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12 Tips for Making Money at Pay by the Pound Thrift Stores

Many of the people who shop at pay by the pound thrift stores, like Goodwill Outlet, are resellers looking for items they can make a profit from online.

Why do online resellers like sourcing items at pay by the pound stores? Places like Goodwill Outlet have a continuous stream of items that are sold for much cheaper than any thrift store. By buying items in bulk and by the pound, they can find a lot more great items!

Here are a few tips that will help you make the most money from your trip to the pay by the pound store!

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1. Grab Now, Analyze Later

Pay by the pound stores can be very fast paced because everyone is looking for that great find at the same time and want to get to it before anyone else (just think Black Friday). Therefore, you don’t have time to stand there and look the item over for condition and research its value on eBay or Amazon.

If an item grabs your attention, just put it in your cart or bag and you’ll take a closer look later. Yes, we usually end up putting back 50% of what we picked up, but it’s better just to grab what you want so you don’t end up missing out on a great deal.

If you picked up an electronic with a cord, find an outlet in the store and plug it in. Electronics tend to be heavier so you don’t want to pay for the weight on something that you’ll end up having to throw away anyway. If the item is battery operated, some people suggest bringing a small screwdriver and a variety of batteries so you can test the item. In our opinion, if the item is lightweight, just buy it since you won’t be spending that much on it anyway. If it doesn’t end up working when you test it at home, you aren’t out a whole lot.

Clothing and plush items should be analyzed for flaws, stains, tears, etc. Be sure to test all zippers, check in pockets, and look for holes. Keep in mind that these are preowned so make it your mission to find flaws. If you can’t find any, you’re good to go! Keep the weight in mind. If it’s a button down shirt, for example, it won’t weigh much so do a quick look over but don’t obsess. You can do a more thorough look over at home. However, if it’s a pair of jeans or a coat, these will be heavier and cost more so make sure to look it over very well for stains and flaws.

2. Look for Unique Items

I love grabbing items that I have no idea what they are. Some of these can be the most valuable because they’re more rare.

Some of this is just pure gut feeling. The more you sell online and shop pay by the pound stores, the better your gut feeling will be. You’ll get to the point where you’ll see something and just know that it will have some value. It’s hard to describe that other than, you’ll know when you see it.

You won’t always be right and there have been plenty of things we picked up and researched later, shocked that it wasn’t worth anything. That’s okay though. It’s better to pick something up and find out it has no value than to pass something by that could have made a huge profit.

3. Grab Small Appliance Parts

One of our favorite things to sell is small appliance parts, especially food processors. A lot of people don’t like to buy a whole new food processor when they only need to replace one part. Therefore, they often go to eBay and buy the part they need.

Keep in mind when you see something like a food processor that you don’t have to take the entire unit. Usually the base/motor doesn’t sell very well, so we’ll just grab the parts and leave the base. However, when you’re first picking it up, put the whole thing in your cart. The parts don’t all have the model number on them, so you’ll need the base to know what to research. If you aren’t going to buy the base/motor, make sure to take a picture of the model number on the bottom of the unit before putting it back in the bins. You’ll need this later when you go to list the items.

Another thing that people like to grab is Scrabble pieces or other game pieces. Many people collect these to sell as a large lot once they have a few hundred pieces. They’ll leave the game box and board and just take the pieces.

4. Shop the Clothing Bins

You can make a lot of money from clothes found that pay by the pound stores. As you can see with the items we sold from our first trip to Goodwill Outlet, we found some really good clothing items and resold for great profit! ITEM TITLEPROFITLauren Ralph Lauren Dress Pants Tweed Brown Pleated Cuffed Men Size 38×30$16.81Dockers Dress Slacks Pants Brown Pleated Cuffed Wool Blend Men Size 33×32 $15.02 Banana Republic Pants Martin Fit Tan Cream Textured Stripe Cuffed Women Size 2 $13.28 Lauren Jeans Co. Ralph Lauren Sleeveless Button Down Shirt Light Blue Size Small $12.66TOTAL PROFIT: $57.77

These are some top brands that you’d think would have been bought at the retail store before it was sent to the pay by the pound store.

You just need to make sure and really check for stains and flaws. There are A LOT of junk items mixed in so you have to do some digging to find the good brands that are in good condition. Also, make sure the size tag is still intact. There is nothing worse than finding an amazing item only to realize that someone cut the size tag out.

5. Pick Up Anything That’s in New Condition

We pick up EVERYTHING that is in new condition, either with sealed plastic, factory taped box, original tag, etc.

New items are so easy to sell and they sell a lot faster online. For example, one of our finds at our Goodwill Outlet was new in sealed package IKEA curtains that we ended up making $25 profit on!

There are a lot of items that are absolutely worth NOTHING in preowned condition, but you can sell for a very good profit in new condition.

So make sure not to pass up anything that is in a new package or with original tags. Most of the time you can make something off of it!

6. Look Inside Pockets and Boxes

Believe it or not, some people have actually found cash inside items at pay by the pound stores! The chances of this happening very often is slim, but you never know what else you might find.

I’ve heard of one person who opened a shoe box to find a bunch of valuable jewelry. Not every box you see is exactly what’s inside. You just never know, so taking the time to open boxes to see what’s in them is worth it. Also checking inside purses and clothing pockets can be beneficial.

7. Keep an Eye Out for Missing Pieces

If you run across an item that would be worth picking up if it wasn’t missing pieces, pick it up anyway. You might just end up finding those missing pieces as your digging! Someone else probably passed up the item for the same reason you did, but didn’t take the time to look for the pieces.

There was one time when I found a Waterpik Water Flosser but it was missing the top lid and all the attachments that go inside. I grabbed it and put it in my cart anyway. Later, I found the lid and some of the missing attachments in one of the other bins. Thankfully I picked up the unit anyway because now I had the whole thing and was able to resell it and make a $24 profit.

8. Use the Amazon Seller App to Scan Books

Not many people care about the bins filled with books, which means there is less competition in that area. Most of the time, the people you see over there are other online resellers who put books on Amazon.

You can use the Amazon Seller app on your phone to scan books and find ones that are worth your time to resell. I’ve given a detailed step-by-step post on how to use the app to scan books here.

Some pay by the pound stores have a set price per book, usually no more than $0.50 each. I’ve also heard of some stores who charge per spine inch. For example, they’ll measure how many inches of books you want based on the width of the spine and charge something like $0.15 per inch. This is a super cheap deal!

9. Get to Know the Regulars

Pay by the pound stores can be high tension and there can be a lot of rude people. However, it’s always a good idea to find out who the regular shoppers are and talk to them when the time is appropriate (like, in between bin rotations).

When you can find out what they are looking for or specialize in, it’s nice to be able to help them out by giving them things you find that they might want. In return, you’ll find that they do the same for you. Now you’ve just created an ally that will be willing to help you out. It doesn’t have to be a cutthroat competition. People can be nice and help each other out because everyone is looking for something different.

10. Shop the Case at Checkout

A lot of people are so focused on shopping the bins that they forget to check out what is in the cases. Be sure to see what treasures the store employees picked out, thinking they were extra special than everything else, and put in the cases by the check out counter. This items should be priced cheaper than the cases at regular thrift stores, so you never know what you might get a great deal on.

11. Know What You’re Looking For

Most people who have been reselling online for a good amount of time already have an eye for the items they know will sell well. However, if you’re a newbie, make sure you have a game plan of what you are going to look for. When you first arrive, it can be a little overwhelming at the quanity of items to look through, but just keep in mind what you came to find and you’ll do fine.

Some things we always keep an eye out for when we go are,

  1. appliance parts

  2. name brand clothing

  3. new items

  4. furbies

  5. vintage electronics

  6. unique items

12. Think About the Weight and Shipping

If you’re debating about whether or not you can make money off a certain item, make sure that you take in account additional costs due to the weight. For starters, you’re going to pay more for the item simply because it’s heavier. Secondly, you need to consider what it’s going to take to ship the item. Will you need a special box? How much packing materials will it require? Will it be considered and oversized package and cost even more?

In some cases, we’ve put items back simply because it was going to be a pain to ship it and it wasn’t worth the time and headache for us to sell it. Make sure you keep all this in mind when it comes to researching and deciding if you should buy it.

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