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Prompt #2: Social-Design ~Goodwill Outlet~

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I have been volunteering at the Goodwill Outlet at 2505 University Ave W, St Paul, MN this semester and I have noted a few problems with their system. I have nothing against goodwill and believe that they are a very honorable and strong organization. Their mission statement is as follows, “The mission of Goodwill/Easter Seals is to assist people with barriers to education, employment and independence in achieving their goals. We prepare people for work.? The vocation of Goodwill serves society as a whole by helping to integrate people into the society and to help them become financially stable. On Goodwill’s home page, they provide a list of their accomplishments:
• “12,899 employment services that help people get jobs
• 4,841 community assistance services, such as resource referrals to partners, financial assistance and winter warmth services while working with us to find jobs.
• 8,765 persons were able to borrow assistive living medical equipment
• 706 rural rehabilitative technology services
• 429 Skills Training services were provided to prepare for jobs in fields with potential for higher wages and benefits
• 1,471 educational services, such as English, general educational development (GED) preparation and computer skills services to provide employability skills for jobs?
Their record provides a praiseworthy description of how they have assisted communities in the Twin Cities area throughout all realms of the socioeconomic world. Goodwill in Minnesota was founded in 1919 (like a certain brand of root beer) as a way to help those who have a more difficult time amalgamating with society whether it be due to a disability, employment, educational, or other obstacle. People of all races can come together and unite to reach their goals. (I don’t actually believe in the concept of “race? and I believe it is something humans made up to explain differences in people. We’re all distinct individuals, but although I don’t believe in race, I realize that the concept exists within the minds of the majority of the people and society, and as such race becomes and actual idea. So, anyways, that was my digression of the day.) Slowly, the original site expanded to the current 15 Goodwill stores, Goodwill Outlet, and Second Début Fashions and Art Boutique.

As one can see, I mean no offense to the Goodwill/Easter Seals organization, but from work inside the Goodwill Outlet building, I noted a few aspects which I think could, and should be redesigned. The Outlet store seems like a fine enough concept, selling generally unwanted goods by the pound, but the methods used for this mass selling of goods don’t feel right to me. What actually happens is that goods (clothing, shoes without a matching pairs, suitcases, and random trinkets) are tossed into broken bins and flung down a conveyor line towards the waiting consumers. After all of the bins are out, an employee gives the word and the shoppers go wild tearing through the merchandise like it’s their last meal. I don’t want to commit the crime of stereotyping, but most of the customers seem to be on the lower end of the financial spectrum. Next comes the problem of the goods themselves. Although some of the clothing and other supplies are passable, shoes without a match are hard to put to use and most of the items appear to be very unsanitary.

I would like to address the problem of the tray line first. With the warehouse building and the mad scramble for goods gave me the impression of cows lined up for the slaughterhouse. Maybe that’s too graphic, but pleasant wouldn’t really be an apropos description of the interior struggle. One way to fix this might simply be a redesigned interior. As design is political, and the interior seemed to reflect the trauma of poverty, a lighter, less factory-like ambiance might be a key factor. Additionally, somehow changing from a conveyor distribution method to more of a traditional “store-like? method such as shelves might also ease the atmosphere. I know it might not be in the budget, but in my opinion it would be a good idea to give the clothing a quick wash and to at least tie the laces of shoe pair together. Although it is an outlet store, and it consists of quickly selling a heap of supplies, improving sanitary conditions and organization is always a superior scheme. All I’m trying to say is that concepts and theories are great and all, but in reality, things may not be as pleasant as they are thought to be from an outside perspective. One needs to actually experience the idea in motion to discover what works and what needs work. Goodwill has a great thing going, and has been and will be of great assistance to society. But nothing is perfect.

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Unfortunately, although I asked if it would be tolerable, pictures aren’t allowed inside of the actual Goodwill Outlet building, and I can accept that. People want their privacy and they have every right to it.

Well, here’s my poem of the week. Sorry if it’s a bit exaggerated. I just realized that I seem to apologize plenty. Sorry about that, haha. Anyways…


Lined up gathering momentum
Thrashing concrete and plywood
Perversion of sweaty socked atrium
A message of madness waiting in store
Humbled and grumbling greedy eyes
Survival of fittest in snarling crowd
Loitering caged in crumbled walls
False smiled faces send shafts of grey
Rotting mold and dirt sticking floor
Holds me down to the bitter cold
Shrieking rattles of endless futile material
Thrash fighting for the soiled fabric