Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Garage/Yard/Tag Sale Etiquitte

I stopped at a garage sale this past week. It's a never-ending garage sale, I've driven by it for 2 years ignoring it out of principle. Then I saw a small table I'd been looking for, and so I stopped and gave in. While I looked around, I overheard a conversation the 2 women running the 'garage' were having.

Woman #1: "So what are you going to do with the stuff that hasn't sold here?"

Woman #2: "I'm going to have a garage sale next weekend. I'll put it in the paper. Do you know what the deadline is for the paper?"

A garage sale. to sell the leftover stuff that didn't sell at.... a garage sale. Now why didn't I think of that? Brilliant! The masses will never see it coming!

...stepping onto soapbox...
I've lived on both coasts and places in the middle, and they all have one thing in common: Yard Sales. No matter what you call them, the goal is the same. Convert your 'stuff' into money, and empty space. (Though that can be dangerous combination.)

So, after several years of stopping every 300 yards or so on a saturday afternoon in hundreds of little neighborhoods, I offer up this small checklist, should you be planning a yard sale in the future. Please review prior to, and AFTER your little enterprise, and we'll all be happier.

Before The Event

If it ain't for sale, don't leave it out. This should be self-explanitory, but if you don't want to sell that lovely ol' crocheted toilet roll cover, than please don't leave it on the table in the garage next to the things for sale. Collect all that stuff you must hang on to, and put it away. Out of sight. Cover with a sheet (also not for sale).

If you have things for sale that are inside the house, like large pieces of furniture, please clean up a bit. Let's pretend a couple hundred people might traipse through the house and perhaps put the dirty dishes away, clothes on the children (and spouse), and hide the dirty laundry. Just sayin' is all. And you might want to slap a sign on the piece for sale. If you send me wondering through your house to see 'the dresser in the spare bedroom' and there are 3 of them in there....

Pricing tips:
*You might consider actually putting prices on things you want to sell. Some of us are shy, and don't want to ask how much every coffee mug might cost. You also may not remember.

*You may think you want to haggle, and that's fine but please put THAT on a sign so we have a clue how to buy things. Remember, folks in this country are not used to haggling over price.

*(Pay attention, this one is critical)Pricing. Hey, just because Star Wars made a comback does NOT mean the glass you got with your Happy Meal in 1978 with Luke Skywalker's face on it that's chipped and looks like you used it to mix paint last year does NOT mean you can sell it for $7.00 or something. Reality Check: We're not stupid. Just because you CALL it a collectors item, does not MAKE it a collectors item. Because don't think I won't use my cellphone to check ebay for current prices of crappy condition happy meal paraphenalia. Let's be honest here. If you had the 'Rare Sherriff Woody' doll sitting on a table in the basement, you'd head to ebay with it, not the garage sale.

*Please use common sense. No one will buy the macaroni art your cousin's-best-friend's-daughter made you in 1984. If it holds no $ value, and holds no sentimental value.... throw it away.
Moving on.

If you put up a sign or 2 on a telephone pole or something, here are some thoughts:

  1. it really ought to face oncoming traffic. If it is stapled to the pole facing the road and the neighbor across the street, I cannot read it at 35mph no matter how bright the paper you use, so angle it like a billboard, would ya?.
  2. Please don't write in pencil. No one can read your sign, unless your looking to catch pedestrians. Remember, I'm at least 10 feet from your sign, and still going 35mph. Look through the junk drawer in the kitchen for something called a SHARPIE or raid your kids' coloring box for markers. And stick with black or blue. Your not trying to win the 5th grade art contest, your trying to help me find your junk stuff for sale.
  3. Please write in BIG PEOPLE print. Writing small was great when there was a paper shortage. However, I can't read it (see problems with #2 above).
  4. Date the darn thing! Please for the love of sales, don't just put "Garage Sale Today". I can't tell you how frustrating it is to those of us who actually believe the sign, how frustrating it is to never find the sale that is happening 'today'. We're left with a feeling of having missed out on some wonderful find.
  5. If I have to go left at the next corner to find you, and go more than a block, better put up another sign. I have a short attention span, may think I'm lost, or might find ANOTHER garage sale to stop at and miss going further to yours. This is especially important if there is another turn involved anywhere further down the road. I'm sorry but your not as well known as you think, and we don't know where you live.

During The Event

As my friend Jamie used to say, 'Practice your Monster Smile.' That means smile big folks. If you can't do that, at least make eye contact and say hello. Please do not look at me as if I am an interloper pawing through your things. Your the one who dragged it all out on the front lawn, try not to scare away the buyers.

Turn on the lights if it's dark in the garage. I know, I know. Electricity costs money, but if you can't see what it is than neither can I and I won't buy it. Here's a tip: If folks keep taking something back outside to get a good look at it, you need lights on. Lights not working? Drag out a lamp or stick a bulb in the lamp that's for sale and plug it in. At least you won't have to answer the "Does the lamp work" question a billion times...

Change. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, and I certainly don't want you to think that I think you have... well, no brain, but your selling stuff. I just went to the bank and have a roll of 20's. Your high ticket item on the kiddie toy table is $1.50, you do the math. If you have no change, you have no sale. And no, please don't ask me to check my center console in my car for correct change. I'll get in to check but I won't get back out to buy.

After The Event.

So, your broo-ha-ha is over, you've made your pennies millions. Just a couple of little things that will make life nicer for the rest of us...

Put it away. If it didn't sell and your not repeating the shin-dig next weekend, do something with it. That's why God made the Salvation Army, it's there for a reason. But before you go there, please check the $ value of what's left. Was it priced high or should it be thrown away?

And last but not least, and I can't stress this enough. This one is critical. TAKE DOWN THE SIGN. If you paid attention to #5 regarding signage, take down ALL of the signs. If you do not, and we find your house where there is no garage sale after driving all over looking for it (weeks late for the Event), don't be surprised if you find yourself toilet papered or something.

And one littel post script. If you find that after having the neighborhood's longest running garage sale, going on for it's 17th straight week and no one is showing up.... get the point. It's a garage sale, not a dollar store. Close up shop and wait until next year to try again. This is illegal in most towns, something about running a business in a residental district. And, if I get to your 'garage sale' and find things for sale that are new, still in packages, and more than 20 of that same item on the table, I'll be sorely tempted to use that cellphone again because I will not be your next mark (Slang A person who is the intended victim of a swindler; a dupe.)

...stepping off of soapbox...


Tsock Tsarina said...

Gee, if I didn't know better, I'd think maybe something struck a nerve here....

Pat said...

Author! Author!

Perfectly stated. And I laughed so hard while reading this that my face hurts.

Thank you - somebody had to say it.

Octavia said...

Great work.