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These Charlotte-area stores offer overstocked and returned items at deep discounts. Here's how it works

From small kitchen appliances to tablets, anything you find can be had for $7 or less.

GASTONIA, N.C. — Inflation is making many of us re-examine our spending habits, from food and gas to clothing and other everyday essentials. But even before inflation, bargain hunters were on the lookout for the best deals around.

If you're new to the bargain deals game, then Bin 5 in Gastonia is the place to be on a Saturday morning.

Early in the morning, crowds line up outside the store on South New Hope Road for a chance to haul home great deals on the things they want. Vacuum cleaners, toaster ovens, tablets, and more are likely to end up in the bins inside.

And the best part: each item is sold for $7 or less. But how can you score those big ticket items for about the same price as a fast food meal?

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"All the customer returns, overstock, liquidation items, maybe the packaging got damaged -- we purchased all those items," said Rudy Lemus, the manager at the Bin 5 location in Hickory. "You never know what you're gonna get."

There are exactly three Bin 5 locations in North Carolina, and they all operate the exact same way:

  1. About 40 boxes come into the stores each week with about 800 items inside.
  2. The sales start each Saturday, and every item starts at $7
  3. Each day, the price drops
  4. By Wednesday, everything is sold

Part of the fun of bargain shopping here? It's always a surprise.

"We never know. Mystery boxes," Lemus explained. "There could be something very expensive in there and we throw it in the bin."

That kind of buzz is what got Sharon Raines hooked on it.

"It's the thrill," she said, "hoping you can find something that costs a lot of money for really cheap."

It should be noted that selling liquidated or overstocked items at deep discounts isn't really a new idea, but the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have made this kind of bargain hunting very popular. Lemus said stimulus checks helped, and Bin 5 stayed open when other stores shut down. 

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He also said another idea took hold: turning bargain buys into a profit.

"People were coming in, buying these items and reselling them, and now they quit their jobs. And this is what they do now full time, reselling these items," he said.

In fact, UNC Charlotte student Anna Centofati said the money she makes from reselling her Bin 5 finds is how she's paying for her education.

"This has allowed me to be really flexible with my class scheduling and just work when I want to and still be able to afford everything that comes with college," she said.

In one recent haul, Centofanti scored clothes and textbooks, both items she said resell for very well. And the data shows one person's return or a company's overstocked item could be a reseller's chance to make money.

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The National Retail Federation said last year, American shoppers returned 16.6% of everything they bought, with returns totaling $761 billion. For context, the United States government's defense spending in 2020 was $714 billion according to the Government Accountability Office.

All the returns, overstock, and liquidated items are worth it for Centofati. When the cost of everything seems to be up, a good deal and a chance to make a profit are exciting ideas.

"It's a little chaotic, but it's worth it," said another shopper. "Go through the bins, maybe you get something good. At the end of the day, it saves me money."

Contact Carolyn Bruck at cbruck@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

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