Goodwill Hunting Uncovers Bad Will Greed


Back in March, when I ventured into my local Goodwill store, I was astonished to see a crappy, framed reproduction of some lesser Impressionist painter on very cheap, warped cardboard for $199.99. What made this even more egregious is that the back of this monstrosity still bore the $4.00 garage sale price tag – and even at that price, nobody wanted this piece of junk. This prompted the following letter sent to Goodwill Corporate. The name of the store manager has been removed to protect the innocent – but not sure if that is her or me!


 3/22/13 Letter

My mouth is still agape from my visit today to this retail store:

Goodwill Store & Donation Center
900 W. Algonquin Road
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
(847) 870-7897

I have been frequenting this store since it opened and have noticed that the prices are going up constantly. The prices now are higher than at any antique store for pieces that aren’t worth more than a few dollars. I saw a cheap reproduction of a painting on crappy cardboard (framed) for $199.99. When I brought this to the attention of the floor manager, I mentioned that I have expertise in antiques and collectibles and they could sure use somebody with my expertise to price things more accurately. She said we don’t hire people with expertise to price items and my manager thought this was real. I replied, ” Well I understand you don’t hire people specifically to do that, but wouldn’t it be helpful to have somebody on board with that knowledge?” The fake painting was SO obviously cheaply printed on inexpensive paper and the garage sale price of $4.00 was still marked in very large letters on the back – $199.99 – good grief!!!!! Yes, I agree that Goodwill is beyond Amazing.

 3/27/13 Response

Thank you for taking the time to bring some valuable information to my attention. I appreciate your feedback, and will take your comments to heart and share them with my entire staff.

Although we do everything in our power to price appropriately, we can experience a missed opportunity from time to time. It is our valued customers like you, when you take the time to bring some concerns to our attention, which are so appreciated.

I would appreciate the opportunity to talk to you the next time you are in the store, so please ask to speak to me directly. I apologize for any confusion on our part that you may have experienced in regards to this.

Goodwill’s Mission to provide training, employment and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages is what we are all here for, and it is customers like yourself that help us to improve so that we can continue to serve the community and insure that we are successful.

Again, My sincere thanks for caring so much!


Let’s fast-forward a few months to August 15. While this particular Goodwill has cleaned up its act as far as outrageous pricing on fake art, they are still pricing goods way too high. I actually saw a huge array of large framed reproduction art pieces on display for around $14.99 a pop. When I returned two days later they all appeared to have been sold – I guess the frames alone were worth that to somebody. And an original, framed clown painting, although kind of amateurish, was just $12.99.

 Clown Picture

There are some very nice people who have worked here since the store opened, which makes slamming this store a bit difficult. But what management at this Goodwill location fails to realize is that many people who shop at thrift stores do so because they cannot afford anything else. This fact appears to have totally escaped the folks that run this store. For the most part, these are used goods, and in the case of brand new goods, why would a thrift store mark these at close to or higher than retail? These are all donated goods, which makes this practice all the more unforgivable. Perhaps I am the only one who feels this way – the store is always packed with people, with lines that frequently loop around several aisles.

I tried to take some photos to accompany this article, but didn’t want to be too obvious in a very crowded store, so there are just a few. Some photos are of items that are fairly priced, albeit a little out of line for a thrift store. And every so often I still find items that are good deals, but items are priced really erratically. Here are just some examples of items that I felt were overpriced when I stopped by on August 17.

  • Really gross Clarks sandals: $9.99 – I would be embarrassed to donate these babies
  • Doc Martens Boots: $29.99
  • Lefton small creamer and sugar with broken lid: $19.99 – are you kidding me?
  • Ugly resin elephant clock with huge chip – likely bought at TJ Maxx or Hobby Lobby: $9.99
  • Very small, newer Beatrix Potter Royal Doulton figurines: $19.99 each – much less on eBay
  • Tiny lusterware candlesticks: $9.99 each – these go for around $5.00 in antique stores
  • Broken onyx bull figurine: $6.99
  • Cheap resin dollar store figurine with a name on it that originally cost $1.00: $2.99
  • Vintage fairy tale book in mediocre condition: $24.99 – in the photo there is a price tag of $499.99 on some object behind it!


The following items necessitate extended commentary: 

While there are some very rare and expensive figurines in this series, the simple varieties like the one pictured go for very little on eBay. This one is very poorly painted and I would be flabbergasted if it sold for this price. Book value is sometimes meaningless, but try to tell that to this Goodwill thrift store manager.

Flambro Clown Figurine

  • Used Canon AE-1 SLR camera with 50 mm lens: $399.99
  • Used Nikon FM2 SLR camera with 50 mm lens: $399.99

My 90-year-old dad just sold six cameras (including a Canon 35mm SLR) to Adorama Camera in NYC for a mere $25.00, and had to pay $19 out of his own pocket for shipping. Yes, that’s right, he made a paltry $6.00 on this deal. Mind you, he got royally ripped off. Nevertheless, used 35mm film cameras, even the SLR variety, are plentiful and relatively cheap. The exception of course would be vintage Hasseblads, Leicas, and a few other rarities. Just take a look on eBay at Canon AE-1 cameras and you will find countless models. My search on sold auctions turned up a similar model in mint condition that sold for as low as $15.50, and on the high-end, $232.00. How can a thrift store expect to sell this camera (which I assume has not been checked by a camera expert) for $399.99? As far as the Nikon, a newer model with 28-80 mm zoom lens sold for a mere $16.00. On the high-end, a similar model with 50 mm lens in mint condition (with the manual) went for $242.50.

August 23 update: Lo and behold, there is no longer a Canon AE-1 camera priced at $399.99. Now there are two – one priced at $29.99 and another one in better condition priced at $49.99. Since I didn’t actually inspect the AE-1 priced at $399.99, I don’t know if somebody repriced this or if it was a different camera. I am thinking the latter; as I believe that one came with a case. The Nikon is still in the display case, but the Emmett Kelly clown is gone!

Canon AE-1 

Second Canon AE-1

This Goodwill is a far cry from the store I mentioned in a January 2012 blog. I think somebody there needs a reality check. The definition of thrift: the quality of using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully. Sorry if it appears that I am picking on you, but this blatant greed goes against everything Goodwill is supposed to stand for.


  1. Goodwill is full of greedy crooks. The one by me had a used electric lawn mower I can get new at Walmart for $250.00 and Goodwill’s price was 499.00. All the time there is stuff that was $1.00 new and they sell it for $2.99. They need to remember that this is all used, donated items being bought with tax dollars (write-offs). The level of greed is crazy at Houston Goodwill stores.

    • Thanks for writing, Joe. I just came back from my local Goodwill, and as usual, saw stuff that should be discarded being sold for ridiculous prices. It is both reassuring (in a weird way) and alarming that Goodwill stores elsewhere are just as greedy as in Chicago. It is definitely a negative statement about the organization as a whole.

  2. I have to agree about the pricing – I wonder why it is that when they have a 50% off color, the workers hurry and take that color off the floor- why have a sale?

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