Garage Sale Etiquette
By Lois Hoffman
Stuff. Everyone has stuff, myself included. I have, or should I say, had a lot of stuff. This isn’t necessarily good, it isn’t necessarily bad, it just is. So, the logical conclusion that everyone came to is that I should have a garage sale.
Nearly everyone I know has had one in their lifetime, some have them all the time. So, I had one, my very first one and my very last one. I learned a few things about people in the process.
First of all, this was more than just a garage sale for me. Jim was a collector of many things. He liked “stuff.” He wasn’t to the point of hoarder, but I daresay he never threw anything away. I am not even talking about his real collectibles, but just stuff in general. Even so, it was still hard for me to make the decision to part with anything although I felt closed in and just wanted some room.
So, I advertised it not only as a garage sale, but also as an estate sale. I also knew that I should price stuff a little high so people could offer less and that would make them feel like they got a bargain. It’s only mind games but it’s how it’s done.
OK, I didn’t mind the “make an offer” deals but I did mind the comments that I started hearing like “What crazy person put a price like that on an iron skillet?” and “You’ll never get your money, you’ll have it forever”. Really? Sorry to say that comments like these brought out the stubborn side of me. Even though I knew it would probably go to Goodwill in the end, my reply was “OK, I’ll keep it forever!” Come on people, this “stuff” meant something to someone, have a little respect. If you don’t want to pay the price, walk on by.
Then there were the yard tramplers … literally. Jim was a landscaper and, not bragging, but because of him we do have a nice yard with some unique items. I do appreciate it and am happy to share it with others. I was honored when people asked if they could look around. But, then there were the others who took it upon themselves to climb the rocks, touch all the yard ornaments and literally move things. Shame on you.
Then there is the part of “sale” that I don’t understand what people don’t understand. One gentleman, and I use the term loosely, looked over everything that was on the sale tables. Then he asked me if I had anything in the barn for sale. When I told him there was nothing out there I wanted to sell, he said he’d just look anyway. I told him “no” three times as he headed for the barn. He thought I may have missed something that I should sell. People, give us garage salers just a little credit here, we do know what we want to sell!
Believe it or not, I even had a lesson in auctions. Jim had bought this tricycle made of steel wheels and lead pipe. It was the perfect example of over-sized yard art. Everyone who stopped thought it was cute but not cute enough to buy. Then a guy offered me half the price I had on it. As soon as we decided to split the difference and he went home to get his trailer a woman stopped and told me she would pay full price. I called him up to make sure he still wanted it and, little did I know, I started a bidding war. She eventually offered me even more than the original price. He was right when he reminded me that we had made a deal and he and the bike went home.
However, that is not the end of the story. He also bought a gas grill. I told him the last time I tried it, it worked except the electronic igniter did not work. He took it home without even checking it out and then called me up to complain that it was junk and I should be ashamed to sell it. Guess I didn’t know that garage sale items came with warranties.
If it sounds like I am complaining, I really am not because, like everything else in life, this truly was a learning experience. I do appreciate everyone who stopped and I did get to see a lot of folks whom I had not seen in a while. You know how you tend to get busy and life gets in the way of, well, life.
Many of these folks bought some items that were Jim’s just so they would have a piece of his life. To all of you I say a hearty “Thank you!” and I know he would be pleased that you have something that meant so much to him. When I was talking to Phyllis Beers, a dear friend from Indiana, she reminded me of a quote from Muhammed Ali, “Don’t cry because he is gone, but smile because he was here.” All these items are gentle reminders of his life.
We used to stop at nearly every garage sale we passed as Jim was always on the hunt for more “treasures.” Not until I did this sale of my own, though, did I realize just how much work they are. Literally, carrying everything from the basement was an all-day job. This did not even take into account the sorting, boxing and pricing of items. This was all before the sale. I already knew nothing was going back for another sale later, so that meant boxing everything up that was left after the sale. Wyatt, my friend Penni and myself made two trips to Goodwill with a pickup full each time.
Through all this I learned two important lessons. First was a lesson in stuff. Yes, many of these items did have memories attached to them. But, when they left, the memories didn’t go with them. I don’t need things all around me to remind me how important the special people in my life are to me.
Secondly, I learned that there are many different sides to people. Having a sale like this where you open the door for anyone to stop in also opens the door for all personality types. A big “thank you” to all who stopped for the right reasons. To all of you, and you know who you are, who had the bad manners, rude comments and unacceptable behavior, I can only hope that you will wise up in the future.
Yard, barn and garage sales should be an easy way to dispose of a few items and make a little money. To all of you who enjoy them, you have my utmost respect. In the foreseeable future I’ll be visiting yours and trying not to collect so much stuff that I will ever feel the need again to have one of my own.
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