Tuesday, June 27, 2006

HOW TO PUT ON A GOOD GARAGE SALE by Someone in a Buying State of Mind

I go to a sale EXPECTING to buy something and frequently doing so. I rarely walk away from a garage sale, and even more rarely from an estate sale, empty-handed. So I think that I can honestly say that I am an ideal customer. From that vantage point, I would like to tell you flat out what to do and what not to do at a sale.

1. If you advertise in the paper, which I always think is a good idea, don't open the sale to collector's the night before and let them walk away with everything. I know you are thinking dollar signs, but I'll be there bright and early at the time you state in the ad, and I think it stinks that you didn't even stick to your own guidelines. I might even just walk away in disgust.

2. Put up some decent signs for pity sake. Don't think I'm going to read the address on the sign outside your subdivision and remember it while I wander down cherry, maple, sumac and oak street. A sign on every corner is what you need....with big arrows. Tape it to a big box and weight it down. Consider balloons...they always catch my eye. Get that neon poster-board...it costs like 3 bucks and will pay for itself 10 times over. Cheap signs tell me you don't have anything good (thin paper) or you don't know what you are doing (brown cardboard). On the other hand, if your sign is "too good" (Wooden, painted, stencilled) I will probably think you are "perpetual" or repeat sale, likely to have high prices and picked-over junque and I won't bother. When your sale is over, take the signs down. It will keep unwanted traffic out of your neighborhood and make your neighbors much happier with you.

3. Tell us what you are: If it is a moving sale, yard sale, barn sale, estate sale, garage sale, porch sale, whatever....their are subtle differences that cue me in on whether or not to chase your sign. I once followed a "Barn Sale" sign for 10 miles expecting stuff peole would put in a barn and ended up at a lousy pole-barn full of cheap packaged flea-market crap. And btw, HUGE sale generally means just you have a bunch of clothes. Consider these for signs: MAN's SALE (tools, fishing gear, oily stuff) HOUSEHOLD SALE* STUDENT SALE* CLOTHING SALE* KIDS STUFF SALE*

4. Bundle. If you are selling kids clothes, bundle up similar sizes, seasons, items (like onesies) with masking tape, mark it clearly as to the size, and price it together. I have 100 sales to go to, and I'm not going to paw through a mish-mash table looking for matching socks. I do that at home already.

5. If you advertise in the paper, put the address in your ad. Seems pretty straightforward, but you'd be surprised.

6. If you are doing an estate sale, I feel for you. I've been there. I try very hard to be respectful because I know that this is your family stuff and your memories. If you don't want to sell something, mark it SOLD. Or set it aside in a clearly-marked off-limits area. Price your items clearly. I went to a sale this weekend where nothing was priced and everything I took to whoever was in charge (which wasn't clear) I was told it wasn't for sale or that they didn't want to part with it, or I was quoted a price that was rediculously high. This is awkward for everyone and doesn't encourage getting rid of the household items you really want to get rid of. If you don't know what you have, get someone outside the family who does know. DON'T GO BY PRICES YOU"VE SEEN IN ANTIQUE STORES!!!! You probably won't get that price. If I want to pay that price, I'd go to the antique store myself at a reasonable time of day, not at 7:00 a.m. when I am pre-coffee.

7. Unless you are a finalist on The Apprentice, don't suggest things I might like. I HATE that and nothing will send me scurrying away faster than you telling me what might interest me. You don't know me and you don't know what I want. If it is that hard to find what I want, your sale is a disorganized mess and you are better off spending your time and energy making it neat and easy to scan. And while you are at it, don't offer my kids big, loud, obnoxious toys. If you would like to busy my kidlets with a box of free toys from McDonalds, that's great. I can throw them in my free box when they get tired of them. But when you offer them something I don't want them to have, you are infringing on my rights as a parent. That's not cool.

Lastly: Decide what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to make money? Or are you trying to get rid of stuff? One of these has to be the guiding principle that characterizes your sale. If you are trying to sell a high-priced item, list it in the paper, take it to a consignment shop, or have someone sell it for you on ebay. Don't ever expect to get more than 30% of what you paid for something at a garage sale. I go to your garage sale to help you get rid of stuff. If I think you are trying to make a rediculous amount of money, I'll just walk away. I don't know why, but it is a huge turnoff. I guess because I believe Garage Sales should be for fun, for you and for the buyers. If it is fun and cheap it's much more likely that I will buy a lot, which will ultimatly bring you more cash than if I bought one high-priced item or nothing at all. Consider making this very clear to your buyers. I frequently put up a sign that says "I want to get rid of this stuff...make me an offer!" Although my items are already priced, I want buyers to know what the general idea is at the beginning. If you are trying to make money on your high end antiques or clothing, say something like this in your ad: "High end sale."

okay...time to read the ads. Have fun out there!


ash said...

vg advice nessa-bean...however garage sales here are not enjoyable at all (either going or having). i do believe that i have been tainted by having to deal with 40 hatians all showing up at 7:30 and digging through all your nice piles and then offering you a quarter for a bunch of stuff....in our ads we have to write "nothing for under a quarter" and "absolutely no sales before 8".
..last time i had a sale they followed me in their car while i was putting up signs in the neighborhood for about 15 minutes. the sale before that somebody stole a cd changer that was right by our cash table. when you go to sales you have to physically shove your way to something good. if you really want to make friends with them you offer the seller the asking price while their being worn down by a mean old creole-speaking haggler.
yah, i'd say tainted is a good word.
no offense to the many very nice hatian people of the world.

klasieprof said...

I was at one sale ash, and the field workers from Mexico kept piling out of a van...and coming and coming and coming...there were about 20. I usually don't get very scared..(this was an old lady garage sale)...but I got the krreeps...I stuck around with the old lady till they left. It was rather intimidating.
She was scared.
The scooped up all the clothing, blankets towels, and speakers..and left.
It was a wierd feeling.

ash said...

i guess they all go and sell it at flee market later in miami....it's a pretty rough crowd.

Blogging tips