Sunday, July 12, 2009

Garage Sale Etiquette And Otherwise

I blog about this every July; it's my summertime passion.

$250.00 Frye Boots for an amazing $7. Cool-looking boots that some man wore only three times. Four beautiful sweaters for me - $1 a piece. One like-new couch (like never sat on) - $100. (Four decorator pillows thrown in for free.) One Lazy-Boy chair, in great shape and the perfect color - $20. Gorgeous antique side table - $5. Stemware; water goblets, wine glasses, juice glasses, and drinking glasses, service for eight, in perfect condition - $4. Hallmark Christmas ornaments - 50 cents each. L.L. Bean like-new jacket for Mike - $1. Tommy Hilfiger shirts in new condition - 50 cents each. Depression-glass antique plate - $1. Antique mirror - $2. Liz Claiborne purse and matching wallet, never used - $3. Hushpuppy winter boots, again, never used - $1.

Do I have your attention?

Never-used power and garden tools, great books, lovely jewelry, never-used purses, nice stock pots, awesome antique clock, clean rugs, spotless tablecloths, vintage linens as seen in Southern Living Magazine, to-die-for quilts, valuable framed artwork, pretty vases, plants and patio furniture, etc. etc. etc. ... all bought for REAL rock-bottom prices over the years.


Garage Sales. Yard Sales. Barn Sales. Estate Sales. Moving Sales. Sidewalk and Parking Lot Sales. Flea Markets.

I NEVER pay retail price for anything in my house. Well, maybe my TV, my computer, my mattresses, and my underwear. But I guarantee you, they were on sale for at least 50% off or more. So listen up! I've got better news for you than Fox, CNN Headline, and Nancy Grace!

Due to the economy, sell-your-first-born sales are in abundance this year. Hurrah for me! Hurrah for you! It's back to basics. An honest-to-gosh stimulus package for our finances - finding what we need (and sometimes what we want) at neighborhood garage sales.

Therefore, now more than ever before, it's time to lay down the rules for these sell-my-crap-to-pay-my-rent sales. If you're thinking about hosting a garage sale, you need to know the rules. If you're contemplating a sneak peak at your neighbor's garage sale, you still need to know the rules. The "nicer" neighborhoods are getting into the act this summer; more than ever before. Those folks, especially, need to know the rules. To get the most bang for your buck, everybody needs to know Garage Sale Etiquette. It's a must!

It seems everybody is hurting in the wallet area today. Making a few extra bucks these days is a great mood booster, agreed? Beginners are chucking their pride (please God don't let my Country-Club friends see my garage-sale signs) cleaning out their attics, basements and closets, and hosting an I'm-in-a-money-funk-so-I'm-selling-my-junk sale.

Well now, I've been hosting and hunting garage sales for over twenty-five years. (Mainly because I've always been in a money funk.) Rising at the crack of dawn every Saturday, summer-after-summer, throwing on pants I paint in and a t-shirt with holes, pulling my hair into a greasy pony-tail, and trudging across hundreds of dew-soaked yards to get to the first table of junk, I dare say that I'm a veteran. I know whereof I speak. Inevitably over the past few decades, I've learned a thing or two about garage-sale etiquette.

Here's the deal, folks -- you really do need to know the rules.

Rule #1. You can't charge RETAIL prices for your junk. Prime Example: Yesterday, a neighbor at the end of my street (in a pricey neighborhood) tried to sell her Longaberger basket collection for $35 per basket and up. Ha! Now I know they're collector baskets and folks pay $100 or more for just one of these "designer baskets" at Longaberger HOME PARTIES. BUT, you're not having a home party. You're having a GARAGE SALE! Oh yes, deary, there's a difference.

Note to Newbies: I've found Longaberger baskets (in like-new condition) for $1, $2, and $3 per basket at garage sales.

LEARN THIS HARD-FAST RULE: If you're hosting a garage sale to make a bunch of money, you're doing it for the WRONG REASON. (Unless for charity.) If you think your "stuff" is worth more than a few bucks, then you need to take your "stuff" to a consignment store, or sell it on e-bay. I don't give a flying flip if you were stupid enough to pay $200 for your designer purse or $50 for your pretty rug. I'll give you no more than $5 for it at a garage sale. It's as simple as that.
Remember this: Garage-sale hunters need a real bargain. Otherwise, they'll go to Walmart. Get it?

THE PURPOSE OF HOSTING A GARAGE SALE, is to clean out your closets! To rid your house of crap you don't want, and in the process you stick a few extra bucks in your pocket. That's it. There's no other reason to host a garage sale. It's BONUS money!

Therefore, Miss-My-Shit-Don't-Stink-First-Time-Garage-Sale Hostess, sell your precious Longaberger baskets to get rid of them or stick them on e-bay. (By the way, for the fun of it, I went back to her sale hours later. Every retail-priced Longaberger was still baking in the hot sun. Still beautifully displayed on her pretty table collecting dust. Along with the rest of her pricey junk. Still not sold. Shocker.)

Rule #2. Don't worry about displaying everything as if you're running a store. Put price tags on whatever you can, or have dollar tables, 50 cents tables, etc. And get up EARLY. Open your garage door by 7 am. That's the typical time a sale should begin. Don't be dragging things out of your shed, house, barn, or bedroom closet at 9 am. You'll lose a lot of sales. Be prepared.

Rule #3. Get a garage-sale permit if your town requires one. Be respectful of local ordinances.

Rule #4. Always say "good-morning." Or "how-ya'll-doin' ?" Be friendly. That way, if you ask your host to lower their price on the Phalscraft lamp you have your eyes on, you'll stand a better chance of getting it for $5 instead of their $8 asking price.

Speaking of bickering for a better price, it's perfectly acceptable to wheel and deal at any and every sale. Period. Some beginner hosts are rather taken aback when approached, but they get the picture after the first few garage-sale veterans rummage through their precious "stuff."

"Will you take $5 for the whole set of dishes?" A good garage-saler will never pay the asking price on anything marked over $1. Especially at the end of the morning. Prices go down as the day wears on, just so the host won't have to haul it inside again. But please remember, anything under $1, just pay for it and be thrilled you got a vintage linen tablecloth for a buck. (Which I have done.)

There are enough garage sales every Friday and Saturday, that if hosts aren't willing to wheel and deal, you can move on to the next.

And remember to say "thank you" and "have a great week-end." It's the gracious thing to do.

Rule #5. Television sets, irons, toys, anything that must be plugged in to work, ask to plug it in. Check it before your purchase it. Don't be shy, just ask. If it doesn't work, they shouldn't be selling it. UNLESS, they post a sign on it, "Doesn't Work." Common sense stuff.

Rule #6. Use cash only. Enough said. And all sales are final. Don't ever return a garage sale item. It's tacky.

Rule #7. If you host a sale, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take a course in proper signage first and foremost. Use large white or neon poster board folded over and write with a big, thick magic marker in HUMUNGO letters.
(draw an arrow pointing to the sale)
ALWAYS use arrows pointing in the right direction. Make it clear. ALWAYS USE THE DATE. NEVER list items you have for sale. It's too much to read for the garage sale hunter, and we don't care. DON'T nail your signs to a telephone pole. Use two sticks and pound the sign into the ground. Or use a metal frame from a real estate sign you may have lying around.

Make your sale easy to find. Post signs at all major and minor roads leading to your home. And for cryin' out loud! ... TAKE YOUR SIGNS DOWN AFTER YOUR SALE! I can't tell you how many sales I've searched for weeks afterward, only because some lazy garage-sale host didn't take her sign down.

Rule #8. If you don't live on a street where folks can park and get to your sale easily, then don't have one. Or find an empty parking lot somewhere and pitch a tent.

Rule #9. You don't have to list your garage sale on Craig's List or even in the newspaper. I rarely refer to them. There are enough garage sales every Saturday that if you just get out early and drive, you’ll find them.

Rule #10. Finally, make it fun, make it a treasure hunt. Somtimes I drive slowly past a sale, see that it's mostly all baby stuff, kids clothes, toys, (stuff I'm not interested in) and I don't stop. Sometimes even when I stop because I think it looks like a great sale, it's not. The stuff is dirty, broken, and should've been taken to the dump. Often I hit four or five bad sales before finding my treasure sale. The sale to beat all sales. Then the fun begins.

Last month I found a piece of Italian porcelain, over 75 years old at a yard sale. The host thought her inherited piece was ugly. She hated it, even though it had belonged to her great-grandmother. I bought it for $2. I can tell you it's worth much, much, much more than that. (Giggle.)

The thing is -- you never know. The old cliche' - one man's junk is another man's treasure - is true. You have to give up a few dollars of gas, a few hours of sleep, and a Saturday morning, but you may find the treasure of a lifetime. I think that even if I had all the money in the world, I'd still treasure hunt at garage sales. I'd continue to find what I need for pennies on the dollar, not because I'm cheap, but because it makes sense.

Just use proper etiquette to do it.

Here's to a successful garage-sale summer! Mike and I just might see you out there!

Blessings to you and yours.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


From a very partial reader. HUB