Goodwill: Why we *can* have nice things.

I’ve written before (in the context of an Almost Perfect/Nothing’s Perfect entry) about shopping at Goodwill.  It’s a great place to get ties.

It’s also a great place to get technology.  I like to think of it as a kind of technological lending library.  Case in point:

The other day, my spouse left a bill and check on my desk with the note “please copy.”  She did this because I used to have a scanner hooked up to my notebook, and a bit of software that let me use that, in combination with a printer, as a copying machine.  But.

The scanner is now hooked up to a different computer, and moving it wasn’t practical.  What to do?

My usual response, when I need a scanner, is to go to Goodwill and pick up one of those dreadful multifunction scanner/printers that were popular ten years or so ago.  You know, the kind with a flatbed scanner on top and an inkjet printer.  I simply ignore the printer, and use the scanner–which is generally adequate and can be had for around $10.

So…with that thought in mind, I stopped by Goodwill yesterday.  There were six or seven candidates, but none that I really liked.  Until I looked at the bottom shelf.  Sitting there was one of these

A Brother MFC-7420, c. 2006.  I’ve had good luck with Brother’s printers in the past, so I decided to take a closer look.  Unlike the other combos, this one incorporated a laser printer.  $20?  Well.  I plugged it in and tested to make sure that at least the “copy” function worked.  So far, so good.  Printed a report that showed that this thing had made less than 500 prints.  Excellent–a nearly full cartridge.

Then I checked the back and my heart fell–a parallel printer port.  Well, it could still be a copier for home use.  But wait!  There was also an untouched, still sealed, USB port.  But would it work?

Needless to say, I took it home.  One of the great joys of the internet is having almost every driver you could ever want available, and Brother had one, true to form.  Plugged it in, installed the driver, and everything worked perfectly.  So I now have, next to my desk, the ultimate i/o device (3D printers notwithstanding).  It doesn’t require a computer to be present to copy, it can scan to my notebook and print from it, and I’m assuming that (for those very rare occasions on which I need 20th century technology) the FAX probably works, too.  I’ll plug it into the phone line one of these days.

Thanks to Goodwill, we can have nice things.  I mean, it’s cool to have discretionary cash in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, but $20 is pretty much my limit.  Goodwill lets me maximize that limit by recycling what other people no longer need.  It takes some looking.  But over time I’ve acquired eight or nine nice silk ties, an excellent messenger bag, several good pair of pants (including some Brooks Brothers cords), good sport coats, vests, and sweaters.  A couple of laser printers (now that I think about it, three–one color [I should explain that two of these, including the HP Color laser with unused cartridges were sold at their Goodwill prices to my employer, and get used daily]) And when I need a cable, I don’t go to Radio Shack, because I can recycle one from Goodwill.  My guess is that people buy things they think they’re going to use, and then ultimately, when they discover they don’t need them, take them to Goodwill.  A library.  That’s how it should be.

So yes, this is my paean to Goodwill.  Don’t have a lot of money?  You can still have nice things.  You need to be careful, and you may need to wash what you buy, but you’re generally able to get a bargain and save the planet at the same time.

Just don’t forget to return the favor.  Take your still-useful, but unwanted, stuff to Goodwill.  Don’t take them junk.  It’s a library, not a garbage bin.  Understand?

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