Do's andDon't of Thrifting

Shoppers at the Goodwill outlet in Salinas literally rummage for bargains, looking for clothing available by the pound that didn’t sell at retail stores.

About 2,000 donations, many with multiple items, come to Goodwill Central Coast every day. “We don’t focus a lot on what we don’t take. We train our folks to be as accepting as possible,” says Alan Martinson, vice president of retail and e-commerce.

That means sometimes some weird stuff comes in. “Somebody donated an urn with ashes – we had the Sheriff’s Department come,” Martinson says. “We have had bags of weed, like big trash bags. Everything could happen at a Goodwill.”

That means it is up to donors to check what is and isn’t allowed – otherwise your donation may just end up in the trash, which is what you (and Goodwill) are trying to avoid. Here are some tips on how to give, and how to shop, to streamline things for everyone.

Check in advance whether your item is allowed as a donation. Visit for a list of what is and isn’t accepted. On the no list: mattresses, baby goods, weapons, microwaves, tires and trash. Donation attendants are trained to be accepting, so they will fish through your bag of trash, but don’t make them do that – it’s rude and gross.

If you don’t see what you want, come back. Inventory at Goodwill changes daily, with deliveries of newly donated goods. “If you come back in four weeks, there will be literally a whole new store,” says Juan Ramirez, regional retail manager for Santa Cruz County and Monterey Peninsula.

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Bring an item you are trying to match. Searching for shoes? Bring the pants you plan to wear with them. Searching for a blazer for a job interview? Bring your shirt.

Check the website for online shopping. You can search by store if you want to pick up in-person at the Salinas outlet, and keep items local. This system, at, allows you to bid in an online auction. Not everything posted here is an expensive collector’s item, but inventory tends to be nicer and more costly than in-store items.

Look for new and seasonal items too. Goodwill sells rotating new items (things like cotton swabs, gift-wrapping supplies, kitchen supplies and socks) barely marked up. Ask for guidance on finding seasonal specials; for example, stores currently have dedicated Christmas sweater racks.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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