Person talking(l+r), Goodwill(c)

Helen89/Shutterstock @tango_quinn/Tiktok (Licensed)

‘I work at Goodwill and THIS is why we don’t have dressing rooms’: Thrift store workers say they were exposed to biohazards on the job

'My hands would be gray by the time I left, working there.'


Brooke Sjoberg


Posted on Feb 20, 2024   Updated on Feb 20, 2024, 12:04 pm CST

Many retail and customer-facing jobs can come with unexpected difficulties, from disappointed or angry customers to those who damage store property.

Even in second-hand shops, where goods sold are often donated by individuals and larger retail operations, customers can render the work environment not just hazardous, but also introduce biohazards.

Musician and TikTok user Tango (@tango_quinn) says they worked at Goodwill for a short time, during which they witnessed and were expected to clean up multiple biohazards throughout the store regularly.

In the video that has drawn over 237,000 views on the platform, Tango says they were expected to clean up dirty diapers, clothing left behind by homeless individuals in the dressing room, and even human waste. In late 2019 going into 2020, they worked for Goodwill, cashiering and straightening up stock on the floor.

“People would leave dirty diapers on the floor,” they say in the video. “I don’t know where you took that off. I don’t even know where that occurred, but they would literally leave full diapers, and then my manager would be like, ‘Yeah, grab a tissue and pick it up and throw it away.’ Same thing with needles. Like, substance needles.”

They say homeless individuals who spent time near the store would often come in for a change of clothes without paying for them, and leave their dirty clothing behind for employees to deal with.

“On the note of the homeless folks that were around the store, a lot of times they would go into the dressing rooms before dressing rooms were closed down, and they would change their clothes, and steal clothes from the store,” they said. “They would leave their pile of clothes which were just covered in p*ss and sh*t. They were like, ‘Yup, who wants to do it this time? Go clean out the dressing room.’ Another time, my manager comes up to me and says, ‘I need two of you to go to the bathroom, someone just told me there is explosive diarrhea all over the walls, so I need two of you to go in there and clean it up.'”

The Daily Dot has reached out to Tango via Instagram direct message regarding the video, as well as to Goodwill via email.

Due to the information Tango revealed, many viewers encouraged others to wear protective clothing to thrift in second-hand shops, as customers might not know exactly what they will be walking into.

“I PREACH wearing long sleeves, pants, gloves, and masks while thrifting,” one commenter wrote. “People think I’m insane for it.”

“This is why I don’t even go near clothes in thrift stores,” another said. “If it did it’s gloves for me and it’s getting boiled before I’ll wear it.”

“I worked at a thrift store when I was 18, I asked my manager for gloves and she asked why?” a further user shared. “I said Wym whyyyy?”

@tango_quinn #stitch with @Kiki Rough i love thrifting to this day but i treat it ALOT differently now #thrift #thrifting #thriftstore #biohazard #savers #goodwill #viral #fy ♬ original sound – tango 🕺

Others revealed their own horror stories of coming across materials with human fluids and waste on them while working for thrift stores. Some folks said they even found dead animals in bags of donated goods.

“My mom once had to do a work program at a thrift store and the amount of clothes that had literal human waste caked on them was not okay,” one commented.

“Yeah lol i priced stuff and worse thing they found donated was a full bag used hygiene products,” another commenter wrote.

“When I worked at goodwill I would always find dead rats in bags,” a third said.

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*First Published: Feb 20, 2024, 6:00 pm CST