Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Wonderful (?) World of Garage Sales

A couple weeks ago I participated in a two-day community garage sale.  It was both fun and painful.  Fun because I got rid of stuff that has been collecting dust in the basement for years.  And fun because I made a few dollars.

But painful because it’s hot, sweaty work sitting in a humid garage for hours on end practically giving my treasures away for free. 

And let me just tell you – Garage Sale Regulars are ruthless!

They will dicker until you give in and meet their price just to get rid of them. And, frankly, I thought my prices were more than reasonable to begin with.  I priced my items to move since I did not want to have a garage full of junk after it was all over simply because I couldn’t sell something for a dollar that originally cost me $100.

But did that stop the Garage Sale Regulars (aka GSRs) from haggling with me?  No, it did not.

After the first day, I learned much about the art of Garage Selling.  Well, not actually selling the garage. Oh, you know what I mean! 

I learned that I can’t sell things for the lowest amount I would accept or I’d get ripped off completely. I may as well have just given my stuff away for free to those heartless GSRs who didn’t give a hoot that I was hot and sweaty and my hair was frizzing at an alarming rate while I was hanging out in my garage for hours on end. Believe me, hanging out in the garage is not my idea of a good time. And frizzy hair as a byproduct is even less so.

So I marked some things up a bit to give me a little wiggle room. And I marked some things down because there was no way I was going to get ten dollars for, well, anything.

That designer purse marked 5 bucks? They wanted to give me $2 for it. 

Those expensive window sheers that were only used a few months and were in pristine condition? The GSRs didn’t want to pay $3 for all six, but were willing to take them off my hands for fifty cents.  Come on, people, gimme a break.  You can’t buy new ones at Walmart for three bucks, let alone fifty cents!

But after the first day, I added up my sales, and got jazzed about selling even more stuff the next day.  So I started rooting around my closets trying to find even more unused “treasures.”  I went through my jewelry armoire for all those baubles that hadn’t been worn in a while and were simply taking up prime real estate. (Every so often you’ve gotta make room for new stuff, you see?!)

So I added a lot of new “inventory” for the next day’s sales.

I learned that costume jewelry sells. Quickly.  But I also learned that it’s imperative to make sure no coveted earrings are in the mix. Once someone picks them up and hands you a dollar for the pair, you’re out of luck.  Goodbye, cute earrings that I didn’t really intend to sell!

On the whole, though, it was a relief to bid goodbye to most things on the tables.  When we moved to this house, I had many items that didn’t fit into our new color scheme or layout. I wanted to give them new homes and was willing to sell them for a song. 

But when a woman picked up one of my handbags to purchase, I felt a real pang of regret.  Huh, I wondered.  Where did that come from?  I didn’t think I was going to carry that purse again, so I was surprised by my reaction.  She even paid me for it – and then at the last moment, asked if it was okay if she traded it for another purse.  I said, “Absolutely!” with perhaps a tad bit too much enthusiasm. 

And as soon as she walked away, I grabbed that handbag and stashed it inside the house and slammed the door. Whew. Crisis averted. 

And I’ve been carrying that purse ever since.

So I guess I also learned that you need to carefully evaluate the items you put out for sale. If you’re not quite done with an item, don’t sell it.

I am sure there are folks out there who are complete pros at the art of Garage Sales, but I learned a few things on this, my first foray.

Like, for instance, have lots of small bills. People bring $20 bills to garage sales and expect you to give them change when they are buying something for a buck or two.  One woman even tried to give me a $20 bill for a fifty cent item. And she expected me to be able to make change! 

Have that happen a couple times and you could be out of all the 1s and 5s in your stash.  Unless you have someone who can run to the bank for more change, you’re out of luck.

Speaking of doing the garage sale alone – be prepared to “hold it” – unless you want to close the garage door and lose out on potential sales while you can dash inside for a potty break. Fortunately, I had some friends stop by and I was able to make a quick pit stop while they held down the fort.

Have lots of plastic grocery bags handy to hold your customers’ newly purchased treasures. I had a couple ladies buy even more things after they were able to free up their hands to look over even more merchandise.

Be willing to sell things for less than expected. It doesn’t matter if you paid a lot of money for something. If you’re selling it at a garage sale, understand that the GSRs won’t pay big bucks for anything. Heck, they don’t even bring a lot of money to these things. I heard some woman say her “budget” for the day was $5. And there were a lot of neighbors selling things, so she certainly wasn’t going to buy any big-ticket items.

If you have something really valuable and want to make more money on it, you’d be better off selling it on eBay.

Move stuff around. I had a couple nice candlesticks for sale and I was surprised that they didn’t get picked up right away. I moved them to another, more visible, spot and they were purchased almost instantly.

Know when to close the garage door. Even though the community sale was going on for a few more hours, I realized it was time to close up shop when I hadn’t made a sale in about 40 minutes. There weren’t many items left on the tables, so latecomers would walk up the driveway and see the few things left and gave them only a cursory glance before walking away.

In the end, I made a decent amount of money that made the effort worthwhile and I only had one small box left over that went in the Charity Donation pile.

So I’d have to say that my first effort at holding a garage sale was a success.  But it’s one that I don’t intend to repeat anytime soon.

After all, I really don’t like hanging out in my garage for hours on end.

And I really don’t like frizzy hair. 

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