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OnlineGoodwill.com: Leaking the ‘Secret,’ One Deal at a Time

The father of the bride, at least according to Hollywood movies, can sometimes be reluctant to reach for his wallet. Joe Snider of Mt. Juliet, however, was positively chipper about paying for his wife’s latest purchase in preparation for their daughter’s wedding.

Snider was standing in the merchandise pick-up area of onlineGoodwill.com, the e-commerce division of Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. An employee, emerging from the warehouse in downtown Nashville, handed Snider a cardboard box full of vintage, flower-print china — plates and saucers — that Snider’s wife, Jodi, bought in an online auction.

Snider explained that his wife and daughter had initially planned to use plastic tableware for the wedding, but then a family member talked them into using mismatched china from yard sales — a trendy and inexpensive way to create an impressive table setting.

“Jodi got an idea from a friend who said, ‘You ought to try Goodwill online.’ Jodi got on there, signed up for an account, and she’s been on there every night since looking at stuff. We get some good deals,” Snider explained.

The plastic plates the Sniders had originally planned to buy were 60-70 cents apiece. But the china plates from onlinegoodwill.com they chose instead were only 30 cents each. Joe Snider said that after the wedding, instead of throwing plastic in the trash, they would give the china to a niece who is getting married or just donate it back to Goodwill.

The Sniders are among many people who only recently discovered that Goodwill sells merchandise online, even though the local Goodwill’s online store has been in operation more than a decade. The e-commerce platform, shared by other Goodwill affiliates, has been around even longer.

Onlinegoodwill.com is an auction site similar to e-Bay, except that all of the merchandise was donated to Goodwill and is sold by Goodwill to the highest bidder. Revenue from those sales, like sales in Goodwill’s stores, furthers Goodwill’s mission of changing lives through education, training and employment.

“We’ve told lots of people about it, and none of them realized Goodwill sold things online,” Joe Snider said.

HITCHED FOR A SONG

Some customers, like Connie Justice of Bardston, Ky., have been bidding in online Goodwill auctions for years. She buys jewelry, shoes, camera lenses and “basically whatever catches my eye.”

She visited Goodwill in Nashville recently on her way home from a business trip in Atlanta. She picked up a drill press and flooring nailer her husband, Joseph Justice, purchased from onlinegooodwill.com.

“He wouldn’t want to shop at a Goodwill store, but one day he saw me looking at Goodwill online and he’s like, ‘What’s that?’ Now he shops Goodwill online all the time,” Connie Justice said.

Goodwill brought the Justices together in another, more significant way. When the couple was ready to marry, Joseph Justice was prepared to spend “tons of money” on a ring, but his wife immediately began searching Goodwill’s website.

“He said, ‘You’re not getting a diamond from Goodwill,’ and I said, ‘Watch me,’” she recalled.

Connie Justice ended up bidding on, and winning, a band and separate solitaire diamond for a total of $700. The ring was later appraised at $6,400. She said after that she and her husband were “hooked” on shopping Goodwill online.

HOOKED ON ONLINEGOODWILL.COM

Goodwill Senior Director of Retail Chris Burr said there are several reasons that repeat customers are passionate about onlinegoodwill.com. Just like in Goodwill’s brick-and-mortar stores, they get a great value on high quality merchandise. But unlike Goodwill’s stores, online customers can shop from home on their phone or computer, 24 hours a day, and search for specific items with just a few keystrokes. And there’s often more to the story.

“A lot of the items we have online had an emotional attachment to the original owner. They were well-loved before they were donated. People purchase these items online for a reason — whether it reminds them of their childhood or they are a collector or whatever. It’s often striking some kind of emotional chord,” Burr explained.

All jewelry donated to Goodwill is sold online. Rare, odd and particularly valuable items can be found at onlinegoodwill.com as well. Recent examples include a boxing glove signed by Muhammad Ali (which sold for $362), a vintage cast-iron emergency phone call box (sold for $227) and a purse made from an armadillo (sold for $41).

But Eboni, onlinegoodwill.com’s lead of customer service, said the fun of competing in and winning an auction also keeps customers coming back.

“It’s that go-for-the-gusto rush that they get,” she said.

SHOPPING WITH A MISSION

Customers also are glad their online purchases support Goodwill’s mission.

Cindy Walker of Culleoka has gotten terrific bargains at onlinegoodwill.com on English Laundry shirts for her husband, Mephisto sandals for her son, Fiestaware dishes for herself and recently, a portable hot tub.

She is a sophisticated user of the website who enjoys the competition of auctions and avails herself of all of the website’s tools to land the winning bid.

But after the thrill of winning has faded, Walker said there’s another, more lasting reward from shopping onlinegoodwill.com.

“It makes me feel good to know that I am not only getting a great deal, I am helping others in my community to learn career skills and find and maintain jobs to support themselves and their families,” she said.

Tips for shopping OnlineGoodwill.com:

Sign up for weekly merchandise emails at onlinegoodwill.com to see cool, just listed items

Create an account. Start browsing, click “sign in,” then click “Sign me up!”

Create a watch list: Under the “Personal Shopper” tab, describe the item you are seeking. You will be alerted when an item of that type is posted.

Check the seller: Items purchased from Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee benefit local communities via Goodwill’s mission.

Pay attention to shipping fees, which vary from item to item. Reduce or avoid them by buying from Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee and picking up at Goodwill’s Nashville headquarters.

Set a maximum bid. If you are outbid, your offer will be raised in $1 increments over bids placed by other shoppers until you maximum is reached. If no one matches your bid at a lower amount, you win!

Read merchandise descriptions thoroughly: Pay close attention to the size of items as dimensions may not be obvious in photos. Check for mentions of damage or to see if powered items have been tested.

Online Goodwill Facts

329,119 items sold at OnlineGoodwill.com during 2015.

Less than 1 percent of donations processed by Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee are sold online.

60 donated bobble-head dolls sold on eBay marked the local Goodwill’s entry into online commerce

$1,800 was the winning bid for the most expensive item sold at onlinegoodwill.com in 2015: a 1963 Fender amplifier

17,455 pieces of jewelry were sold online last year

Books, media and other miscellaneous items are also sold on Ebay and Amazon to raise funds Goodwill’s mission

Read the Summer 2016 edition of The Ambassador – Goodwill’s quarterly magazine which provides readers with stories of events, activities and the inspiring stories of how Goodwill is changing lives

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