As he led The Kansan on a behind-the-scenes tour of the newly opened Newton Goodwill, Area Manager for Goodwill Industries of Kansas, Inc. Aaron Anderson said most people don't know what happens to their donated goods after they are dropped off.
Shortly after being received, Anderson said donations are sorted into four categories: books; shoes, belts and purses; clothing; and wears (which is everything else).
All of those bins do something different, Anderson said. At this point, items are sorted to make sure they are high enough quality to go on the sales floor. Other items are sold in a different type of market, online, instead. Holiday specific items are also separated and stored for when that holiday is near.
Items or outfits that are not high enough quality go into cardboard bins labeled as salvage, which Anderson said means they will be recycled.
Some of those recycled items may have not successfully sold and been taken off the sales floor, while others may not have been high enough quality to ever get onto the floor.
Anderson noted that individual Goodwills also sort the best-of-the best quality into an e-commerce bin for their online site shopgoodwill.com, which is like an Ebay, but only for rare or unique items donated to Goodwills throughout the United States.
In addition, Anderson said a production team at the north Oliver Goodwill in Wichita sorts through all jewelry they receive, deciding what is of good enough quality for the store, what is of high enough quality to go on the e-commerce site, and what jewelry is broken and can sell in a different market, such as scrap, metals or gems.
"What a lot of people don't know about Goodwill is that (customers) try to think what we will and will not take," Anderson said. "The greatest example is with shoes. A lot of people go through their shoes and they think, 'this too torn up' or 'I only have one and I don't know where the other one is.' What they don't know, is that we still want that (stuff) because we can still sell it and turn it into money."
"Our job is to take things that nobody wants to use anymore and turn them into money for our programs (for those with disabilities)."
Retail Trainer District Manager for Goodwill of Kansas, Inc., Carman Caldwell said part of the quality sorting process is going through donations and making sure good quality goods are going out to the sales floor.
Outside of items, Caldwell said clothes are also sorted for quality. Those clothes that do not make the cut are sorted into a separate box to be baled at the north Oliver location in Wichita.
Customers purchase those bales, Caldwell explained, so even clothes not sold at Goodwill are generating money.
At the Newton Goodwill and others throughout Kansas, clothing is sorted into men's, women's, children's and linens and unisex. Unisex clothes are commonly t-shirts, uniforms and items of a similar nature.
Caldwell said Goodwill separates clothing onto categories, so it is easier for a sales associate to get it put away in a timely manner.
"The great thing about the hanging process is that anyone with employment barriers can hang," Caldwell said, explaining how a cut portion of a pool noodle separates tops or bottoms on racks, so those with barriers to employment can hang their racks clothes without having to count or know the price point.
Instead, employees just need to know the difference between tops and bottoms, Caldwell said. When a rack gets full, that employee just gets another rack, moves the noodle to that rack and repeats the process.
There is also a tagger position in the Goodwill. Caldwell said that tagger's job is to tag all of the clothes and items in the Goodwill.
All of their tags are a standard tag and Goodwill has a computer which allows that person to put the price-point that they want.
Caldwell said the tagger can also mark up products of higher quality or set them aside for the e-commerce site.
In addition, the tagger also highlights tags in the color of the week. Caldwell said they highlight size, children's, infants, mens or women's, as well as the color of the week.
The Goodwill color of the week sale rotation is designed to help the store make room for new merchandise coming out all the time. During that sale, color of the week clothes are 50 percent off.
Anderson noted that the 50 percent off benefits both the customer and the store, as it allows Goodwill to sell those items before they are pulled off the racks and employees try a different process of selling them.
On double-discount Wednesdays, if one has a discount card and if they choose a color of the week, Anderson said they will get both the color of the week discount and the discount from the cards.
Caldwell said all of the donations they receive at the Newton Goodwill will benefit only their store. Everything they process to put out on the floor is received in Newton, Caldwell explained, that's why local donations are so important.
"So far, Newton has been great to us," Caldwell said. "In the first two weeks, we have been able to really support the store and not bring in a lot just in two weeks, so it has been very beneficial."
Concluding the tour, Vice President of Retail Operations for Goodwill Industries of Kansas, Inc. Angela Bascue told The Kansan there will be three regular staff employees at the store, but that the store will also integrate 8 to 10 life-skills clients with disabilities or vocational disadvantages.
Bascue said total staff for the Newton Goodwill will total approximately 15 people.