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By Subversify Staff Mar 26, 2009
According to the IRS Data Book 2007, the U.S. alone has over 1.1 million charitable organizations existing today. For every 271 U.S. citizens, approximately one charity is operating. Based on these statistics one would find it difficult to decide which charity to donate to. Well facilities that accept non-monetary contributions are often the easiest and most preferred choice of charity for Americans. One such institution would be the Goodwill. Unlike other charities, the Goodwill contributes a whopping eighty four percent of their proceeds to fund job placement and career training, among other programs. People that were considered unemployable have gained a sense of success and self-sufficiency through Goodwill’s assistance. The company’s main source of revenue stems from the operation of over 2,200 retail stores that resell donated merchandise. Retail sales generated 1.9 billion dollars for the Goodwill in 2007.

The Goodwill Industries International, Inc was founded by Rev. Edgar J. Helms in1902. His initiative was to collect used goods and clothing from wealthy neighborhoods and hire less fortunate individuals to repair or mend them. They would then either be resold or given to the people that refurbished them. Dr. Helms had a promising agenda; it was to offer the disadvantaged an opportunity to succeed through workforce placement. His goal was to help improve social standards among the poor.

Helms described Goodwill Industries as an “industrial program as well as a social service enterprise…a provider of employment, training and rehabilitation for people of limited employability, and a source of temporary assistance for individuals whose resources were depleted.”

Why would a company whose message is clearly intended for the goodness of mankind be sabotaged by its own employees? According to an ex-employee, workers at a Cleveland branch would sift through newer donations and take what they found to be valuable. Most of the worthwhile merchandise wouldn’t even make it onto store shelves. Goodwill policy states that employees are not allowed to purchase goods until they have been put on public display for at least 24 hours. Yes, employees are supposed to pay for the goods too, just like any other civilian. They even get a 50% discount, as if that’s not enough of an incentive to stop them from stealing. Customers are supposed to have first choice in the purchase power of what donors have contributed.
The ex-employee also stated that workers have made remarks such as, “It’s not like the Goodwill is losing money; they get their shit for free.” Well if free meant paid utilities, advertising, and property maintenance, one couldn’t argue. But that is clearly not the case. Goodwill also accommodates to other obligations, such as the high cost of waste removal. Non-working electronics usually end up tossed in the trash. Proper disposal techniques are pricey. Mrs. Salem an ex-customer of the Cleveland branch affirmed that she arrived prior to operation hours one day and spoke with a gentleman that was dropping off donations. She noticed that he was carrying what appeared to be antique prints that seemed valuable. They were actually a couple of framed World War I, pre-depression era, genuine, Howard Chandler Christy bonds posters. Mrs. Salem asked him about the pictures and he offered that she take them. She appreciated the gesture and nobly declined. Mrs. Salem said she would prefer to do the right thing and buy them from the store. Once in the store the Manager refused to sell the Posters. He went on to state that all merchandise must go through an evaluation process to determine what fair market value would be. After a little persuasion he offered her the posters for $50 piece. Although Mrs. Salem thought the price was a little high since the posters did have minor damage and there was no verification of their authenticity, she accepted. The woman told the manager that she would be back within the hour due to lack of funds. Upon her return, the manager was gone and employees denied any knowledge of the picture’s existence. The posters were never put on display, never listed for sale. A month after the incident Mrs. Salem claims that she saw the same exact posters listed on ebay for a buy it now price of $2500 and the item location was in Cleveland.

Employee theft of donations is not the only problem that the Goodwill faces. There is a severe case of contributions that are stolen by non-employees; goods which have been dropped off during non-operative hours. Although some of the criminals are caught and prosecuted, they only make up a small percentage of those involved in the overall epidemic. Who really wants to steal from the Goodwill? It would have to be a really desperate situation.

Based on the rising prices of Goodwill inventory one can’t help but feel sorry for the thieves. Managers are instructed to price merchandise at a certain percent below fair market value. These low prices are supposed to accommodate the less fortunate, as the majority of their customer base is low-income families. What tool would a manager use in order to discern what a fair price would be? Well a current employee working at an undisclosed location reveals that her manager, (which was hired based on their ability to determine the value of goods) uses ebay for reference. She also states that the manager prices specific products on the average selling price of similar products sold on ebay. Now what kind of deal is that? The Goodwill is now raising their prices to meet the demands of inflation? One would agree, if so to speak, they actually paid for the inventory. Quite a few people have been known to scout thrift stores such as the Goodwill for the specific purpose of reselling the products online. The Goodwill not only offers people workforce opportunities but also offered customers a chance to make independent monetary gains through channels such as ebay. A charity such as the Goodwill should suggest that their managers not concentrate on raising the price of goods to such an extent where the core of their customer base is driven away; customers who are unable to afford the higher prices. But then again, why would they? The whole basis of the Goodwill is to raise money after all. Why not make the most of it?

Although there isn’t a way to monitor employee cherry picking and theft, the Goodwill needs to enforce the importance of honesty within their facility. It is a charity and the customer’s should come first as in all retail industries. The meaning of charity needs to be instilled among its staff members as it is the soul purpose of what started the Goodwill. If the core of an apple has a worm in it, it will spoil shortly after.

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7 thoughts on “Goodwill?”
  1. I’ve always had a certain animosity towards any business that uses charity as a moniker, partially because of my aunt’s experiences with the ‘charities’ at her mission in haiti where by the time the group took their cut, the government took their cut, the people were left with crumbs. I am even more dubious of outlet stores that follow this line of thinking that the clients of the businesses don’t merit or somehow don’t realize the quality of items within it. You’re right that the client should come first, its just a pity that there are a few who believe they are entitled more than another, who most often have been in the situation before and seem to need to obliterate that part of their life by setting an imaginary line that dehumanizes the clients so that they can feel better about themelves.

  2. I blame ebay for changing things…there, I’ll just come out and say it. They changed the whole game. All of a sudden people thought what? I can make money off of these old sherry glasses? Forget the poor! And now the government seems to be partnering with ebay at tax time. I was doing my turbo tax and instead of putting down my head figure for the stuff I donated to (well, not Goodwill) I tried their calculator compiled by ebay, while it changed my write off from where I would have valued it at about $350, to $1032. One has to wonder at the inflation of used goods.
    Seriously it’s not ebay’s fault per say…..just everyone is apparently wanting to live their dream of being Fred Sanford. I mean has anyone noticed yard sale prices? Seriously people around here want to sell their used shirts for $6.00. I can get them for less at Target.
    What I can tell you about Goodwill workers at least in my area is they are very often welfare to work hires. They have previously never worked,and while I don’t want to give the impression that everyone in this situation has the morality of an 8 year old, I will say that out of necessity these people by and large have had to make due and take what they can when they can. So as an employee, it is hard to break that habit, maybe that’s why they are placed at Goodwill and not some big furniture chain. They need to learn. A lot of them do, some do not.
    Another reason I don’t personally donate to Goodwill is while they are a charity they don’t roll proceeds into funds that we can see growing and changing inside the community. It goes to hq. In comparisson, Salvation Army uses their proceeds in our community for their other services like shelter, food banks and Drug/Alcohol treatment. Same with several other charity re-sale stores that are attached to local agencies. I would just prefer to see my dollars serve my community when it is my community supporting an agency.

  3. There are very few charitable organizations i would enthusiastically support. Most that start out as a strong community interest quickly gain the support of political ladder climbers as soon as enough capital starts flowing to actually effect some good. Then the government steps in, offering matching federal funds, providing the policies are changed to fit their guidelines. This often means that applicants must provide data that includes social security identification, number in household and income. For food assistance, the applicants are limited in the number of times they can seek it within a month and is usually limited to six times during the year. Resource Centers are effectively ham strung by a stipulation that says any suspicion of abuse must be immediately reported to the police. Of course, if an abused person was reluctant to go to the police, the chances are very slim she’ll confide in a counselor who is obligated to report her testimony. A resistance is created and the confidentiality is lost. Alcohol,drug, and anger management programs are often the result of forced treatment, due to these defiled confidentiality reports or police convictions. If a person doesn’t sincerely wish to lose an addiction, it simply isn’t going to happen. I have very little taste for people that climb on the backs of the unfortunate to gain political sway. I have even less taste for those who would use the good intentions of the charitable nature to line their own pockets and weild power.

  4. This is a great article, Please read my article about theft of donations by manager in our local Goodwill Store. Very very good article.
    There is actually of theft ring of donated items in the Thorndale Pa. Location, and the CEO allows it. All true. I would like to put your article on my website if thats okay? Thanks Tina

  5. “Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is a map. Anger shows us where our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we have been and lets us know when we have not liked it. Anger is meant to be acted upon, it is not meant to be acted out. Sloth, apathy and despair are the enemy. Anger is not. Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very very loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. It will always tell us it is time to act in our own best interest”.

  6. The Goodwill district area that I currently work at is very strict with us employees and store managers. My district area doesn’t allow employees to shop at the store location that they work at (except once in a great while depending on things) and cherry picking is strongly discouraged (if you cherry pick, you will likely get caught and scolded about it). Also employee theft is quite rare over here, but any employee that steals anything is automatically fired without a doubt (prime example, there was an employee at my work a few months ago that got caught stealing clothes from the back and the individual hid them in their backpack. The manager and maybe some regular employees caught her in the act and the manager did what needed to be, and that employee got fired immediately without question). Also my district focuses on helping people with disabilities get employment along with other things such as helping local schools at times and more. One of my coworkers has autism and difficulties with speaking, but the person is a good worker. Also there are times that the store that I work at has valuable stuff on the sales floor, such as a vintage old cash register, Nascar collectibles, old dishware (like teacup sets, platters, etc), and more. Also my work shares the warehouse area with the online saling department (where we end up getting the valuable stuff from after they are not able to sale it.

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