Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Ten Commandments of Garage Sales

My mother took me with her to garage sales almost every Saturday for most of my childhood. I went mostly in self-defense. If I went, I could nix clothes that I didn't like, or make sure to snag new books I was interested in. I never realized that during that time that I was also receiving an education in the separate culture of garage sale mavens.

1. Thou shalt not hold a garage sale, planning to make money.

If you think of a garage sale as an opportunity to make money, you'll price your second-hand schmutter too high. If there's one thing guaranteed to offend all garage sale patrons, from the casual once-a-year saunterer to the weekly devotee, it's walking into a garage sale and finding things priced too high. The purpose of a garage sale is to get everything you want to get rid of out of the house, and get other people to help you haul it off in exchange for a pittance. Not making money.  If you want to make money, then work ebay and craigslist. Yes, I know it's a hella more trouble. But that's how it works.

2. Open Early.

The weekly devotees all get up at 5 a.m. and decide which garage sales they're going to and in what order over their morning coffee. If you open at 7 a.m., you've got a better chance of them coming your sale first with all their money. By 9 a.m. all garage sales are open, and the competition is fierce.

3. Advertise the Unique

*Every* garage sale has clothes, books, and toys. Every single one. Do not lead off your advertisement with those items. Anything unusual you have, like specific types of furniture, musical instruments and equipment, collectible items like Hummel figurines, power tools, etc. are much better to mention in your ads.

4. Advertise Widely 

Put advertisements on your local craigslist, check the local newspapers for online advertisement options (Usually free), if there's a local radio station that discusses yard sales or estate sales, put in a call. If you're in a rural area with only newspaper options, take out a cheap ad. Don't assume they'll drive by your house by accident.  Put your address and the time you want to start.

5. Make Directional signs that are legible from 10+ feet away.

Put out LARGE signs saying YARD SALE, with arrows, the date, and your address if you can fit them all in without sacrificing size. Nothing makes my mother more furious than having to stop in the middle of the road to try and squint at a sign the size of a manila envelope with tiny writing of hollow bubble letters. It's not only dangerous for traffic, but if you failed to advertise your sale, people won't know where to go, and will get frustrated and angry. Also, the Date is really important, because if they didn't see any advertisements for your sale, they may assume that the sign is old and out of date. Again, not what you want.

6. Embrace the Haggle.

People will make offers. They will usually look at your price tag, and offer half to a third of what you wrote. If its not a hot item like the unique things listed above, take the offer. Chances of another buyer coming along and wanting that same pair of lime green Bermuda shorts aren't good, and you'll be left with a lot of crap all over your moral high ground.

7. Set an End Time as well, to tempt the Sweepers.

Some professional garage salers - yes, they exist - will plan to hit large sales at the end of sale in order to try and scoop things they're interested in at ridiculously cheap prices. Telling them when the sale ends means they can plan to come hit your sale at the end. They may or may not, but setting an end time gives them the option.

8. Have Change.

This seems fairly self-evident, but if you price anything for a dime, you'd better have nickels and dimes for the quarters you're going to get. Have plenty of ones and fives. You'll be handed twenties for something that costs a quarter, especially if you open early, and people need to break change. If you don't have change, they won't buy your stuff.

9. Do not Stare at your Customers with the Beady-Eyed "Don't ya dare steal my stuff!" face.

This one always irritates me when I go to garage sales. If you're that protective of it, you can damn well keep it. And if you think that people can't tell that you're concerned about them swiping stuff, you are incorrect. If you need extra sugar in your coffee to smile at people, then load it up. You're getting rid of it, remember? It's worthless to you. See Rule number one.

10. Hold your sale in the open, with easy access to all the items.

Lately I've been seeing a lot of sales being held in someone's apartment. Frankly, that creeps me right the hell out. I do not want to step inside a stranger's home. One, it's weird. Two, I feel trapped, and I may not want your crap. Also, if you hold it in your backyard, please don't make me walk through knee-high grass to a dark, badly-lit shed. Put stuff out on tables so it can be easily seen. Stuff on the ground means I have to kneel down to look at it. If I have bad knees or a bad back, I may skip the trouble.

Guess what I did last weekend!  Made $80 and got lots of room in my shed/spare bedroom now!

1 comment:

  1. Wow this post reminds me of my childhood. I spent many Saturdays following my mom around at garage sales. Thanks for sharing.