Goodwill is in the Book-selling business now

by Michael Hastings
(Denver, Colorado)


Your book and comments on this blog have been very valuable to me in starting an online book-selling business, and I thank you for the inspiration. However, I think that you should be forthright and inform your readers that Goodwill Thrift Stores are no longer the goldmine that they use to be in most metropolitan areas. Just a quick search in any online search engine for the following term "goodwill to sell books online" will return many newspaper articles, one of which even proclaims that Goodwill may get in the "penny book" business if volumes hold up (stated by a Manager of a Goodwill Distribution Center near me).

Since they are now selling books like this (in many areas, not all), scouters will need to think long and hard about adding Goodwill Stores to their scouting routine.

There are so many other Thrift Stores abound which still have good deals, but one must scout these and cannot solely rely on Goodwill to provide the "keys to the castle" any longer (I know you advocate having many sources, but Goodwill may not be worth the trouble for many).

For fun, I spent the afternoon a few weeks back at 2 Goodwill stores to see what was there, and in an hour of scanning between the two location, not one book scanned over $1.00, and 95% were available for a penny on Amazon (the goodwill stores in my area participate in online sales on Amazon, specifically have a store with their exact name on Amazon).

Encourage the readers to diversify their sources of scouting and look for any sign that Goodwill is scanning books, which may diminish the time to profit ratio necessary to be successful in this business.


November 15, 2012

Hello Michael;

Thanks for your comment.

Business, as in life, holds very few absolutes. And that holds true for the question of whether Goodwill Thrift Stores are still a viable source of salable inventory for independent book scouters.

In many respects Goodwill is not a homogenous organization. Goodwill is organized into regional division and each region has broad authority to operate in a manner that best suit the area of the country in which it's based.

When it comes to donations and revenue generation, many Goodwill regions have opted to sell online, directly to the consumer.

So you're right in saying that Goodwill thrift stores are no longer a profitable source of inventory for book scouters. However, that's only true if the Goodwill's in your region sell online.

Here in Phoenix, the Goodwill Regional Director has opted not to sell online. Consequently, each store still receives a fair amount of "credentialed inventory." Credentialed inventory are donations that have not been cherry picked or filtered in any way other than for quality assurance. It's the real deal.

Since credentialed inventory is still available in my region, I and many other book scouters in Arizona are able to earn a good living using Goodwill as a primary source of books.

However, the same can't be said of the Salvation Army. Here, the situation is reversed since the Salvation Army does in fact sell online. Therefore, scouting in SA stores is futile and I rarely even go there. That's not true of SA thrift stores that don't sell online.

What I'm saying is that whether or not Goodwill or Salvation Army thrift stores are a lucrative source of salable book inventory depends on the region of the country in which you live.

If either or both organizations don't sell online in your region, then you've hit the jackpot and every technique described on my website will work, and they'll work very well.

If either or both organizations do sell online, then all bets are off and you'll have to find other thrifts that don't. In addition, you'll have to cultivate some of the many other sources of credential inventory discussed on this website.

I hope this offers some clarification to your question.

Joe Waynick
Bookseller, Author, Mentor

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Original Comment: November 28, 2014 Just to add to Joe's excellent rebuttal to Anonymous' overly simplified post, just because a thrift store …

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