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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Art of the Garage Sale

by Alethea (writer), Los Angeles, October 30, 2006

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You’ve seen signs for them, your neighbors have had them, your relatives have had them, and maybe you’ve even been to one yourself, but they’re always around. Garage Sales. Are they centers for circulating unwanted junk or more like places where you can get a great deal for amazingly cheap? A little bit of both I suspect. I conducted a garage sale these past few weekends, and the experience was quite an interesting one. Although the first weekend I realized I had made several mistakes in executing the sale, I eventually began realizing the art of a proper garage sale.

Here’s what I have learned…

-- Advertising – Advertising is good for specific big items you want to get rid of as well as a general sale listing. A lot of people scan through the sites looking for specific items, so if you have a lot of specialty items (like a lot of anime), you should definitely put up several posts indicating special items. Craigslist and Myspace seemed to be the most prolific in terms of attracting people to the sale, more so than the Recycler and Pennysaver.
-- Signage – Besides advertising, putting up garage sale signs is a must. A large part of the traffic will be due to those people that wander around looking for garage sales and you have to make sure they can find your sale, especially if you don’t live on a main street (like me). Big letters and arrows are critical. You’ll probably want a combination of soft (paper) and hard (cardboard) signs. For most poles (except for telephone poles you can use thumbtacks) you’ll want to duct tape the signs completely around the pole so they don’t get knocked off. A secure sign means you won’t have to go back and put up more later (this happened to me as well.) Soft signs work best for tacks and telephone poles, while hard signs and duct tape work best for everything else.
-- Get up early – The hard core garage sale goers are early birds. If you can start the sale by 8am, do it. If not, 9am is probably the latest you want to start. If you don’t want people knocking on your door at 7am, leave a sign on your front door saying when the sale will start. However, there are no guarantees some people won’t knock on the door anyway. The sale will probably die off around noonish, but if you want to extend the sale hours you will get stragglers in until mid-afternoon.
-- Pricing – Surprisingly, most people are not apt on bargaining. If you decide to price everything, be careful what you price it. If people think it’s too high, they won’t even bother to make an offer. If you do price things, a general label is probably best, like all books $1 - $5. Something like that leaves room open to name a price or make an offer, and the buyer is aware of the price range you want. Be prepared to make special deals.
-- Cash drawer – Make sure you have plenty of one dollar bills! And do not leave the cash drawer lying around.
-- Presentation – The best spot for things is out in the open. If you have a garage sale and display everything in your garage, despite that it’s beautifully organized, people won’t respond to it like they will if everything is out in the open. Make sure you have a lot of table tops or shelving to utilize your space. You’ll also want to block off the driveway so people don’t park in the middle of everything (and people will if they get the chance).
-- Weird People – You will for sure get the entire range of personalities at garage sales. There will be the impossible bargainers, the creepy jerks, the finicky buyers, the rampaging children, the 5 finger discounters, among others. In general, most of the people will not want to pay anything even close to what your item is worth. Be prepared to deal with this. It’s best to be in the attitude of wanting to get rid of your old things instead of wanting to make money.
-- Neighbors – Be wary of feuding garage sale opponents that tear down your signs. If you notice that your flow of people has dropped, go check your sign lineup. It is more than possible some other yard sale has torn it down. On the other hand, many neighbors will randomly decide to go with your flow and set up their own garage sale since your signs are attracting people. This may or may not be a problem for you. Besides competing sales, you also want to make sure that your next door neighbors are not doing any sort of yard or house construction, like fertilizing their lawn with manure (this also happened to me).

Don’t be surprised if you don’t sell everything, you probably won’t. Anything left over you can always call the Salvation Army to pick up. Garage Sales can be an interesting experience, and even fun, especially if you have friends helping you out. I think circulating items, instead of just trashing them, is an important way to not be such a wasteful society. It is true that one person’s trash could be another man’s treasure. So, if you plan and prepare correctly, you just may survive your first garage sale and end up making a sizable small sum for yourself.


About the Writer

Alethea is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on The Art of the Garage Sale

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By Ariel on October 30, 2006 at 10:48 pm
very interesting :) Haven't bought anything from a garage sale yet nor did one myself, but I'm sure this article will prove useful one day!
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