Lessons Learned From My Time Working as a Goodwill Employee

When I was barely 16, I started my first job as an employee of the Westfield, Indiana Goodwill.
The job not only provided me valuable work experience during my 18 months of employment, but it satisfied my love of digging through old boxes for treasures, and sorting through piles of used clothes for gems {I got my first Giorgio Armani shirt there}. Last week, after going to the Goodwill Outlet with my friend Mandi, I started retelling some of my favorite Goodwill stories on our way home and we laughed until my side hurt!

Lessons Learned From My Time Working as a Goodwill Employee

lessons learned while working at goodwill as an employee

I figured you all could probably use a few stories from my days of employment at Goodwill.
Let me start by introducing you to one of our loyal customers.
Her name is Mrs. Bryant.

Mrs. Bryant came into the store every.single.day.
She was always dressed in a business suit, panty hose and she always wore heels.
Usually open toe heels.

She looked like the kind of woman who got her hair done once a week at the local salon and when it rained she would wear a plastic babushka. Even though it was the mid 90's, Mrs. Bryant was very much stuck in the 60's era.

What would be seen as a very Mad Men type of style, at the time was just out of date.
She even had this same red hair, although it was always down.

You see, Mrs. Bryant was stuck in the 60's because for the past 30+ years she had been {rumored} to be serving time for murdering her husband.

Yep, murder.


Mrs. Bryant would call all of the employees sweetie or hon and would usually keep to herself.
All 5'1 of her would wait for hours to shop the latest household bin that was rolled out.

She would sometimes even peek her head into the backroom wondering when the next one would be full.

These are the exact baskets that we would fill up with household items and roll out to the floor as we put the merchandise away on the shelves.

When I worked at Goodwill, we had a pricing system for household objects.
We used a grease pen to mark the prices on the item.

The grease pen can be easily scratched off when you buy the item, and it makes it easier to price the item since you don't have bulky price guns or tape to mess with.

The system for pricing was that every first and last number would be the same.
For example $1.91 or $2.92 or $3.93

That way, if the first number was scratched off, the last number would indicate the price.
Something that appeared at the register for .91 cents, we knew was actually $1.91.

Clearly not rocket science to figure out the system.

Nearly every day, Mrs. Bryant tried to test our system.  She was known to "pop some tags" as Macklemore would say. She would scratch off the first number and try to pass off the item as something that cost pennies. And nearly every day we would have to remind her of our system.
Mrs. Bryant just pretended that she had no idea what we were talking about, and played dumb when we told her that the price must have gotten scratched off.  She just smiled. Pretending to be blissfully unaware.

One of Mrs. Bryant's favorite things to buy were coffee mugs.
And since Goodwill is where coffee mugs go to die, she always had a large selection to choose from.

I asked her what she did with all of the coffee mugs and she told me that she would give them to friends as gifts.  Count yourself lucky if you weren't a friend of Mrs. Bryant's. Continuing to perpetuate the rumor that she killed her husband, most of the Goodwill employees assumed that she must have poisoned his coffee. Seems to fit, don't you think?

Anyway, one day I was ringing Mrs. Bryant up and she had selected a cart full of goodies.
She was purchasing at least a half a dozen coffee mugs. She had lots of friends.
Or as the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

She lined all of the coffee cups up on the counter and continued to pile every household item 
in her cart up as well. The counter space was limited but she kept piling. As I reached to grab a .33 cent coffee mug to wrap it up {wouldn't want it to break now would we?}one mug pushed another mug off of the counter shattering the mug to pieces and sending ceramic glass shards into Mrs. Bryant's open toed shoes {yep, that detail earlier was important}and cutting her toe.

There was blood, but not excessive amounts.

We offered her a band aid and a paper towel and carried on with the transaction. A few weeks passed as normal.  Mrs. Bryant continued to shop every day. But one afternoon was different.

I was called into my managers office and was told that Mrs. Bryant had filed the paperwork to sue our Goodwill store because of the damage from the broken mug. Turns out Mrs. Bryant left Goodwill the day of the mug accident and headed straight for the ER.

As a mom of three kids now, if my kids would have gotten a cut on their toe like Mrs. Bryant did that day, I would have slapped a band aid on that bad boy and called it good. There was no need for an ER trip, and quite honestly, no need to sue Goodwill because of the "accident". But we carried on.
The days continued to pass as normal. Mrs. Bryant continued to shop daily. And I continued to be gainfully employed.

Several months later, I was ringing up Mrs. Bryant's purchases at the cash register. She always paid by Master Card no matter how big or small her purchase was. On this particular day I ran her credit card and the machine said it was denied. Now at this point I had worked at Goodwill for at least 6 months and never once had someone have a declined credit card.
Shocking?  Maybe.

I attempted to run the card again. Again, it was denied. I turned to Mrs. Bryant with the card in my hand and asked her, "What do I do? Do I cut it up?" She just smiled at me with that blissfully unaware grin that she always gave and replied "Oh, sweetie, of course!"

So, I took out a pair of scissors and cut that bad boy up.
Right in front of her. She was mortified. Apparently, that's only something you see in the movies.You aren't really supposed to cut up someone's credit card when it's denied.

But I was 16, working at my first job, how was I supposed to know? Believe me, I heard about it every day. She would give me a daily update to let me know that a new card hadn't arrived in the mail yet, and what an inconvenience it was. Two weeks later a new card arrived. Phew, I was getting tired of the updates.

So my friends, here are a few lessons learned from Mrs. Bryant.
*don't wear open toe shoes when shopping Goodwill
*don't cut up denied credit cards 
{unless they are your own, in which case, cut them up and start reading my living well on less series!}
*grease pens come off easily
and finally
*always smile like you are blissfully unaware

ps-you thought I was going to say don't murder your husband didn't you?


DownTheLaneWithDaisy said...

I loved, loved, loved this. Tell me more!!! So funny!

Anonymous said...

May I request another goodwill story? That was hilarious!

Jenny from diywithjenandb.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Loved this! You're a great story teller! :)

Donna Wilkes said...

I enjoyed the "other" side of Goodwill. I have often wondered what the employees think of us standing around looking like vultures hungry for carcasses. There is a group of men who meet in ours each day to sit on the chairs and sofas talking.

A Few Pennies said...

So cute story; I often wonder if I should buy a little ladie's straw hat to sort of camo myself every now and then when I go junking---they'd still figure me out; Ha!

Brenda @ Chatting Over Chocolate said...

Came across your blog through the Hookin Up with HoH party...so glad I did :) Thanks for the entertaining post! I'm sure I'll remember this story and laugh whenever I visit Goodwill. :*)

Katie @ Creatively Living said...

OMGosh! Great story! I needed the morning laugh! Thanks for sharing it at Monday Funday!

Julia Forshee said...

This is a great story. I am ADDICTED to GW and go at least once a week :) I know our readers will enjoy your perspective, too. We have a Thursday (today) Link Up Party at allthingswithpurpose.com and I'm sure our readers would love this story, too!! We hope to see you there!!

Elizabeth said...

Loved the story! Here from View along the Way.

Kelly said...

Hahaha! I loved this story. The fact that you cut up her card is cracking me up. I can honestly imagine myself doing the same thing at my first job. :) Thanks for linking this up to Monday Funday!

Kelly @ View Along the Way

MamaRabia said...

I worked at KMart growing up and I have some similar stories. All in all, I loved my time there, though.

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