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Thrift the Web: Goodwill goes mobile

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At first glance old clothes and new technology may not seem to go together. But you can now use your smartphone to troll for Goodwill thrift shop merchandise. Last month, the Washington branch of the charity introduced a free shopping app for iPhone and iPad, the first of its kind in the country.

When I heard this, it raised in my mind a question I’ve had since I was a secondhand- clothes-wearing college student: Are thrift stores for poor people in need of cheap stuff, or are they for hipsters who like funky bargains?

It’s more the latter than the former, said Brendan Hurley, chief marketing officer for Goodwill of Greater Washington. “If we could mark things up to $100 a unit, we’d do so,” he said. “The goal is not to sell low-cost goods to the poor. The goal is to fund job training. We recognize that the merchandise is pre-owned, so, obviously, we have to mark the prices appropriately. . . . The reason we’re now branching out and selling more online is because we can get a higher price point because there’s greater demand online.”

Goodwill is all over the interwebs these days. Nearly 3,700 people have downloaded the shopping app. It takes users to the local charity’s Amazon site for used books and to eBay for CDs and DVDs. Goodwill gets thousands of books and discs, much more than it has room to sell in its 13 area stores.

The app also has a button for “Great Finds” that takes users to an eBay-like site called “Great Finds” are the cream of the crop. Last I checked, there were four items, including a Bridal Originals wedding dress (size 18W) priced at $25 with no bids and a David Yurman pavédiamond ring priced at $350.

“It enhances our reach,” Brendan said. “People shopping brick-and-mortar don’t drive 50 miles to a store, but I can sell merchandise online to anyone in the world.”

Goodwill has two fashion blogs, one in English by Lisa Rowan and one in Spanish by Yvette Castro. Every Tuesday, Lisa highlights something she found on the thrift store racks: Look like Betty Draper! Score a vintage T-shirt!

Goodwill and other charities are facing more competition these days. The women in my life are addicted to Unique Thrift, a for-profit chain with locations in our area. Brendan said a for-profit chain called Savers is also on the way.

Goodwill stands ready.

“A few years ago, people used to brag about how much they spend on merchandise,” Brendan said. “Today, they brag about how little they spend. We’re glad we are leaders in that space.”

Reunion time

Here are a few more Washington area schools (and other groups) that are having reunions in the coming months.

Annandale High Class of 1972 — Oct. 6. .

Annandale High Class of 1982 — July 14. Contact

Ballou High Class of 1962 — Open to all to help celebrate. Oct. 19-21. Contact Gene Cherrico, 319-393-6538,

Wiley H. Bates High Class of 1962 — Aug. 17-19. Contact or, or call Thelma Gaither at 301-774-9719.

Calvin Coolidge Class of 1972 — Aug. 4. Contact Brenda Scott (, 202-635-7672) or Anita Greene (

Eastern High Class of 1962 — Sept. 22. Also picnic on Sept. 16. Contact Gwen Smith at

Fairfax High Class of 1967 — Oct. 27. .

Hayfield High Class of 1992 — Sept. 15. .

High Point Class of 1972 — Oct. 27.

Hillside Volunteer Fire Department — June 9. For more information, contact Debbie Holland at 301-967-0822.

Robert E. Lee Class of 1982 — Sept. 8. .

McKinley Tech Class of 1982 — Sept. 7-9. .

Oakton High Class of 1982 — Sept. 22. .

Oxon Hill High Class of 1962 — Sept. 7 and 8. Contact Ken Secrist at or Charlie Bell at

Parkdale High Classes of 1970-74 — Sept. 22. Contact Carol Freeman (Class of 1971) at

Ryken High and St. Mary’s Academy Class of 1962 — May 26. Contact Carl Raley at or 301-475-2037.

St. Anthony’s High Class of 1961 — Sept. 22. Contact Nancy Russell at

South Lakes Class of 1992 — Oct. 6. .

J.E.B. Stuart Class of 1972 — Nov. 10.

Wakefield High Class of 1963 — Weekend of May 18, 2013. Contact or .

Washington-Lee High Class of 1962 — Oct. 12-14. contact

T.C. Williams Class of 1982 — Oct. 13. .

To read previous columns by John Kelly, go to

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