It turns out there are a few tricks that you need to know to get a good deal when you go to Goodwill. Some people think of Goodwill as a dumping ground for unwanted stuff, but strategic shoppers can find treasures if they know where exactly to look.
"We found a very valuable contemporary painting there a few years ago," said Eric Read of Fairfax.
The SF Goodwill covers San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties. In 2011 it generated more than $30 million in revenue. To do this, the people who run Goodwill have a very sophisticated, strategic merchandising plan.
"We separate out everything," said Goodwill Retail Director Mark Backes.
Backes says the most valuable merchandise goes online, where it has a chance to be bid up by customers.
"We know that with the world wide web and the 30 million people looking at our website annually, we know that someone is going to see this and will be willing to pay top dollar for it," said Backes.
But it turns out that some of the high end merchandise gets sent to specialty Goodwill stores.
Looking for cashmere? Then the Goodwill store to visit is on Irving Street in San Francisco's Sunset District.
"Our Haight Street store for example is right in the middle of the vintage mecca for the Bay Area. So we want to make sure that when we get really cool vintage items, it goes to our Haight Street store," said Backes.
West Portal and Menlo Park also get a lot of high end brands, but there are distinctions too.
"The West Portal store is going to carry items as nice as Chanel suits; we will carry Prada for example, if we find some genuine Prada we will put that into the West Portal store. Down in Menlo Park for example you might see a Escada, you might see Eileen Fisher," said Backes.
Menlo Park customers love to buy shoes, so the company sends their best shoes there. The flagship store on South Van Ness and Mission attracts collectors so that's where some valuable figurines can be found. Goodwill's newest venture is a boutique in San Anselmo called Georgi & Willow.
"We are targeting a specific customer, an 18 to 34-year-old woman who is more interested in the fashion look, as opposed to the brand," said Backes.
At Georgi & Willow you will find similar items you would see in trendy stores like Anthropologie.
More than 80 percent of the revenue from Goodwill goes to putting people back to work. Goodwill says that the majority of their stores are just regular family stores and you will still find treasures there too. The San Francisco Bay Area Goodwill has more than 40 donation sties.