What’s a Bin Store, and Why Are They Popping Up All Over the Place?

A family go shopping for items at Hotbins. Everything in the store is inside boxes. To see what's inside, you have to go to an unboxing station.
Felishia Wallace, left, and her husband, Robert Wallace, shop at Hotbins while their son, also named Robert, 7, rides in the shopping cart in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, June 16, 2023. Felishia has been shopping at Hotbins to remodel the family's backyard. She got a set of three wicker swing chairs for $36 rather than paying the original retail price of $900. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

One after another, bin stores are popping up all over America.

There’s Bin City New York, located on Long Island. Cheap Charlie’s Bargain Bins in Appleton, Wisconsin. Bargains in a Box, a Chicago-based chain. Not to mention Where Ya Bin in Columbus, Ohio.

What’s a bin store, you ask? It’s a store where shoppers rummage through big bins of overstock or returned goods that are being sold at bargain-basement prices. Think of it like a treasure hunt. We’ve got some tips for how to shop at these places.

In this grid of photos, people wait outside of a bin store. Then a man opens up to the doors and people rush to get shopping carts.
People wait in line and then rush through Hotbins to find items they want in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, June 16, 2023. Hotbins sells Amazon returns. On Friday, every item costs $12. The price decreases each day, and then Hotbins closes on Thursday to restock the store. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

How Do Bin Stores Work?

Most of these stores operate the same way. They get truckloads of returned or overstock merchandise from Amazon, Walmart, Target and other major retailers. They pick one day a week to set out their new products — everything at the same price. Each day after that, the price drops. They try to sell everything in the bins during the week, and then they start all over again.

Here’s an example of how that works:

At Hotbins, a chain of six bin stores in Florida that sell Amazon returns, every item in the store costs $12 on Friday. Then it costs $10 on Saturday, $8 on Sunday, $6 on Monday, $4 on Tuesday and $2 on Wednesday. On Thursdays they close all the stores and restock them with a fresh shipment of returned goods.

So Friday is the highest-priced day, but it’s also when bargain hunters can find the best deals — usually electronics that are selling for a fraction of their normal price.

“Friday mornings, we have 70 to 100 people outside waiting for the door to open, because that’s when they find the premium items,” said Mike Ijak, co-owner of the Tampa location of Hotbins. “Everything from small kitchen appliances to cordless vacuums, camera lenses and coffee makers.

“Two weeks ago, someone found a telescopic sight for a rifle. It was a $4,000 value on Amazon. He paid $12.”

Bin stores are one new place to find great deals. Here are six online shopping sites that are off the beaten path but worth checking out.

‘You Name It, We’ve Had It’

It’s the same story at other bin stores.

“You name it, we’ve had it. We had a PlayStation 5 today — a $600 item someone purchased for 6 bucks,” said Michael Prendamano, founder and CEO of The Bin Store, which has two locations in South Carolina. “We’ve had Xboxes, phones, laptop computers. Depending on the time of year, we can have a line of 200 people waiting for us to open on any given Friday or Saturday.”

They charge $6 per item on Friday and Saturday, $5 on Sunday, $4 on Monday, $3 on Tuesday, $2 on Wednesday and $1 on Thursday. Then they reload and do it all over again. Every week they buy a tractor-trailer full of overstock or returned goods.

What can you find in a bin store? Electronics; bedding like comforters and sheets; drapery; clothing and shoes; toys and tools; health and beauty products; and all kinds of general merchandise. Basically, just about anything you can buy on Amazon or at Walmart has the potential to end up at a liquidation sale, which is what a bin store really is.

Boxes sit on table for people to look through at Hobins in Tampa.
Shoppers look for potential deals at Hotbins in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, June 16, 2023.

A lot of bin stores also have “opening stations” where staffers will open boxes so customers can get a look at what’s inside.

So many new bin stores are opening that it’s become trickier to acquire liquidated goods, Prendamano said — although he’s noticed that some of these stores are closing because they don’t have a sound business strategy.

“You have to be very customer-centric,” he said. “Some people will just get the product and throw it in a warehouse with no lighting, no AC or heat, no music playing, and say, ‘Hey, it’s super discounted, so here you go.’ ”

He’s been in business since 2021. In his stores, he’s noticed that more customers are doing their regular shopping there before they go to a traditional retail store.

“In an economy like this, with inflation the way it is, where simple items cost so much more than they did a year or two ago, people still have a place where they can come and they can count on savings here.”

A father and daughter find items to buy at Hotbins.
CJ Nauman shops with his daughter, Sofia, 11, at Hotbins in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, June 16, 2023. Nauman found two keyboards normally priced around $70 each for $12. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

8 Tips for Shopping at Bin Stores

These tips come from The Bin Store in Columbia, South Carolina, and a few other places.

  1. Arrive early. Bin stores have limited amounts of merchandise, so get there early to get the best deals. Stores often get restocked overnight, so try to arrive as soon as the store opens.
  2. Bring cash. Some stores accept only cash or have a cash-only policy for certain items.
  3. Try negotiating. Bin stores are sometimes willing to negotiate on the price of an item, especially if it’s been sitting in a bin for a while. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount or make a counteroffer.
  4. Inspect the merchandise. Since bin stores often sell items that are discontinued or have minor defects, you should inspect an item carefully before buying it. Check for signs of damage. Also, many stores have “unboxing stations” where staffers will open boxes for you.
  5. Have a game plan. Make a list of the items you’re looking for and what stores you want to visit. This helps you stay focused and avoid overspending on impulse buys.
  6. Be aware of return policies. Bin stores often have different return policies than traditional retailers. Some items may be “final sale” or have a limited return window.
  7. Bring a shopping bag. Bring along your own reusable shopping bag in case the store doesn’t provide any.
  8. If you really want it, buy it right away. If you’re in a bin store that slashes prices each day, you can’t count on an item to be there the next day. If you wait for a better price, the item might be gone.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.