27 June 2011

Not much good will at Goodwill

On Sunday afternoon, my wife dropped off some boxes of children’s toys at the Goodwill store located at 5263 South Power Road in Mesa, Arizona.

These were items our daughters, now grown, had treasured and saved throughout their childhoods, items we’d spent the last two days digging out of various boxes in a hot garage.

My wife brought them inside for triage: she sorted them, washed off any that were dirty, then put all of the various pieces together into sets, making sure each set was complete.

We hoped that through a Goodwill store, these toys might bring the same kind of joy to someone else’s little girls that they’d brought to ours.

So after cleaning and organizing everything, she carefully packed the lot into some banker’s boxes, so they’d be easy for her to transport and easy for the folks at the store to handle.

She arrived at the store donation/drop-off area at about 5:40 PM. It wasn’t busy—she was the only person there. There were two people outside to receive donations. One of them, a dark-haired young man with a goatee or some kind of facial hair, came over to help her unload.

He took the first box out of the trunk and to her shock, hurled through the air, over a line of canvas hoppers full of clothing—to where it crashed to the concrete floor, by her estimate, some fifty feet away.

Toys and pieces of toys flew in all directions.

My wife was stunned. That box had contained a beautiful little plastic jewelry box in perfect condition, electronic toys we’d tested to make sure they all worked, and additional bags of miscellaneous plastic toys.

Alarmed, she asked him to be careful and explained she’d just spent hours cleaning and organizing those toys. He didn’t even give her the courtesy of an answer, although he grudgingly carried (and dropped) the rest of the boxes instead of throwing them.

She left the store in tears. When she got home, I asked her what was wrong. She told me “I can’t say or I’ll start crying again.”

We donate a lot of stuff to Goodwill, and have been doing so for years because we believe in its mission and the good work it (usually) does. When it’s clothing, we always make sure it’s in good, wearable condition. When it’s electronics, we test each piece to make sure everything is in working order. And when it’s toys, we always make sure they’re complete and intact, things a parent can buy for a child and neither of them will be disappointed. If something is broken or worn out, or if it’s simply not something we’d consider buying ourselves, we throw it away.

If that store didn’t want or need those toys, they could have said so and sent my wife to another store. We gladly would have taken them elsewhere and donated them to a church or a women’s shelter or some other charity where they would have been appreciated and, with luck, made a child or children happy.

Treating our donations with such callous disregard—essentially destroying them (and negating the hours of effort that went into getting them ready to donate)—with my wife standing right there was unconscionable and inexcusable.

Am I overreacting?

Well, the day before, she dropped off another carload of items at the Goodwill store located at 868 Gilbert Road, in Gilbert. It was mostly toys—including a big box of dolls and a few “See ‘N Says”—along with some girls’ clothing, and some small appliances (all tested and cleaned up). That place was busy when she arrived, with a number of other cars waiting in line. But she was still a little taken aback when the woman who came over to help unload said, “All of this sh*t?”

So you have to wonder: Is this how Goodwill regards our donations? If that’s all they mean to the people at the stores—things to throw and break, things to denigrate—then as of right now, we’re done making donations to Goodwill.

Their website says Goodwill "treat[s] all people with dignity and respect," but you wouldn’t know it by the treatment we received this past weekend.

POSTSCRIPT: I’ve been trying to get in touch with someone at Goodwill of Central Arizona headquarters to discuss these incidents for the past two days. I’ve left multiple voice mails and talked to the woman who answers the phone there at least three times. There are more than a dozen people listed on their website as the “Leadership Team,” but each time I’ve called I was told no one was available to speak with me, and no one has followed up on my messages.

You'd think someone would want to address this insulting, seemingly incomprehensible behavior.