My aunt, my aunt’s good friend Denise and my cousin are all garage sale pros and occasionally they let me tag along provided I’m willing to be reasonably functional and ready to go by 6:30 am. For me that means, getting up at 6, throwing on clothes and driving as fast as possible down the highway 30 miles to arrive on my aunt’s porch on time (or if I’m lucky, having them come up my way and then I get to sleep until 7).
Here are some things I’ve learned from them (although they could make a much better list) and I’ll pass them along as words of wisdom to garage sale havers and garage sale goers. (Again, my aunt is a pro at both.)
Havers: Your garage sale, the one you posted that starts at 8 am doesn’t start at 8 am, it starts the moment you dare to step outside with an item and someone catches site of you. Most serious garage sale people/dealers have already drawn sophistated maps of garage sales in your area and they have a plan of attack, which starts at 7 am – not at 8 am or 9 am – 7 am. If you don’t want to be swarmed, then keep the lights off and don’t open the door until 7:59.
Havers: I know that beer dispenser that holds multiple bottles, spins and has an elaborate tubing system is a priceless heirloom that makes it difficult to part with, but go ahead and price it like the treasure it is: $5 and be willing to go to $3, because it’s tacky even if you have the original box and all the styrofoam peanuts that came with it. See, if I wanted to pay $20, I’d go to Wal-Mart and buy a new one – one you probably haven’t licked. Also, saying it’s a “wine” dispenser while I’m looking over your shoulder at the Black Label beer in the picture, doesn’t make it classier. I won’t fall for your clever ruse!
Basically, if I can just pay a few bucks more to get it new. I’m going to do that. Who knows where your stuff has been. If you’re really not ready to part with your precious items, then take them to a consignment store. This is a garage sale.
Havers: Sell coffee and sodas. I won’t buy them, but lots of people will and it’s a great way to get your bored pre-teen engaged. Chips are weird unless you’re offering something to go with them. I’m never eyeing your used golf clubs and thinking, you know Funyuns would really hit the spot. Now if you’re talking Dr. Pepper, the table wine of the south, that’s an entirely different matter.
Havers: Be prepared to make change. Goers think you can break $100. I don’t know why. It’s just is the way it is.
Goers: Carry small denominations with you. Havers NEVER have change. Of course, remember you can dicker with them because of that. “Oh, you can’t break a $1 – well, I’ve got $0.15 in in the ashtray. Sound good?”
Havers: Be ready to haggle. No one really expects to pay $5 for your DVDs but it’s really cute you made up that little sign. Also, cookbooks are only $0.25 – I have that on the best authority.
Goers: Haggle. Did you see those prices? Oh please. Let them sit on that merchandise a good hour or more and they’ll become a little more desperate as the day wears on and they realize they’re just going to have to haul it all in. Of course, after an hour you’ve moved on to to another more promising neighborhood – so remind them early that they will be sitting on that item unless they take your offer. Scrunch up your face and shake your head a lot, too. Haggling is all in the performance.
Havers: Have a gimmick – like selling marijuana in planters. I’ve seen it work. I’m not kididng. Those people moved some plants!
Goers: Be on the lookout for undercover cops.
That’s about it. I know there are better tips to be given, but I’m not a regular garage sale goer. Maybe as I become more and more convinced that wandering around in the wee hours of the morning is a fine idea, I can revisit this topic. Or just maybe I can get out of it by having my aunt and Denise come up with some real advice.