On Goodwill (Or, “What IS that smell?”)


A friend and I went to Goodwill the other day.


I actually made her take me.  For the last couple of months, every time I ask where she got that fabulous coat/shirt/sweater, the answer was Goodwill.  Since we’re roughly the same size and height, I thought I could take advantage of her luck/hunting acumen/perseverance.


The first thing that hits me is the smell.  It’s not exactly wretched, barely even unpleasant.  But it’s there.  It’s the smell of people’s basements, of 500 kinds of perfume, of every ethnicity’s cooking.  And it’s all covered in the vague odor of industrial strength detergent. 


About half a rack of sweaters in, I’m bored.  My friend rolls her eyes, says she’ll meet me at the change rooms in half an hour.  She’ll use the time to find 14 sweaters, 2 dresses, and a pair of boots.  (We only left one of the sweaters behind.  She’s very, very good at what she does.)  I head for the books.


And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a perfectly pristine copy of THIS:

I try not to squeal, so as not to frighten the Blue Hairs, picking up their Harlequin romances (which I believe are priced by the pound).  I kept meaning to pick this up, never did.  Finished it in 8 hours, even though I tried to stretch it out, make it last.  Couldn’t.


But the best book find I ever made at a thrift store wasn’t for me.  It was for the kids.


Once I got it home, actually looked at, I realized I couldn’t give it to them. 


Just didn’t seem like something I wanted to read them as I tucked them in safely at bedtime:



23 responses to “On Goodwill (Or, “What IS that smell?”)

  1. I am obsessed with Goodwill. Best store ever. I can never seem to find the best clothes, but I look nonetheless.

  2. My mom is a ninja when it comes to shopping in the second hand stores. At least when she’s shopping for herself. Any time she brings home something for me… here come the hurt feelings. I remember the first time it happened. I was in high school and she brought me home a green felt baseball cap. Nope, noway, I’m not wearing that. I never thought I hear the end of it. I constantly have to remind her not to buy me anything unless I’m there. Grrr… you’d think should would catch on by now, over 20 years later. I have nothing against the second hand stores… just mom shopping for me. 😛

  3. I think I have the same genes as your friend. I can walk into a charity shop and come out with 3 fabulous new outfits for under $20.00. 88% of my wardrobe has come from St Vincent de Paul and a lot of it is big name labels.

    My gratitude to the wasteful fashionistas who tire of their clothing after one season is bottomless 🙂

  4. I have used Goodwill in the past for my son’s theater performances. With so many cutbacks in the arts in schools, there is nothing left for costuming. Once, in middle school, he had to play a publishing executive for a big schmantzy NY firm and needed to look sharp. One stop at Goodwill, and he came out looking quite snazzy, for less than $15.00. He’ll never wear the clothes again, so why shop any where else . . .

    And I too have gotten some good deals on books. Glad you found some classics . . .

  5. when i was younger my mom used to torture me by saying, “wanna go shopping?!?!?!” and of course I would get all excited about a trip to the mall and outfit-buying until she would pull into the Good Will parking lot. The smell of that place makes me sleepy.

  6. Nay to Goodwill I say. You need to find a Savers…best second hand store e.v.e.r.
    They have 99 cent Monday…my favorite day of the week!
    Thats where Life of Brian came from…for 99 cents, on the cover of the box was a Goodwill sticker that said 2.99.

    I love Savers.

    I would have squealed if I found Me Talk Pretty One Day.

    Savers smells like Goodwill.

  7. We were about to read a ‘Babar The Elephant’ book to my son one night, when we skimmed through it and saw the first couple of pages talked about how his mom was shot and killed by hunters. Yes, after that, we have continued skimming through his night-time reading selection before actually reading it.

  8. There’s just something about that smell. It’s universal to all second hand joints. There’s a second hand store where I live, and I now go there first when looking for something new. It’s awesome. Though the owner says that all the items on the racks have been cleaned by the people consigning them, I don’t believe it. If they’ve been cleaned then the store wouldn’t smell that way.

    I have a few of my things that I don’t wear anymore on consignment, and I am really hoping that come Feb 11th that they won’t be coming back home with me.

  9. Too funny…I love goodwill clothes for haloween, ugly sweater parties and other random events, but rarely go for actual clothing and rarely wash what I buy before I wear it.

    They do have some great stuff…once I found a packet of curry in a jacket pocket…that explained the smell.

  10. Ohhhhhhh…any smell is worth it when it comes to finding a brand new copy of anything by David Sedaris! Yummy!
    For the life of me, the older I get, the less I am able to find a reason to purchase anything new – other than panties of course!

  11. Dutch stuff would never even make it to goodwill.

    Neighbours can smell when you are about to throw out stuff and would knock on your door looking for it whether they want it or not.

    Freebie freaks.

  12. I love the goodwill, good thing I have found:

    1.dress up clothes for the girls
    2.lovely wedding dress that I bloddied up for Halloween’s ‘zombie bride’
    3.Bunch of cheap post-baby I’m still chubs clothes(no one wants to pay full ticket for fat clothes)
    4.Brand new lucite stacked stripper shoes for happy fun time with husband
    5.Catholic school girl skirt and blazer for more happy fun time with husband.
    6.White tennis skirt for happy fun time with husband.

    Wait, I’m seeing a pattern, and maybe a new ad campaign:

    Goodwill, where you can role play on the cheap!

  13. I only drop off at Goodwill. Never pick up. Or almost never. I can’t stand the place. I know people who love it, but I just can’t bring myself to go in and buy anything there. I know that smell. It haunts me in my sleep.

  14. I only go to the thrift stores for costumes or something like that, I hate the smell!! P U!

    I am like your friend though I find tons of things when I go.

  15. love the thrift stores – for both drop off and pick up! my daughter was such an ace. she diligently shopped thrift through high school. i offered to buy her a new prom dress – but she’d found one she loved. got it for $1.25. it was half price…

    david sedaris is good for children. maybe you can edit-on-the-fly? The “Amy Sedaris Wears Half a Fat Suit” story is perfectly fine…

  16. I kind of secretly love the idea of the Goodwill downtown where you buy everything by the pound. Except the homeless do too, so…yeah. That’s kind of like stealing the last cookie from an old lady at the bake sale. Rad book though! That’s a keeper for sure.

  17. Me Talk Pretty One Day is one of my favorite books of all time 🙂 Though clearly I make this judgment without having read I’m Going to Get You! Hahaha. I think y so would actually like that one, as I tell him that about eight times a day, as I chase him around the loop of kitchen, livingroom, bedroom kitchen.

    Mmmmmm…. basements.

  18. Rassles: If I had more luck, I’d probably be more obsessed. Or a longer attention span.

    Peter: There’s no need to argue, parents just don’t understand.

    nursemyra: Sigh. Those happy accidents just don’t seem to happen when you’re 5’10” and not exactly small-boned.

    tysdaddy: A friend’s dad found the suit that he wore to her wedding at Goodwill, for the same reason: he knew he’d never wear it again.

    bluestreak: That’s a mean trick. Only moms can be that mean.

    Miss: Well, as long as it still has the smell…

    Gigi: Ooooh, close one! The day that dude beheaded a guy on a greyhound, my kids wanted to read Alice In Wonderland – with all it’s “Off with her head!” references. Not cool.

    Beej: Yeah, if I’m seriously looking for something, I’ll pick consignment over Goodwill.

    O.G.: Free curry? Lucky bastard.

    mongoliangirl: Lately, I have been absolutely PARALYZED by the idea of spending money. Even when I have some, I can’t part with it. Even for essentials. Good to know I’m not alone.

    mkh: Oh my god, you just reminded me of my grandpa, who, when I complained about the smell in the barnyard, took a big sniff and said “Mmmm! Smells like money!”

    Xbox: And the Dutch folks I know are so PROUD of that.

    Chris: You make me laugh! And now, I’m going back, but with a different perspective…

    Sue: It’s like hospital smell. Once it gets in your nose, it just stays there.

    Loni: There must be a gene you people have in common…

    daisyfae: Sedaris would scar them less than the threatening dog story. I think the fat suit was one of my favorite stories.

    Em: True dat.

    Chad: It’s actually pretty wrong. And out of print, apparently. Wonder why? (but the Sedaris? Why can’t I just turn him, and live with him happily ever after?)

  19. The woman who manages Buy the Pound on Emblem Court in Scarborough is a large mean – spirited shrew.

    Yes the items are cheap (1.99 a pound for clothing, 1.00 for cd’s,etc) but she yells at potential customers,and paying customers, for no reason at all.

    thank God for yard sales where you don’t have to put up with someone who has a burr up their butt everyday.

  20. Okay – the last two inches of screen made me ACTUALLY laugh out loud. Not LOL. LAUGH OUT LOUD, like, would-have-snorted-milk-out-my-nose-if-I-wasn’t-a-vegan-laugh-out-loud.

  21. Um..I mean last two inches of your post. Like the creepy-ass photo – which TRULY makes me question the fairness of a universe where that person is published and I am not.

    • Seriously makes you question the publishing industry, doesn’t it? The worst part is, the kids actually WANT to read it, probably because they know I’m horrified by it.

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