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Help finding equipment for NGOs, activists, and the impoverished

A responce to the constant call for necessary equipment from activist's and their organizations. A working class solution to lack of computers, radios, bikes, etc.
Frequently on the website of your favorite NGO you see a long list of items they need to stay in business. Hesitantly I will let out a secret.

The Goodwill Outlet Store
8300 SE McLoughlin Blvd. Portland, 97202

The idea is this, just like other stores Goodwill doesn't like it's rotting merchandise. Consequently it ships the junk off to a giant old [perhaps unhealthy] factory. There it unloads tons and tons of stuff that wouldn't sell or that was donated at the door.

This magnificent place is called "The Bins". At the Bins they sell clothing by the pound (1.20$ I believe), and some non-clothing items by weight as well. They sell all electronics, furniture, bikes, sporting goods, records, books, kitchen supply, medical supplies, and so on. Most things hover in the 10-30$ range. I have never seen anything over 100$ ever. The way the pricing works is thus: They set things out for a day at an over inflated price (for me this is usually 30-50$). After that first day they half the price routinely till it gets out of their sight. There is some risk though too. There are no outlets to test things, and no returns (don't worry it is cheap enough not to care too much). Don't let the occasional worker wearing masks scare you, they are trying to avoid TB. I haven't met anyone who has contracted a disease though.

My whole house is furnished by the Bins. If I hadn't brought things with me when I moved here, everything would have that row of 5 Bins price tags (30-20-15-10-5). My kitchen table was 1$ and my speakers 5$. The artist Notbreathing  http://www.carrionsound.com  http://www.notbreathing.com used to purchase many of his toys for electric mutilation there. I also built a studio of electrically modified toys for experimental electronic music.

Now, the NGOs come in here. There are routinely various radios (sometimes CB, ham, and amateur) at the bins, as are walky talkies. Bikes are abundant and usually below 30$ (they usually have flat tires so don't walk there). In addition the furniture is cheap to stock the office.

Computers are in excessive excessive oversupply. Don't spend too much, but for a newer one (say a Power Mac, or a Pentium 3) one might pay in the 30-50$ range. People often dissect them for parts, but one need not look hard for full working aging computers. Make sure it is unopened. Then if you like, open it and make sure nothing is missing. Bad signs are unplugged wires, empty pin arrays where the processor goes, no harddrive etc. Macs are also in stock and people usually leave them alone. Tell free geek to get down here because there is so much stuff just wasting away in the factory walls.

The Bins isn't just a store, it is a whole culture. It is one of the few places I know of that you can hear Spanish, Vietnamese, Mayan Languages, English, and Russian all under one roof. The shoppers range from desperate to overly joyous and excited about purchasing random junk. The bins of books are always filled with Christian texts as well as Trotsky's biography or other communist works (I have been suspicious about this, does the party and the church simply know to try and spread propaganda here?).

Shopping at the lowest of the thrift stores can be liberating. Far away from the shiny undamaged goods of corporate consumerism is an untouched island of recyclables. After a while you begin to feel like you are doing the community a service, picking up after the dizzying nausea of American buying and tossing habits.

Todd Goodenow
Another place 04.Aug.2002 10:31


Wacky Willy's  http://www.wackywillys.com is another great place. It has mostly surplus electronics but other random things as well. It isn't as cheap but is better equiped for electronics parts.

seriously ... Free Geek for computer stuff 06.Aug.2002 22:27


I would guess that most of you by now have heard of Free Geek. Volunteer hours can be applied towards working computer systems with Linux installed. They use volunteer labor to combine the working parts out of donated computers into functioning systems. Also, they get the occasional funky old radio, amplifier, other types of electronics. They are at 1731 SE 10th Ave. in Portland and www.freegeek.org.