The Goodwill Outlet store in Seattle sells copious masses of materialistic scatology by the pound. Quality and style can be discovered in this haystack, but the disorienting fluorescent lighting design, the windowless warehouse container of a building, and the mothball stuffiness make extended shopping trips a bit unbearable. I shop mostly for encyclopedia, reference and children’s lit books, for collage projects.

A fascinating anthropological phenomenon occurs whenever the staff bring out a new bin of items. A pack of people gather around in rabid red-eyed anticipation, mouths watering, a saliva puddle gathers on the floor below. “Now”, mumbles the employee, who skillfully hops out of the way just in time as swarms of violent arms grab blindly for that pair of Reebok Pumps, the purple tutu, or whatever “treasures” happen to lie within. This bloodthirsty pack mentality makes me slightly ashamed to be both human and American. But shame is an idiotic emotion, judgmental, arrogant and not often helpful, so I should get over myself. I’ve read that more than 1.5 million people make their entire living off of Ebay. I imagine some of them shop here.

My friend Courtney visited the Goodwill Outlet last year with her friend Jenny. Jenny brought along her fancy new digital camera with an entire memory card filled to the brim with invaluable photos of family and friends. She and Courtney wandered around the Outlet shopping for clothes when Jenny realized her camera must have slipped out of her possession and into one of the bins. She and Courtney looked for it, and Jenny eventually asked about it at the front checkout. She was told that someone had just purchased a digital camera at $1.50 a pound. Jenny was distraught; at that same moment, a lucky Goodwill customer felt ecstatic; all they need is a battery charger and a usb cable.

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