have to invent it, said Adam Minter, journalist and author of the book Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale in 2019.

“It provides an essential service, and the proof is that it has become a second-hand Kleenex. You don’t say, “I’m going to take things to a thrift store. You say, “I’ll bring something like that to goodwill.” “” “

Evergreen CEO Darryl Campbell said venerable nonprofit retailers were skyrocketing in popularity, driven by the economic damage from the pandemic and renewed awareness among young people.

“They know very well where they are spending their money – and social, environmental and sustainability aspects are becoming increasingly important. “

Goodwill Industries International’s 156 North American subsidiaries and 3,300 stores convert approximately £ 4.6 billion worth of reusable landfill goods annually. That’s more than any organization, but it still only accounts for about 6% of the textiles, furniture, and other durable goods Americans throw away each year. The average Evergreen Goodwill (recently renamed Seattle Goodwill) is sold or recycled for around £ 120million per year.

Most people only experience goodwill as a place to buy and unload boxes of these merchandise from grandma’s basement. However, behind the scenes there are advanced operations designed to maximize the value of each donation. This includes using e-commerce for collectibles and other important merchandise, and using the global marketplace to sell merchandise produced by local buyers.

However, the business models that charities have relied on since their founding in 1902 also face challenges in many ways.

The quality of new products has been declining for decades – Minter probably selects it as the biggest threat to the used economy. China is currently the fastest growing used clothing exporter and may soon dominate the international market. Online consignment sites such as thredUP and Poshmark are also growing in popularity, diverting the “good things” to which Goodwill aspires.

Minter says the biggest advantage of nonprofits is their ubiquity and expertise in finding markets for goods that others will throw in the trash. “Goodwill has so much volume that we can do it relatively cheaply and we can do it in a way that no one else can. “

The process begins with a sidewalk, explains the store manager Wojtech.

Workers connect televisions, computers, microwaves and other large electronics and isolate unexploded ordnance to sell as scrap metal or to a licensed recycler for around 11 cents a pound.

Items that are clearly unusable, such as moldy clothes, broken furniture and real trash bags, go straight to the dumpster.

Staff will notify Wojtech and discuss pricing, especially when the cooler ones are dropped off. “They are excited,” she said. “It’s like Christmas everyday and you never know what you’re trying to get.” Recent thrills include antique dressers ($ 79.99) and electric bikes ($ 350). There are.

Wojtech walks through the gate to the bay and enters a scene of non-stop activity. Some teams categorize loot by type. Clothing is a category that represents the majority of goodwill income: toys, small electronics, housewares, books, shoes, accessories.

After that, the specialist will take over.

At stations that specialize in a category, the quality-oriented sorters choose what they think they are selling and set the prices.

Donated items will be sorted on August 6, 2021, evaluated and then shipped to Renton’s Goodwill department. About 59% of the items in stock in the store are sold there. Unsold items will be shipped to the point of sale.


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