Thursday, March 24, 2016

Boot Hill Cow Pet

No one really seemed to take notice of my odd little hint the other day, which means that either I was too obvious and you saw through my not-so-clever ruse or I mystified you all.  Either way, this is the special junking place I got to visit the other day:

I told you it only kind of rhymed.  Boot Hill Cow Pet.  Goodwill Outlet.  Get it?  Huh? Huh? Get it?  Oh well.  Enough of that.

This particular outlet is in Nashville.  (What was I doing in Nashville?  Well, that's another post yet to come!)  If you are unclear about the concept of a Goodwill Outlet, here's some helpful information.

Unopened 90's X-men Valentines
This was the third GW Outlet I have visited, but I consider it to be my first "real" GWO experience.  I went to one in Gary, Indiana right after we got married, but everything was priced by the item (extremely reduced), not the pound, and the only brought out one new bin the whole time I was there.  I got some good stuff, for very little money, but the whole experience was kind of lame.

I also went to one in San Francisco.  This one was small and cramped, but stuff was sold by the pound.  It was a higher per pound price ($1.49) than others I have heard of, but I still came out well.  I went twice, on two consecutive days, and was a bit disappointed to find on the second day that no new bins had been brought out.

The store in Nashville had the whole Outlet thing going on.  Most stuff was .79 a pound, except for shoes, which were $1.39.  Luggage, furniture, and books were priced per item, although there were a few of each that would come out in the other bins.

I've scattered pics of a few of the things I found through out this post.  Everything was bought at the per pound price.  I have to say that this was one of the wildest junking experiences I have ever had.  The people-watching was as fun as the junking, and that was awesome.
Complete Bible on cassette

Let's talk about the drill first, then I'll share some thoughts and observations.  They wouldn't let people take pictures inside, for some reason.

Basically, you're in a large warehouse-like room that's filled with large blue bins on wheels.  There's a yellow line taped on the floor around every bin.  There are separate bins for clothes, shoes, books, luggage, and everything else.  A few bits of furniture line the walls.  Groups of people are rummaging through the bins and tossing stuff into their carts.

Vintage Briefcase
Every so often, someone comes out of the back and starts wheeling a few of the bins away.  After a while, the bins return, filled with new items.  Everyone lines up, careful to stay on the outside of the yellow lines, and waits for the okay to dig in.  While they wait, they crane and stretch to try and see what might be in the bins.  Touching anything is forbidden.  Getting too close is forbidden.  Staff people stand by the bins and play hall monitor to this group of adult kindergartners, making them back up and keep their toes outside the lines.  The adult pre-schoolers, in the meantime, are literally (and I am using that word correctly here) bouncing up and down in anticipation.  It's truly a sight to see.

Big Raggedy Ann!
Once the staff are satisfied that everyone is suitably outside the lines, they give the okay and everyone dives in!  Then it's all stretching and reaching and elbows and, in a couple of cases who really needed larger pants, butt-cracks all over the place as everyone tries to out-dig and out-grab everyone else.  Eventually, they start fading away, hopefully with a few more items in their carts.

When you are satisfied that you have enough, you head to the check out.  If you have a few items, then you put them on a scale on the counter. If you have a cartload, you wheel it on a large scale set in the floor.  I got quite a kick out of that, let me tell you!  I made two trips through, filling up a cart each time.  I'll talk about my strategies in a minute, but first some overall reflections.
File Boxes and NIP Puzzles

First off, it was way more fun than I had anticipated.  I knew I would have a good time, but I also knew that there would be obnoxious people reaching and grabbing and generally spoiling the fun for everyone else.  I'm not a grabber or an elbow-thrower.  I tend to adopt the philosophy that it's all just stuff.  There will always be more stuff.  There will always be more chances to get stuff.  My reason for existing will never, ever include having to make a jerk out of myself to be the first person to get stuff.  Ain't gonna do it.
Frame and Lego Case

Instead, I didn't see any of that going on.  People seemed to be very respectful of each other and their hunting.  People were even leaving their carts stashed in corners and adding stuff as they went, and no one else was bothering them.  I had not expected this, as I had read that you needed to keep an eye on your cart, lest anyone rummage through it.  In fact, I think I irritated a couple of folks hauling my overstuffed cart around.  I did end up in one situation where another guy and I reached for something at the same time.  He was just going to move it aside, so it was no biggie. 
I wanna play!

Originally, I planned on avoiding the new bins while everyone else was diving in.  I quickly found that I could do pretty well for myself going through the more picked over carts.  Most of the items in this post came from bins that everyone else had finished with.  However, once I saw someone pull a vintage trike out of one of the newer bins, I decided that I had to try it at least once.  It was a trip, let me tell you, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting.   

Ice skates!
I wish I was a sociologist, so that I could do an observational study of a GWO.  There were mothers there looking to get nice clothes for their kids, but not spend a lot of money.  There were obvious resellers.  The eBay folks were being very picky and focused, while the flea market folks were a little more eclectic.  I saw people buying cartloads of shoes, video tapes, and super nice clothes.  When we pulled up, there was a guy unloading three or four carts of all kinds of junk into his pick up.  Some of the best vintage stuff I saw was in the cart of one lady who looked to be about 75.  There was also a younger girl there going for selective vintage items.  I think she was more a vintage fan, than anything else.  Of course, there were also three or four hoarders as well.  They were the ones most likely to be vocally irritated at other people for getting things they wanted.

One of the things I learned was that there are many ways to go about shopping in such a place, but it is important to have a system.  People were repacking their carts and sorting their purchases, neatly folding the clothes and stacking the other items.  This enabled them to keep track of things and also fit more in their carts.  Others brought lightweight reusable shopping bags and used those in their carts to organize their items.  Some folks come for the day, staying from open to close, often coming every day.  They hang out during the time after the bins have been picked and the arrival of new bins.  They chat, text, read.  There's a kind of little society going on in this warehouse.
Sweet Train Case!

My own strategy was just to cut loose and have fun.  If I wanted it, I grabbed it.  I did sort through my stuff, but I tried not to think about it all too much.  I just wanted to enjoy the experience.  If I were to do it again, I would spend more time thinking about weights and such in order to maximize my profit. 

Even without putting a lot of thought into it, I still did pretty well.  Once I got everything packed into boxes, I found that I had spent about as much per box as I would have at a typical (very good) church sale, but I had a lot more to show for it.  By contrast, I went into the regular Goodwill store right by the Outlet, spent about half what I paid for one cart, and got less than a third of the amount of stuff.  Regardless of how you do it, GWO shopping is a bargain!

Bizarre Burlap Snake Thing
You do have to check everything carefully.  It's all been transported from stores all over the place and then dumped into these bins, where it's roughly rummaged through.  The potential for damage is high.  Also missing bits and pieces, but if you search the other bins in the store, you might just find those pieces.

Sadly, there is not Outlet in Kentucky.  We're one of the few states that does not have one.  What's up with that?  I keep hearing rumors that we're going to get one in Louisville, but nothing so far.  Bummer.

This is not something I could do every day, much less all day.  The potential for burn out is too high for me.  I could see dropping in once a month or so during the warm months, maybe more when it's cooler and there are no yard sales.

You can kind of get an idea of what I found from the pics in this post. This isn't everything, of course, but a good sample of the best items.  One thing I didn't get a pic of was a rotary dial phone.  It's tan, rather than red or black though.

One last find I wanted to highlight is Mavis, who is going to become a yard sale companion this summer.  She's sturdy and hefty, perfect for both hauling around neighborhood yard sales and junk set out times!



Linda @ A La Carte said...

I am one of the clueless one's that had no idea what 'Boot Hill Cow Pet' meant. I have heard about the GWO but never been to one. I would hang back and check the older bins I think. Still it must be fun to watch and even more fun to see what you can find for super cheap. Love Mavis!

The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

We go to "The Bins" every once in a while, mostly looking for clothing to upcycle. I wish ours was only 79 cents a pound, it's about twice that here. I've had the same experience with the other shoppers being respectful. Everyone is very focused, but no one is trying to grab something before another shopper gets it. Once I mentioned to another shopper that I was looking for linen and cashmere stuff, and she handed me a linen dress from her own cart!

Joy@aVintageGreen said...

Wow, a warehouse in bins and good natured shoppers. What a great mix. Thanks again for posting about something I knew nothing about. Hugs.

Shara said...

I can't decide if I ever want to go to one of these or not. Luckily there's not one near so I don't have to worry about it too much. I think it would be fun to go for the experience though. I would have to think about how much stuff weighs before I bought it too. Looks like you found some good things on your trip! PS Where you auditioning for the Oprey? Is that why you were in Nashville? I bet I am right! :D

Donna Wilkes said...

I get it - isn't Boot Hill Cow Pet like the Cockney accent in London? There is a pound GW in North Charleston I go to three or four times a year. My experiences are just like yours. People respect other people's junk and often share or help find missing pieces. Once I was looking for a complete set of little books and eight people pitched in to go through two rolling carts to help me search. We found all twelve volumes! There is another in Columbia that is below the pound store level. There are huge moving/storage boxes filled to the brim to rummage through. I wear leather gloves for this expedition. AND I always take a gallon bottle of hand sanitizer!

Nashville? Maybe a line dance competition?

Judy said...

What a fun time! I've never been to one and to my knowledge there isn't any around here. We don't even have too many Goodwill stores either. Glad you were able to scoop some deals.

laurie -magpie ethel said...

We have a ton of those Goodwill outlets here in Portland. I can think of four off the top of my head. I have one about 5 minutes from my house. I rarely go to it. I find I do way better at estate sales. There are people I know that go to the GWO EVERYDAY. They find some great stuff, but I don't have the tolerance for it. Glad you found some goodies.

Melissa said...

I have an outlet about 5 minutes from my house. There was a time that I would go 3-5 days a week for about an hour after work. There was a little "click" of us that met there and we had a system of picking up stuff for each other, so we had more of a chance of getting stuff we wanted. I've come away with some AMAZING finds - a $7.50 typewriter that I resold for $300 is one that comes to mind. Or a few decks of glittery alphabet flashcards that I sold individually for $5/ea (they were each probably 8"x10"). We also have half price day at our outlet, where the price per pound is half was it normally is. I remember when I started going years ago it was 29c a pound, and 15c on half price day. Now it's 99c a pound and 49c on half price day. Shoes are a different story. You want to do a sociological experiment - watch the people who wait for a new bin of shoes. It's honestly the craziest thing I've ever seen. Now that the vintage trend has caught on so much here, there is way too much competition at the outlet anymore. I stop in maybe a 3-4 times a year now. Mostly I leave disappointed. We do have people that go all day, every day. In fact, one of those people I saw set up at our last Big Flea at the fairgrounds in January. He had pretty ridiculous mark ups on his outlet finds.