How to shop on

 Goodwill Thrift Online Shopping

I will admit, I've waited a few years to discuss Goodwill Shopping online. I was one of its original beta testers, and of all the many websites and apps I have beta tested for, ShopGoodwill is the only one I never did an immediate article for or even discussed with the 2 million YouTube subscribers who watched the former web series I formerly hosted called SellerThink about.

To be clear, as the host of SellerThink, my job was to discuss what was happening on the online marketplaces, make recommendations on how to make more money as an online seller, review and discuss new marketplaces and the best places to source products for a good ROI, Return on Investment.  ShopGoodwill often came up as one of the resources I used for my own business that would have made the web series a lot of money, but I always said no.

ShopGoodwill was just a protected resource for my sourcing that even on the massive membered Facebook Group I was running for Mercari sellers for a few years, I acted like I never heard of it, if anyone asked or mentioned it in the group.

Why? Because when you sell online, guarding your key source from other sellers helps keep your competition away and the prices low. 

I once shared this source with someone who promised they would not reveal it, and within a week they had revealed it on YouTube. Within a month my competition for their auctions immediately jumped within my niche area of that time.

As a former online seller I operated on a cash basis, my money was made by being able to outsource my competition locally and online with lower investments and higher sales, also called R.O.I. (Return on Investment).

ShopGoodwill was a great sourcing method for me, because I could review the products from stores nationally, and I also had three of their large ShopGoodwill ecommerce processing centers within 40 miles of my location. That meant I could afford to bid higher on items I really wanted to resell, compared to those outside of my area in California.

Where they would be paying an additional $40 for shipping for example, I could add an extra $30 into my bid and then drive over and pick the won products up in person.  At the time, ShopGoodwill had an ecommerce warehouse in Los Angeles, Ontario and Santa Ana.  I was 15 minutes from the Los Angeles location, 40 minutes to Ontario and 50 minutes to Santa Ana.

I would do multiple auctions at a time so when I would be saving $100 or more in shipping expenses by driving. I became very well acquainted with manager at the Los Angeles location since I did a lot of purchases there. He was short staffed one day and had to work the ecommerce pickups. Turned out we had a lot in common and for the next four years when he would saw that I would be coming in for a pickup, he'd personally come from his office, fetch my purchases and then take them to my vehicle.  We'd talk for a while, then he'd go back to work and I would head back to sort through, test and clean my haul.

Ontario's set-up was quite a bit different, with all pick-ups going through their front security desk, so I became friends with their security team who knew I was on YouTube and would ask me questions about selling online and what kind of products they could sell.  Great people. 

Santa Ana always felt more like picking up someone at a medical clinic, or waiting at a doctors office.

At Los Angeles and Ontario e-commerce warehouses I rarely came in contact with fellow resellers or customers.  Those I did, were keeping it on the downlow similar to myself.  We knew what we had.

Santa Ana however was very different, I met a lot of fellow resellers there, mainly because it was very busy and had a small waiting room, which probably why it reminds me of a doctors office.  My first trip to Santa Ana as I arrived, a man was walking out and I held the door for him. He has a Roland SH101 Synthesizer that he had gotten for $50.  It blew me away. I had just figured out at the time that I could make more money by buying products that were restricted to Local Pickup, mainly because items that might sell for several hundred dollars if shipping were allowed, would only receive a few bids locally. 

That Red Roland SH-101 was worth $2,199.00 on ebay. He bought it for $50 because at the time ShopGoodwill was still relatively new and alot musicians hadn't heard about it yet.  I remain envious of his purchase years later.

So why discuss ShopGoodwill in 2024?

Well, a lot has happened in the past few years.  California locked down my "non-essential" small business and as an "at risk" cash based business, my stock and inventory died along with it. Sales online for my niche area never recovered enough to continue selling online.  I had a lot of money tied up in inventory, which is a bad way to do a cash based business.  Had California not put me out of business, I would of slowly recovered my investment, since I always bought low and sold slightly higher than my competition.

At the beginning of the pandemic my mother passed away and at the end of the pandemic my father passed away.  In between my time and energy belonged to helping take care of them, and though I did have a few sales during that time, I needed to be focused on family business.  Here in 2024 I am no longer the host of the once successful SellerThink series on YouTube which lost its monetization the night my father went into the hospital a few years ago. So I have no new information, research or tips for videos.

In other words, I no longer need to worry about competition or avoiding contributing to helping ShopGoodwill grow.

Is ShopGoodwill still a good place to shop?

It can be, but unlike eBay or Mercari, the key take away about ShopGoodwill you need to keep in mind, is there are no returns on their auction site.  The stores selling on ShopGoodwill also make their item descriptions so vague, for many you will have no way to access the condition or value of what you're bidding on.  There may be missing parts, it may not work.

There are a couple of Goodwill stores on the platform that actually do minor testing, because they realize that even showing something "power's on", will greatly increase its bids. When you come across those sellers, write them down or bookmark them so you can checkback later to see what they're selling.

Is it worth shopping local pick-ups?

It can be. When I started off, I didn't realize that some products were only being sold locally. Usually due to their size or weight or perhaps because they are electronic products.  This can be a big advantage if you you're looking for products that fit into those categories.

What I've done, is once I came across a product that I thought I could easily win, I'd look to see if they had anything else I wanted to bid on, that way I could pick-up multiple items in a single trip.  You need to check their pick-up terms in advance.  It worked well for me, because usually the shipping if I bought the same thing on eBay or Mercari, Bonanza, or another marketplace was a lot more than the cost of my gas and free time to pick it up in person.

You need to get your timing right.  You'll need to make sure any other products you bid on from the same seller end before the deadline giving for pick-up on the main "pickup" only product.  So if a store only gives you 2 weeks to pick up the "Pickup" item. You want all your other bids to end several days before the main item deadline. That way you can schedule a single appointment to pick them all up together.  Essentially, this will give you an extension in picking up the main item, because it's "pickup" date gets tied into the pickup scheduling of the newer won items.  I've used this technique a few times when I needed extra time to be able to get to their pickup location.

How much should I pay?

If you're buying for yourself, then it probably doesn't matter as much, as long as you feel like you're getting a fair value and the item works.  However, if you are an online seller, then you should ditch bidding higher than what the same product will sell for if you were to buy it on eBay.

Despite my spite for eBay, after years of eBay's anti-seller policies, I still refer to it for price comparisons.   A good question to ask yourself, if you are buying something that might be missing parts or is listed on ShopGoodWill as untested, is would you be willing to pay the same amount for the same non-working product on eBay?

This is a good question to ask, because on eBay if you're not happy with what you purchased, they're generally eager to allow you to return whatever you bought at the sellers expense.  Not so on ShopGoodWill, with few exceptions.

So do your research before you bid.

Can I get the same item being sold on ShopGoodwill cheaper inside the store?

That would be cool if you could, be the answer is almost always no in 2024.  Now in the past, I once purchased something from Los Angeles Goodwill when they were first starting out and when I arrived at the store, they had sold my items within the store.  At the time, only the Orange County Goodwill had a separate facility for their online sales. Los Angeles has a caged area, but they kept the products on display until pick up. Fortunately, Los Angeles Goodwill is one of the larger sellers on ShopGoodwill and they have a dedicated area where they list and photograph the products, and a separate warehouse area where they store those products away from things that will be going into their physical store.

I put together this list of tips for shopping on ShopGoodwill. Some of them repeat what I wrote above, they'll just serve as reminders.

  • Item descriptions are vague, sometimes non-existent. So take a look at the photos very carefully and make sure know what kinds of signs there are for that product type that may indicate excessive wear or functionality.

  • Some Item titles and descriptions are incorrect. So again, make sure you know what you are buying and what to look for.
What I bought

  • Handling Charge. Most locations have a handling charge in addition to the shipping charge. This will be add to the total shipping price at check out.

  • The majority of Shop goodwill's eCommerce locations will respond in 12 to 24 hours to questions you submit about a product. Most will give you additional details if possible. Most will end and relist or adjust a listing that has incorrect information if you let them know. Things like Models numbers or some of the photos being for a different product are one of the more common errors.

  • Some Shopgoodwill’s sell in lots. Those are my favorite. If you’re looking for a large lot or bin, then Southern California’s Santa Ana store is the place to look.
What I received. Missing the new flags and several other items.

  • You’ll want to keep your eye on the shipping prices and make sure to include that into your bidding equation. Some Shopgoodwill eCommerce locations haven’t negotiated any contracts with a shipper and have excessively high shipping rates. Others have, and you’ll see that reflected in their shipping prices. In recent years, I've seen a few Goodwill's that sell on ShopGoodwill, do that dreadful practice that I hate so much about eBay.  They'll bake in a high weight for a low weight product to increase the price of shipping incase the product gets low bids and sells for low.

  • ShopGoodwill shoppers often bid way above the current market value or price for the same thing on other marketplaces. You know, some people just can’t stand to lose and it becomes a competition. As I forementioned, I became acquainted with the manager of the Los Angeles ShopGoodwill, I don't know if he is still there. I haven't been there in about three years.  But during one discussion he told me how shocked he and his team were with how much over the value some shoppers were bidding. I mentioned this earlier, know your product value before your first bid.  Check for it on eBay and Mercari. It may end up being better capping your bidding once it reaches a certain value, especially if you have to have it shipped to you.  The same item on eBay or Mercari may fetch a better value, plus they offer return policies.  ShopGoodwill stores generally sell, As-Is.

  • PICK IT UP. If you live close to a Shopgoodwill that manages an eCommerce location, you can save a little money on shipping by arranging to pick it up in person, but make sure to check the distance from where you are. 

  • Sold As-Is. All of the products sold on Shopgoodwill are Sold As-Is, No Returns. That makes shopping on Shopgoodwill a bit riskier than other marketplaces that offer a 100% money back guarantee. Keep this in mind if buy electronics or clothing.
I asked about my missing Flags and they eventually found them
and shipped them out for free. They lost money on shipping.

  • Not tested, Sold for parts. Only a few of the vendors test electronics. In most cases, those vendors have someone knowledgeable who will do basic power-on, functions testing. Read the details of the description. Most do not have anyone to state whether it works or functions, some will just say the power light appeared when they plugged it in. Others will just say, Sold-As Parts. If you’re knowledgeable at doing self-repairs, you can probably find a few deals once in a while, but maybe not, even those Sold-As Parts items sell pretty high.

  • Keep an eye on your account information, e-mail, etc. Someone from within the ShopGoodwill I work with, once used the information from an item I bought and my ShopGoodwill e-mail address which is only used on ShopGoodwill, to send me a fake FedEx Phishing e-mail label, with a link attached to try to obtain my password. Thing is, I was picking the item up in person that day, so I knew the FedEx e-mail was bogus. It had my name, order number and looked like a real FedEx e-mail until I read it closer. It also used someone else’s phone number as the support number, had a fake tracking number. I never click tracking numbers from shippers. I copy the number and then go to the shipper website and manually enter it. Of course, this time it was fake. Just because it's "Goodwill" doesn't mean you can let down your due diligence. 

  • Payment is via PayPal or Stripe which is a credit and debit card processing service. Stripe is a very trustworthy payment processor. I prefer to use it as a seller, but as a shopper, you'll probably want to use PayPal, because PayPal is anal in its policies to protect shoppers.

  • When should you bid? I still haven’t figured that out. Like on other eCommerce auction marketplaces, you’ll get last minute high bidders. These are shoppers who wait to the last few minutes to bid. They do this to keep their bid from encouraging competition bidding and to help keep the price lower. If you don’t want to have to keep an eye on the price, know how much you want to spend and bid your maximum.  If your highest big was received first, and someone else bid the same amount resulting in a tie, the first received bid wins. 

  • Snipping?  You may have never heard of Snipping.  Snipping is when you use a bot or script to place your highest bid during the last seconds of bidding to prevent anyone from being able to outbid your bid. When I was beta testing the original version of ShopGoodwill, i used a third party tool to snipe my competition. It didn't always work, since sometimes my best bid was still lower than the highest bid. Also, sometimes I would get out-snipped by someone else snipping.  eBay was notorious for snippers in the past.  Most marketplaces including ShopGoodwill have implement measures to help reduce snipping, but it does still happen, and there isn't anything you can do about it other than what I mentioned above. You can place your best bid in advance, but the problem with this is someone will probably out bid you by a dollar at the last minute.  You can wait to bid until the end of the auction and come on right before it ends to bid.  This sometimes helps keep the bids lower before the end, but not always.  Also, many people do this, so there is still a good chance of losing. You can be certain that there is snipping still happening on ShopGoodwill, I've watched it happen.  I no longer know what tools they are using, but creating a smart bot that logs in under you own account to monitor bidding and then placing bids at the end isn't challenging.  I just no longer have the resources or newest knowledge to know the methods.  ShopGoodwill implemented a method to help reduce this by adding a few extra seconds to an auction at the end if someone late bids.

  • Taxes! Yes Taxes! Shopgoodwill collects taxes online for all of its sales. Unfortunately, one of the bad things that happened when Joe Biden and the Democrat Congress post pandemic did, is pass the Marketplace Facilitator act, which means a marketplace like eBay, Mercari or in this case ShopGoodwill have to collect sales taxes, and nope you're purchases from Goodwill are not tax deductible.

  • Shipping. Keep an eye on the shipping and handling cost before you bid. Some of the shipping prices are not the actual real cost. I once saw a low value, 2 pound weight product with a shipping weight of 43 pounds when I checked the cost to get it to me if I had won the bid. You bid, you buy. Easter Seal Goodwill is one of those that often has overly high shipping prices.
  • Should you shop on ShopGoodwill? If you’re comfortable buying things as “Parts”, “Untested”, vague “Descriptions”, then consider it. As one of it’s original beta testers and frequent shoppers, I’ve only received probably around five items that didn’t work when I received it. was missing parts, or something similar.  Reaching out to the customer service resolved the problems.  I post images of my flag purchase that was missing several of the new flags. I always suspected that whoever shipped it, pulled out the new items and just shipped the used ones hoping it would go unnoticed.  They thing to remember about Goodwill, is the people they are supposedly running these thrift stores to assist, are people often with sketchy backgrounds who haven't been able to been able to hold or manage a job.