What The Heck Are “The Bins?” How to Shop Goodwill Outlets Like A Pro

goodwill outlet bins akron

All thrift stores require a little patience and strategy but the Goodwill Outlet calls for a little extra effort. You can find some serious gems digging through the bins. So where do you find them and how do you shop them? Read our tips below, tune into the podcast and watch how I shop the bins on my Instagram.

The Goodwill Akron Outlet is located at 570 E. Waterloo Road in Akron, Ohio. For more information visit https://goodwillakron.org/shop/outlet-store/.

First, what are Goodwill Outlets aka “the bins?”

“The bins” also known at Goodwill Outlet stores are deeply discounted thrift stores where items are sold by the pound. Goodwill Outlet stores are usually the last stop before items go into the salvage stream to be recycled or salvaged. The stores contain big blue bins of secondhand clothing, toys, electronics, housewares, books – you name it – at incredibly discounted prices where items are sold by the pound. Avid thrifters, families, and clothing resellers love the bins because of their deep discounts.

How to Shop the Goodwill Outlet Like a Pro

First, do a search to find one in your area

Goodwills operate in territories. So do a google search of “goodwill bins near me” or “goodwill outlet near me” to see if your local Goodwill has an outlet / bins store in your area.

Go with zero expectations

This is THE ultimate treasure hunt. You will never really know what kind of day you will have or what kinds of things you will find.

Bring gloves

Bring a pair of latex gloves. Sure, it’s weird to shop with gloves on but this isn’t a typical shopping experience. You’re literally digging through bins of stuff.

Understand the pricing system

Most Goodwill outlets price by the pound. Check the signs or ask the staff. Note: again, Goodwill stores operate in territories. Meaning, stores in your area may have different pricing structures, policies than other Goodwill locations. So be sure to ask or check the price per pound before you start shopping because it can be different than what you have seen at a different location.

Dress comfortably

Make sure you’re dressed comfortably because this is work out! Wear a crossbody purse.

Find a bin with great items? Keep digging. There’s probably more like it.

Sometimes a bin will contain donations from the same donor. So if you come across a bin with many items with the same size or style, that’s probably why. Keep digging!

Follow the rules

The staff will rotate / replenish the bins throughout the day. Most, if not all stores will have rules in place where you must stand back behind a line or to the side as they rotate the bins. Some stores will blow a whistle or make an announcement when shoppers are allowed to resume shopping.

Grab a cart

Grab now, sort items later. You’ve got to move fast!

Go often

Inventory changes daily, several times a day. The key is to go often.

Decide how much time you’re going to spend at the bins

Many shoppers will wait all day for Goodwill to rotate the bins so don’t be surprised if you see people “camping out” at the Outlet store. I like to approach the bins in two ways: some days I clear an entire afternoon to really dig and other times I give myself an hour to speed dig. I’ve been successful at finding items either way.

Bring the Bins Starter Pack:  batteries, measuring tape, reusable bags, clorox wipes

Bring batteries to test toys, measurement and measuring tape if you’re buying furniture, socks and clorox wipes to try on shoes. Most bins stores don’t have fitting rooms so make sure you have measurements and sizes handy.

Inspect the clothing

Most of the items are in excellent condition, they just need a home! However, always inspect the item front to back. I like to lay the item flat and check for stains and rips. Always check the seams and turn it inside-out.

Be respectful

Keep your distance from others and certainly don’t bombard the staff when they rotate the bins.

Beat the crowds

Go early or later in the day. The bins are rotated and replenished several times a day. Most Goodwills will tell you how often the bins are rotated.

Do a final sweep

After you’ve made your rounds, circle back one final time before you leave. Some shoppers are pros at digging and flipping items over to get to the stuff that’s at the bottom to the top of the bin. When they are done flipping it all over, I circle back to find a bunch of things I couldn’t reach at the bottom!

Be inspired and keep an open mind

Since you’re going to be digging through an entire bin of stuff for that one gem, it helps to seek a little inspiration beforehand. Knowing what kinds of prints, textures, colors are popular and speak to your style will help you filter through the dozens of unwanted items in the bins.

Check out the furniture

Some, not all, locations will have furniture at the outlet store. Call ahead if you’re looking specifically for furniture to find out if your location has any furniture.

Develop a system

Take it one bin at a time, fold the items neatly in your cart so you don’t feel overwhelmed by everything piling up. Figure out which bins are worth a beeline and which ones are worth skipping over. For example, I head to housewares and women’s clothing first. I save toys and books for last.

Ask about additional discounts

Some Goodwill locations offer additional daily discounts such as senior, military, students, and so on.

How to clean your purchases

Wash whatever you can in super hot water. Use Lysol and Clorox Wipes for furniture, books, toys, etc. You can rent steamers from your local hardware store to deep clean soft furniture. Click here for tips on how to clean your thrift store purchases.

Love thrifting? Then you’ll love our podcast! Thanks, it’s Thrifted is a podcast about secondhand shopping hosted by two treasure-hunting friends, Dina & Shannon. 

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