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Advanced Thrifting 101: Ten Tips for Shopping a Goodwill Outlet Center

Tackling the beast that is the Queens Goodwill Outlet Center requires more than some serious cojones. Employ the below tips, and increase your chances of survival.

1. Defensive Dressing

Clothing comfortable/casual enough to get dirty; walking shoes; a hands-free bag; you know the deal. I donned a fanny pack for the occasion, and it felt AWESOME.

2. Engage Your Inner Hypochondriac

I usually hand-sanitize before, during and after advanced thrifting excursions of this ilk – that is, until I happened upon the phrase “rubber kitchen gloves” in the Comments section. If I had any common sense, I’d have thought of this myself; I don’t, so I’m eternally grateful to the gal who wrote in. Effing brilliant.

3. Anticipate Navigational Difficulties

When you enter the realm of the 7 train and have trouble differentiating your left from your right (also a slight case of dyslexia), getting lost is all but inevitable – the Maps app on my iPhone didn’t do jack in terms of helping me find my destination. I had to ask three or four people for directions before I finally got to the Goodwill; I highly recommend those with similarly sub-par navigational skills do the same. Don’t be shy.

4. Use the Carts

The grocery store-esque shopping carts, that is. Wheel it down the aisle, park it near whatever bin you’re pulling from, and toss your goodies in as you find them.

5. Seven Minutes per Bin, MAX

To effectively sift through a deep, large bin of crumpled castoffs, one must plunge her arms into the bottom of the stuff and yank in an upward direction. The plunge/yank move ensures you get a look at most of the stuff in a given bin, and seven minutes is more than enough time to denote the ick from the SICK. Once you’re through one bin, move immediately onto the next. There are about twenty massive bins to choose from: Strength stamina, and time must be budgeted accordingly.

6. More is More

You’re not going to remember everything in your cart while you’re still in sifting mode. Anything that grabs your eye is a YES – for now.

7. Denim is Heavy

As previously mentioned, clothing at the Goodwill Outlet Center is priced by the pound. I recommend avoiding the denim section on your first visit for this reason. An extra pound might not add much to the monetary cost of the excursion, but remember: You’re carrying your finds back on the subway. A bag of jeans is a lot less fun to cart around than a bag of shirts. I’m just saying.

8. Know When to Call It A Day

After an hour and ten minutes of hunting, my strength started to wane. I had a cart full of stuff, but I’d only gotten through half the clothing bins, and I hadn’t even touched upon the shoes/bags/accessories section. No matter. This is the most exhaustifying kind of shopping there is: It’s muy importante to wrap it up before you start to lose your mind.

9. The Final Sort

Right before you check out, go back through every single item in your cart and check for damages: holes, stains, unraveled hems et. al. Toss the No’s back into the nearest bin.

10. Victory Jig

Unload your haul into the scale at the register. Marvel at your thriftastic handiwork. Jump up and down upon seeing the final total. Well done you.



When are we going to see everything you got?!


LOL cracked up at the “plunge/yank” paragraph. love it.


Holy moley, that photo of goodwill is intense. Pacing yourself seems key in that kind of situation. I don’t know the area at all, but stopping for a meal mid-way through might help if its a far distance from home.


We have something like that in Boston called The Garment District, it’s just a room with a giant mound of clothes you have to crawl over.
However, this sounds a bit more intense. I applaud.


Love these tips, especially #6.

I gotta say though, I prefer to spend as long as possible at a bin — and specifically avoid the newest ones. The fact of the matter is, the bins they just haul out, you’re not going to find a whole lot if there’r twenty people jostling to get to it/its heavily packed. I tend to start at the bins most ignored, and literally sift through every item. I’ve managed to find an entire AA wardrobe doing this, a LAMB hoodie in perfect condition and my coveted Ferragamo wallet. All of these things had already been picked over.

PS: The victory jig? So sweet. I’ve never spent over $20 there in my life.


I used to love going to the goodwill outlet in Seattle, It was the best. I still wear some of the amazing things I found there years ago. You tips are right on except there is no way I would leave until every bin was looked though, I’m hard core like that. ;) In seattle there were the “pickers” who used this as a way to make money and would sell stuff to local shops. They were always first in line when the new bins were brought out and they were so rude and pushy. When I first started going to the outlet the weren’t there but a few years later they were there all day long. It was a huge problem for me but I had to deal with it to get some magic gems along the way. I want to see what you got!


Also – probably much better to go during a weekday than the weekend?

Did you see any housewares?


Yes, please! Show us what you found already…

Jessica Kelly

Wow! I’ve never heard of a Goodwill OUTLET! Where do you find the closest one to you?


i have been going to this goodwill outlet since it opened and it is not for the faint of heart you have to be a die hard thrift store shopper.


february 19, 2011 i have been going to this good since it opened it is great, it is an all day process but worth the work out this goodwill outlet is not for the faint of heart. It is for die hard vintage and thrift shoppers.

Martha Hughes

I have yet to wander over to the $1.99lb section of my Goodwill – but I know people who do an find great treasures. I’m becoming quite addicted to shopping in the main store – can’t believe the quality of clothes that can be bought there.

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