Ava Green, Features Editor
It was a dewy summer morning. Calm, quiet and cool. The serenity provided by Mother Nature, however, would never provide enough comfort to Ava and Thomas, as they were about to embark on the battle of a lifetime. Two sleep-deprived teenagers up against the behemoth that is the Goodwill Clearance Center.
We could feel the icy glare of all the hype beasts, TikTokers, elderly folk and miscellaneous lunatics in attendance burning holes through the back of our heads as we entered the store. While Thomas strutted in, ready to take on anyone who stood in the way of him and a good deal, Ava was a deer in headlights. No amount of Buzzfeed articles and Instagram reels about this type of Goodwill store could have prepared her for the intensity that filled that fragrant, moth-ball scented warehouse. They casually picked through a few of the bins of loose clothes and fabric until we realized that the real adventure had yet to begin.
It was announced over the loudspeakers that all shoppers must wait behind a line in the back of the store as the workers removed a row of bins and replaced them with new ones from the back with one of the rows being switched out every half hour or so.
For those who don’t know, these stores take whatever is unable to be sold at a regular Goodwill store and dump it all in massive, trough-like buckets so that insane people like Thomas and Ava can buy the leftover leftovers at a dirt-cheap $1.75 per pound.
As all of us shoppers started to toe up to the line, another announcement rang out. “Remember— no shoving, no hitting, no tripping people and, please, no fights. I don’t want to have to do paperwork.” The ominous message left our protagonists wondering what on earth they had just got themselves into. The same announcer yelled “Go,” and Ava and Thomas watched as the shoppers ran past them and towards the new bins with determination and bloodlust in their eyes.
After the initial shock, the pair joined in seemingly naturally. At first it was hard to squeeze in between shoppers and figure out how to be efficient in such a chaotic environment. Fabric flew past their faces and all around them, plates smashed in the distance, babies and adults alike wailed and screamed. As they looked back at the carnage, they realized that “The Hunger Games” had commenced.
Every move was strategic. You had to think about where you were, where you’d go next, where you were tossing the clothes you passed on and how much you could grab before having to run back to the cart. There were so many things to be aware of while still having to hold your own against the rest of the vulture-like shoppers. To combat them, Thomas had begun taking his discarded piles and putting them on top of sections that other people were looking through to throw them off and give them even more to dig through. Ava quickly caught on and the two moved up the food chain. Now, the other shoppers got out of their way: Thomas and Ava sensed when the bins were about to start changing and had developed methods to their madness.
Ava and Thomas recounted how fun it was to grab things others were eyeing and shift around huge piles of clothing without regard for who they inconvenienced. It was freeing, primal and, god, such a good deal! After five straight hours of quite literally shopping until they dropped, they each spent $20 on an entire overflowing shopping cart’s worth of clothing. Undoubtedly a total steal, but at what cost?
Where had their humanity gone? Where was the hopeful glimmer that once existed in their eyes? Where did the ring that Ava had on when they first got there gone? Some questions just remain unanswered. What Ava and Thomas do know is that they had just been a part of a shopping experience that can only be described as the vigor of Black Friday shopping concentrated in one single, eerie warehouse.
This piece may make it seem like this was an absolutely rotten experience that Ava and Thomas barely got out of alive. But as the pair left the resale warzone, they quickly determined that they would be returning soon with the might of 100 men… and way comfier shoes.