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Students mob the Milwaukie Bins for pay-by-the-pound back-to-school counter-couture deals

This story has been updated from its orginal version online with higher prices for by-the-pound shopping. We apologize for printing the outdated information.

PMG PHOTO:  JOSEPH GALLIVAN  - Shopping by the pound at the Goodwill Industries of the Columbia and Willamette outlet store, AKA the Sellwood Bins. Tessa Winger (IG: @IH8.ART) (right) and friend Lela Heppler (IG: @pixelpixie3) looking for bags. Sometimes they resell. Goodwill Outlets Stores, known as the bins for the blue trays on wheels that hold the goods, is the ultimate stop for surplus stuff from across the Portland area, and the mother lode is at 1740 S.E. Ochoco St., Milwaukie. Each day, 16 trailer loads arrive from nine stores.

Items including clothes that are unsold in regular Goodwills are pulled, usually after four weeks, and go to the bins. If no one buys them after a few hours, they go into the back of the warehouse. There, unsold items are separated into 18 categories for as many as 40 individual recyclers and salvagers who purchase in bulk. Some of what's left goes to Metro for further gleaning, and other unsalvageable items are transported to the landfill.

PMG PHOTO:  JOSEPH GALLIVAN  - The Goodwill Industries of the Columbia and Willamette outlet store, AKA the Sellwood Bins.Much of the clothing is bailed up and sent to developing countries. If you're in Mali or Kenya and see a kid in in a Catlin Gabel hoodie, that's probably what happened.

Teenagers — usually girls, usually in pairs — can be found at the bins looking for a diamond in the rough.

"I'm looking for just anything, like clothes," said Hannah Girgevich, who came to Milwaukie with her sister, Izzy. This summer, Hannah often had been coming from St. Johns four times per week, and at least twice per week. She's a sophomore in high school.

"If people ask me where I got my clothes, I just tell them. I like to shop here because it's trendy right now, and all the popular kids show up here," she said.

Hannah usually stays for an hour and a half. She used to go to school nearby so she'll sleep over at a friend's house if getting home is an issue.

PMG PHOTO:  JOSEPH GALLIVAN  - (L-R) Piper Lindo, Chloe Maher and Harper Miller go shopping by the pound  about once a week at the Goodwill Industries of the Columbia and Willamette outlet store, AKA the Sellwood Bins. 
She can't say what the best thing is she's ever gotten here, "But every time I go here, I get so much clothes, and I can't even fit them all in my room now. They're just sitting on my floor."

Neither sister comes here with a budget.

"Because the clothes are so cheap, we just want everything. If you've got $5 you can buy a lot of stuff," Hannah said.

They get $10 allowance per week, plus money for school clothes, but have spent as much as $50 here in a day.

In terms of what she's looking for, Hannah said, "I'm kind of like 2000s. Like midrise jeans? I like to shop here because then you can get stuff that not very many people have."

"And this is also good for the environment, it's like reusing clothes," Izzy said. "I go to Forever 21 and H&M and places at the mall. And it's OK for them, but it's also bad for the environment. Here you can just have a variety of everything."

Terra Grow, outlet district manager, said, "The teens buy stuff and then they repurpose it, and then nobody else has it," she explained. "They're looking for the acid-wash jeans and retro shoes. The exclusive stuff that you just don't see anymore. They can go home and make their own outfits. 'Hey, look what I found,' and they post it to Instagram. When you're buying it at Goodwill, you know if you mess it up, it's OK."

By-the-pound shopping

Store manager Stacey Kosharek knows six or seven people who come to Milwaukie from Honduras once per year, fill up a shipping container after spending around $2,000, and return home. "I believe they resell it there," she said.

The bins are rotated in order. Workers push them out one at a time into groups of four, hollering "TAAA-ble" to get people out of the way. Shoppers can look but they must stand with their hands by their sides until the fourth bin of a set is in place, then they have at it. Most of them have worked their way through a new batch within about 10 minutes.

Many of the bins are filled with broken housewares, jumbled electronics, odd shoes, luggage and bedding. Clothes and books have their own sections. You can usually tell when someone has died because there'll be a bunch of brittle 78 RPM records, or a mountain of Tommy Dorsey LPs, or maybe some King's Singers. Often there are piles of CDs or VHS tapes.

Explorers might find 20 golf shirts together after a divorce, or the thousandth copy of "Fit for Life" or Marie Kondo's books "Spark Joy" or "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."

PMG PHOTO:  JOSEPH GALLIVAN  - Maddie Cruz said she was mostly looking for decorations for her house. That day she found a box for displaying photos. Shopping by the pound at the Goodwill Industries of the Columbia and Willamette outlet store, AKA the Sellwood Bins. Shoppers pay by the pound. To speed up checkout, they push their cart onto a giant scale for weighing.

There's a line at 7 a.m. every day of early birds with lawn chairs. They bring their coffee and a take a morning walk. Tara Grow estimates that 80% of the shoppers at the Milwaukie bins are resellers.

But these teen girls are focused on clothes.

The peak time for teenagers is 5 p.m. weekdays, or all weekend. "It's a scene here in the evening," Grow said.

Six hours

Three friends, Harper Miller, Chloe Maher and Piper Lindo come looking for vintage about once a week.

"We could go to regular thrift stores, but it's more expensive," Miller said.

Maher chipped in, "I just really liked the bins because it's a lot cheaper, and some of the stuff you can't find in normal thrift stores."

Miller said they live nearby and come by bus, and always bring a bag.

If asked where she got something, Miller absolutely admits it was at the bins. "I'm proud of it, because I'm, like, I got it for cheap. 'Yay, I got cute clothes!'"

Asked what she would spend on a top at the mall, Maher suggests "about $30."

Lindo deadpanned, "I don't like malls."

She added, "I like thrift a lot because it's a lot better for the environment. Because it's not fast fashion."

Depop app draws shoppers

Tessa Winger (her Instagram handle is @IH8.ART) said, "I'm not super sure if it's a back-to-school thing, but it's definitely when you need clothes. It's a place to get vintage clothes that are cheap and to be able to keep up with the fashion that's happening, so I'm not constantly going through and buying new items that I'm just gonna throw away."

Is the 19-year-old looking for current clothes?

"Oh, definitely not."

Winger added "Fashion is always a cycle, so right now I'm looking for 1970s and early 2000s because that's what's coming out of H&M and those types of places is like new versions of that."

Her friend Lela Heppler, 18, (Instagram: pixelpixie3) said she gets most of her clothes at Goodwill. "It's like the only way to do it, unless you're like really rich."

They both sometimes resell on Instagram and Depop, a peer-to-peer social shopping app, pricing items individually but selling them in batches as large as 30 at a time. They hand over the items in person, because "a lot of my followers live near me," Winger said.

Party like a dad

College students Felix Seward and Jaid Eichmiller come once a week for a few hours.

"I tend to find a lot of different, really unique pieces, because sometimes vintage stuff comes and filters all the way down," Seward said. "Or I find just some cheap stuff to cut up and turn into shorts and crop tops."

She doesn't sew much, preferring pins and tape.

"I definitely got this shirt here. And the shoes I'm wearing here. I got this belt for me as well."

Miller said "My friends have come for like, five, six hours and left with $50 worth of stuff. Because we just, like, go crazy."

Seward looks for job interview clothes, and wears everything she buys. If people ask, she says Goodwill.

"I'm proud of finding stuff at the bins. If it's fashionable and cool and I got it for super cheap. It's like, somehow even cooler. And I'm all about recycling."

Thrifty

At the bins, products are priced by the pound:

$2.19/lb. for up to 25 lbs.

$1.29/lb. for over 25 lbs.

$0.69/lb. for glassware and electronics

Books and magazines are separately priced

www.meetgoodwill.org

Goodwill Outlet Superstore

1740 S.E. Ochoco St.,

Milwaukie; 503-230-2076


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