Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Goodwill vs Value Village - which is better?

Ever since I've shopped for my own clothes, I've gone to thrift stores. I like them better than regular retail because there's so much more variety, there's always the "treasure hunt" aspect of it, and, of course, the prices are so much cheaper than standard retail.

Around here, in the Seattle area, there's 2 main chains of thrift stores, one for-profit (Value Village), and the other a nonprofit, Goodwill. I've been to both, a lot, and over the years have developed a clear favorite, which is Value Village. I think Value Village is run much more efficiently, and with the customer in mind.

For instance, I was looking at kitchen knives recently. At Goodwill, they were all jumbled together into a bin, with occasionally a piece of opaque masking tape over the sharp edge. It was very dangerous, because the masking tape came off sometimes, so you had to be extremely careful if you didn't want to get your fingers sliced. Also, you couldn't see the knife edge, to see whether it was straight or serrated, since it was covered with masking tape.

At Value Village, on the other hand, they've thought about it, and have a good solution. The knives have transparent, strong packing tape on their sharp edges, and on the side opposite the handle, there's a reinforced hole so it can go onto one of those straight hooks that store displays have. So instead of everything being tossed together into a bin, it's hung up, and customers can easily look through them.

You see this same type of quality difference everywhere when comparing Value Village and Goodwill. In Value Village, if a garment is hung in the Women's jeans, size 6 section, it will definitely be Women's jeans, size 6. In Goodwill, at least 25% will be incorrectly sorted.

Why is this? I've seen this at a lot of nonprofits. They're very invested in "doing good", and have signs everywhere about the people they're helping. Which I applaud. But that doesn't excuse them from doing a good job at the main purpose of the storeselling well-priced merchandise, organized properly, in a well-run store.

Value Village does a much better job, even though they start with significant disadvantages. For one, they pay taxes. They also actually pay for the items that are donated to them (via a scheme where they give credit to a local nonprofit for everything donated to them, even if it goes directly to them), as opposed to Goodwill, which gets straight donations. Also, there are many people who will only donate to Goodwill, specifically because they're a nonprofit.


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