[OPINION] Questioning The Good In Goodwill

An alert “06880” reader named Jennifer writes:

I frequent Goodwill in Westport, both as a donor of my kid’s outgrown clothing and a shopper looking for unique items. I am a single mom often in search of a bargain. (I love estate sales, so I enjoy the thrill of the chase). My favorite pair of shoes are Kate Spade hot pink velvet flats, proudly purchased at Goodwill.

More and more I notice that drivers dropping off Goodwill donations then make a U-turn in the parking lot, find a spot, and go in to shop. I am one of them.

It seems that Goodwill has adjusted their prices to the Westport clientele. For instance, a man’s Orvis or Tommy Hilfiger polo goes for $25 a shirt, rather than the usual $2 to $11 Goodwill price. It seems like the store is appealing to those donating (who end up parking the car to shop), rather than those who actually need clothing at discounted prices.

I have not done any research on how Goodwill uses the income from the goods we purchase. I recently read on a Facebook Moms group that a local mom was looking for a place to donate clothing that actually went to a family in need, rather than Goodwill.

PS: I am curious how Tina Dragone now feels about her neighbor. In 2012 she was not pleased Goodwill was moving closer to her boutique. Has she warmed up?

The Goodwill store in Westport, on opening day.

29 responses to “[OPINION] Questioning The Good In Goodwill

  1. I hope Jennifer does not need to worry as I often also donate to goodwill but it is always good to check what charities are up to

  2. Heather Wilson

    I agree, but I have always supported my wardrobe with Goodwill. I too a single Mom and my Mom was with 4 kids. I shopped it when it was across from National Hall. I used to get my Halloween costumes there when I was in college etc. It was a good price and lots of fun. I think about those families that must shop now in wonder if they can afford anything if they are trying to pay the rent. Goodwill is off the charts.

  3. I went to “Charity Navigator.” They rate charities for their good and those they serve. While Connecticut did not specifically come up, Goodwill Industries of Greater New York & Northern New Jersey ranked well. https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=13302
    Like other traditional merchants and vendors, they are pricing by zip code.

  4. on the receipt that they hand you when you donate, it details how the funds are used. i imagine items are marked to market driven price points. if bigger margins in westport, thereby generating more income to help others, that’s not a bad thing. They turn the unwanted stuff into employment placement, job training and education. According to the website, the overall Goodwill (not just local), has helped 173,078 people get back to work this year. So at least there’s that!

  5. If I’m not mistaken, “better quality” goods wind up at the Westport Goodwill, rather than their stores in other areas. I learned this from an avid Goodwill shopper, who eschewed the one in Norwalk, where she lived, in order to shop at the one in Westport. She often found brand-new clothing, many with original tags attached.

  6. There’s no doubt that Goodwill does “good work”, which I applaud, but everyone should do their own research and make up their own minds on exactly what level of overall donation-driven income goes back to charitable causes. Keep in mind “non-profit” doesn’t mean not money-making. Salaries and other perks are considered an expense of business, not profit. Check out what the owner of Goodwill pulls down each year versus what he pays his employees and how much gets to the charitable end user and you might be a little put off. As with every charity it’s really about how much of each dollar gets where the donator intends when they donate. After taking the time to understand the Goodwill brilliant and very profitable business plan we’ve decided to first donate to church and direct community organizations instead. Just make informed choices.

  7. There are plenty of places to donate instead of Goodwill. Winged Monkey store takes donations that they send to various organizations in Bridgeport.

  8. Virginia Tienken

    A number of years ago I received an email titled Think Before You Donate.
    It stated that the CEO and owner Mark Curran profits $2.3 million a year.
    and that he sells for profit and his employees receive minimum wage.Says $0.00 goes to help anyone. The suggestion was that your money is better used when it goes to the Salvation Army or any of the Veterans organizations. I have no way of knowing how true this is.

  9. Dear Jennifer,

    In my previous working life in Washington, D.C., I worked with Goodwills across the country. Goodwill is a wonderful 110-year-old international organization that was created to fund and provide job training and career opportunities for low-income individuals, particularly those on welfare. Goodwills across the country have have helped hundreds of thousands of people over the years get the on-the-job training necessary to secure better and higher paying jobs and support their families. Notice those working at the Goodwill when you drop off your donated items–they are all receiving on-the-job training. The donation and sale of goods goes toward funding the job training as well as the fixed costs associated with operating the buildings. If the Westport Goodwill charges higher prices than other Goodwills in lower income areas, it simply means that people are willing to pay those prices. The monies that come in all go toward supporting the organization’s mission and are also distributed to other Goodwill branches around the country.

  10. The clothing they sell is not about clothing for low income folks, but to make money for their operation. The majority of clothing donated, from what I have heard, is packaged up and sold by the pound if not the ton in Africa.

  11. Arline Gertzoff

    The writer is correct about Westport pricing.I suggest going on Sunday or Monday and take advantage of Best selection of color of the week half price.Often better deals at Goodwill in Norwalk, Carousel at Southport Church opens again in Sept andNorwalk Hospital Treasure House .Big sales at the end of season in major stores had lower prices than Goodwill last summer.Enjoy the hunt

  12. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Assuming the profits go to charity and they only keep a reasonable SG&A I think that it makes more sense to price the goods to the market as apparently they’ve been doing rather than merely providing a cheap place for wealthy people to buy high quality items at giveaway prices. Kind of silly and defeats the basic purpose of a charity based enterprise. Donate something nice and buy it back cheap and how does the money get to those who need it?

  13. I will have to say that I photograph for Goodwill. And I have had nothing but positive experiences with them. I had no idea when I started, that they have an entire residential treatment program for brain injured people. They provide work and support for these folks. They also have job preparation programs that are available to anyone. A person can go into Goodwill Job Services and talk about making resumes, preparing for interviews and just general job counseling. The people that work there are very kind and caring. If they can make more money selling to an affluent population, the money goes to incredibly good causes.

  14. Sylvia Robinson Corrigan

    GOODWILL INDUSTRIES was founded in 1902 as a creative expression of Methodist ministry, by the Rev. Edgar James Helms, as he served his congregation and “world parish” in the South End of Boston, MA, USA focusing on the poor, children, immigrants and persons with disabilities…
    I agree with Lyn Hogan’s expression of what Goodwill Industries is all about –
    so no matter what the changes are in terms of marketing or best practices – it is a good thing to keep its basic purposes for people in mind!

  15. Lesley Anderson

    After watching a documentary on NBC Rock Center I will no longer donate my used clothes to Goodwill. The regional CEOs make anywhere from 400,00 to over a million a year and pay their disabled workers less than minimum wage. They are timed for the work they do, the number of items they process per hour. If it’s too slow they reduce their hourly wage. Some go as low as 22 cents an hour! No, if the CEO can’t take care of their help I will not give them my clothes to profit from. It’s a nasty racket they have.

  16. A few years ago I donated my used violin to Goodwill – this violin had been used for several years while I was growing up – was not an expensive instrument new, and I intended to give this to Goodwill for someone who had less to spend to be able to have the opportunity to get/play a violin. I went to Goodwill a week later, I saw the violin there – was marked on the tag $120 – TOTAL RIPOFF – not to mention, do you really need to put 100 price tags on there??? I was super pissed, not ok. Should have been $30 or less….

    PS I thought Dragone was an upmarket thrift store when I went in there – whoops.

  17. If you would like to donate clothes to those in need, consider the Open Door Shelter, 4 Merritt Street in Norwalk. They give the clothes directly to homeless children and adults.
    http://www.opendoorshelter.org/donations/

  18. According to the most recent tax return of the parent/headquarters (available at guidestar.org) James Gibbons is President and he earns $585,604 in salary + $126,598 in benefits. Fundraising expenses are very low. G&A is not excessive as a percent of total expenses. The two prime rating organizations are BBB and Charity Navigator. Neither rate Goodwill. Thems are are the facts.

  19. Elaine Marino

    I used to donate gently used clothing and household items to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Connecticut, until I noticed that the phone calls from BBBS reflected the name “Savers” on my caller ID. I looked into Savers, and learned that it operates a chain of for-profit thrift stores nationwide. Savers is paid to make calls on behalf of BBBS, arranges the pick-up at your home, and transports the donated items to its for-profit stores. Reportedly, the charity receives a small fraction of the sale price of your donated items:

    http://www.startribune.com/savers-thrift-store-accused-of-misleading-public-about-donations/283714991/

    From the Savers website: “TVI, Inc. d/b/a Savers is a for profit paid solicitor accepting donations of secondhand clothing and household goods on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Connecticut.”

  20. Dick Lowenstein

    Staying on subject, if you donate at Westport Goodwill, you can claim a higher “thrift shop” charitable contribution,. If you buy at Norwalk or Bridgeport Goodwill, you will pay less.

    BTW, I was told by Goodwill that unusable textiles (clothing, rugs, towels, etc.) are sold by weight for recycling.

  21. Elisabeth Keane

    We used to donate things to Goodwill. Everything donated always was immediately ready wear: buttons secure; items washed, dried, ironed, or dry-cleaned still in the plastic bag, and everything in perfect condition. One day I had two of my husband’s suits and some other garments. As always, every garment was on a hanger, ready to be inventoried and put on the rack to find a new home. I was horrified to observe the young woman working on the intake platform (this was the old building) dump everything into a tall bin. I asked why she did that and her reply was that all intake items were put in the bin. Immediately I told her to remove those things and return them to me. In my view, if they treated cleaned, ironed and/or dry cleaned clothing with such disrespect they would not treat anything else with any greater care. That was it for us and in due course we found other worthy charities who genuinely appreciated the items donated. Methods and philosophy may have changed. I don’t know.

    Now, for the Westport Mom whose opinion you shared today, here are two more suggestions. For household items and certain other items, Homes With Hope. They can use household items for the various residences and also some things for the Gillespie Center. However, if you have warm coats to offer, get in touch with Rob Lockwood and ask him if you can drop them off.

    Two years ago I learned about Person to Person in St. Luke’s Church, Darien. I95 to Exit 11, bear left at foot of ramp onto Post Road, proceed to light at Rings End Road. Left onto Rings End Road, first driveway on left.

    Saint Luke’s Parish | Person-to-Person
    http://www.saintlukesdarien.org/person-to-person

    This charity has been around for many years and appears to be expertly operated. The intake area is busy and well run even if it appears chaotic on the busiest intake days. The “sales” area has garments on hangers. If you can donate clothing on hangers they appreciate it. Don’t bother putting donations in dry cleaning bags to protect them, the folks in intake will discard the bags. However, be sure that everything is folded carefully; they can manage with wrinkles caused by packing for travel. In the past, they have told me that if there is plus size or petite clothing, those things would help some of their clientele. Childrens’ clothing is welcome too.

    The intake section is not open every day for various reasons so do call and find out their schedule for that week. There is a child day care section for the church that has a small playground next to the entrance to P2P and there is a small outbuilding next to that. Sometimes parking farther away from the building can be more efficient.

    I don’t know if Westport Mom makes an inventory list of the garments/items she is donating but it is prudent to do so, not only to remember where something went so one doesn’t drive oneself nuts looking for it, but also to make it easier for intake at a given charity to inventory new acquisitions. Another reason is to keep a copy of the inventory letter/list for yourself for tax purposes. Two copies, one for the charity at time of donation and one for your records.

  22. Karen Solicito

    The Norwalk Housing Authority has early childhood programs and bridge to college programs for their public housing residents. They’re always looking for quality books and educational toys. Check out http://www.norwalkha.org/early-childhood.

    Jennifer – I think of that comment every time I drive by the Goodwill, even all these years later. If memory serves, the author thought that Westport wouldn’t want that ‘element’… Me, from Westport, shopping at Goodwill… did that make me bi-elemental?? Or just quasi-Westport? I guess I’ll never know, because there are no more bargains at GW, which took the fun out of shopping there.

  23. Christine Barth

    I am glad to see someone mention Person to Person in Darien; I have been donating clothing there for several years; they also run an active food pantry. There is an additional donation center in Norwalk, mentioned on their website (p2phelps.org).

    I was also interested to read the comment about the bins at GoodWill. After a similar experience, I made the decision never to donate anything breakable. Hearing sounds of breaking glass and china was all it took. I take things like that to the Curio Cottage at the Westport Women’s Club. They keep their prices low, and are staffed by volunteers. I’m told that when the merchandise is overcrowded, items are directly donated to social-service organizations.

  24. Donations are sought for The Unitarian Church in Westport’s 7th Annual Giant Indoor Tag Sale – August 5th @ 8:30 am-4:00 pm

    Cleaning Out? Moving? Please donate all of your unwanted treasures that are in good, workable condition to the tag sale! Donations accepted NOW. These include: clothing, kitchen goods, china, bric-a-brac, decorative accessories, books and small furniture.

    E-mail Linda Hudson at: lhudson30@hotmail.com with any questions. All donations are tax deductible and you can receive a form from Linda at the time of delivery.

    The proceeds from the Tag Sale go towards our Social Justice Program.

  25. Bobbi Essagof

    I also always wonder how much of the charity goes to charity and as others have said it’s not about getting the used goods to others, although it’s a great way to recycle and reuse while selling things at affordable prices. I read this article and immediately google it! Check out all the things Goodwill does, http://www.goodwill.org/about-us/
    I feel much better about donating my stuff there now!

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