Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Anatomy of a Garage Sale

I sit here tonight, exhausted but satisfied. My wallet is a bit thicker. I would take credit for this, but I cannot. This morning was our annual neighborhood garage sale. Year after year, I swear I will not take part in this, because year after year we've had disappointing returns. Last night, after returning very late from a scrapbooking demo at a friend's house, I told my husband I thought we should just skip it. He was feeling sick, I was worn down, and the kids seem to be fighting off some bug too. We had done nothing to prepare and it just didn't seem it was logical to try and make it happen. So, we would lose our $5 fee for entering. Who cares?

When I woke up this morning, I felt like I'd been run over by a large truck. My entire body ached, my head was pounding like a big bass drum, and I felt like..well total ass to be blunt about it. I was having no part in dragging out boxes at 6:30 a.m. for people to come rifle through. But, alas, the sale must go on.

This led me to realize something about garage sales. People either fall into one camp or the other: the anti-garage sellers or the garage sale nuts. I grew up in a family of the former, but I married into a family of the latter! Because of this, I feel I have a unique and well-balanced perspective to perform this analysis for you today.

The anti-garage sellers make some valid points for their side. Is it really worth the effort you go through to get back a few hundred dollars from items that probably costed you quadruple that amount? Do you really feel good having strange people handling your favorite t-shirts from last year? Is it fun haggling with some 70-year-old man over 50 cents for that pair of pants? I mean, really is that your idea of entertainment? I can whole-heartedly answer that with a big NO.

Now, as for the garage sale nuts, they actually come in two flavors. There are the hard-shelled nuts--those are the ones who put ON the sales, but don't usually go and buy from other sales. Then, there are your softer varieties, who live by the garage sale. And, it takes both kind of nuts to make the garage sale world go round, my friends.

My husband is a definite hard shell. He sets out those boxes of clothes we haven't worn for 3 to 5 years and he will not budge on price. The man knows how to sell everything from maternity wear to nuts and bolts like they were rare-found gems. And, he is really in his element during these sales, chatting with people and telling the history of some of the bigger ticket items. "Are you sure you don't want to look at these kids shoes too? They were barely worn!"

But, sometimes those hard shell sellers come across the worst kind of soft shell--the professional garage sale nut. These are the people who can walk away if they price is not right. Or there's also the nuts who come looking for specific items at your sale, and will breeze through with a quick scan and barely a wave as they take their fanny packs and speed walk to the next house. My mother-in-law, I suspect, is quite the professional garage sale nut. She goes in search of good jigsaw puzzles, antique toys for the grandkids, and books for kids and rarely picks up anything else.

And, not to be forgotten, there is a rare breed of nut who can classify themselves as both a hard-shell and soft-shell. These are the people who wheel and deal and let go of items only to walk next door and pick up more items that they think they can turn around for more money, or items they know are just priced way too low simply so they can brag about their finds. An acquaintance of mine falls into this final category. After I mistakingly mentioned that we were having a sale a few years back, she asked if I would mind if she brought "four or five things she'd been wanting to sell." Imagine our shock when she backed her car FULL of things up and started unloading in our driveway, in FRONT of all of our items. And, quite frankly, you really can't look at your neighbors in the face for a few weeks after they walk up to find well worn old books on the Kama Sutra, stained old socks, and an open bag of Depends being sold to the lowest bidder. But, we survived this day and learned an important lesson--do NOT advertise that you're having a garage sale to friends. You never know WHAT might end up front and center at your sale!

Today, my husband the hard shell had an easy time of most buyers. But, there is always one item that you consider to be of great value that people just skim over. He usually latches on to that and really works visitors to look at that one. Today, it was our brass fireplace screen and tools. It is really a beautiful set that put us back a pretty penny several years back. Sadly, shiny brass went out of style faster than you can say "parachute pants." This year, my hubby was determined to sell this thing or die trying. He lowered the price slightly, something he rarely does. At last, he found a buyer, but only for the screen and not the tools. When I came back out to check the progress, he sighed defeated, "No one is going to buy those tools without the screen."

Ironically, the next person who walked up asked, "How much do you want for those fireplace tools?" I watched my husband try to contain his excitement as he quickly said, "Only four dollars." "Sold!" The lady replied.

When it was all said and done, we were about $300 richer, and he'd sold most all of our outgrown kids clothes, old CDs, and unwanted knick-knacks. All that was left were definite donations, throw-aways, and a few E-Bay candidates.

Oh, did I fail to mention that about the hard-shelled nuts? They're ALL OVER the Ebay auctions...(grin)


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