July 29th, 2010 | Published in Tech
|Scanners connect to online databases and provide quick information about current pricing and the availability of books. Photo: Dale Emanuel|
It’s 7:45 a.m. on a Tuesday and the line outside is already teeming. When the doors open a few minutes later at the Goodwill Portland Outlet, the rush of people literally whips the air.
It’s actually a slow day, says manager Mark Kreider. People are expecting heat.
Yet within a few minutes, dozens of shoppers are mobbing the 165 bins. A purgatory of donated goods, the place is stocked with clothes, house wares and other cast-offs that didn’t find a home through Goodwill’s retail stores around Portland.
Daily, the outlet sells or recycles 80,000 pounds of stuff, including 200 to 300 books.
So for resale shoppers, this is Treasure Island – a gold mine for those who nab low-cost gems and sell them for profit at swap meets, garage sales, stores both on- and off-line and any other place where money can be made.
Heading the pack of resellers are book buyers, armed with wireless scanners now making book resale highly profitable and virtually recession-proof.
Goodwill workers say two to six of these book-trollers can be seen at the Portland Outlet at any time. Other thrift store workers interviewed for this story call them simply “beepers,” so named for the melody of their scanners, which wafts around the stacks like so many lost crickets.
But the sound is more than just symphony. For resellers, it’s the din of money. Clipped to cell phones or sold as PDAs or hand-held devices, the scanners connect to online databases and provide quick information about current pricing and the availability of books. Pioneered by ScoutPal for Amazon.com, the fare has broadened to include other tools for big online retailers like eBay, Alibris and beyond.
Carlos Albarado, 19, is so involved with scanning that he spends eight hours a day at the bins that rotate through the Goodwill Portland Outlet.
“It’s really good. I’m my own boss. I don’t have to follow any orders,” he said. “I find cool stuff every day.”
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