A little garage sale etiquette for shoppers from a sellers standpoint

Every year for as long as I can remember, my mom has had a garage sale (aka yard sale or tag sale) in the summer. It was a great way to earn a little extra cash and get rid of the clutter that was accumulated over the school year, Christmas, etc. We sold the clothes we grew out of or no longer liked, toys we no longer played with, books we already read. Sometimes we had furniture that we no longer needed, dishes that we were tired of, and tchotchkes that were just gathering dust. Through the years, as my brother and I got our own houses, the sale grew from 1 family to 3 and now to include friends, this year it was 6 families. That is A LOT of stuff!

I have noticed a trend for magazines, blogs and other online articles to list “Helpful Hints for Shopping at Garage Sales”. In all of these articles it discusses how you should bargain with the seller to get the best price (i.e. the cheapest). I rarely see articles from the sellers point-off-view (i.e. how to be courteous and respectful, and earn karma points). Here are a few hints from my experience behind the masking tape price tags and cash box.

1) If it’s marked $60, it’s rude to ask if I will take $10 – that’s not bargaining, that’s telling me I’m an idiot.

2) If it’s marked $4, it’s rude to say “Will you come down, because it’s worth $4 (aka, how can I resell it?).” I am not selling wholesale to eBay dealers – if it’s worth $4, pay $4.

3) Don’t assume that every price is flexible – and don’t tell me I have to be flexible. It’s my crap and if it doesn’t sell I will just put it back in my house where it came from.

4) If I say the price is firm, haggling with me more only pisses me off – and in my mind the price goes up, not down.

5) Don’t ask for things for half price on the first day during the first hour of the sale – at least wait until I realize nobody is willing to pay the full price.

6) Don’t tell me my price is too high, because you can buy a new one for that price – then go buy the new one and forget about my used one. (Oh, and by the way, I spent a lot of time on the internet researching that price and it will cost you 3X to buy it new. Again, don’t call me an idiot.)

7) Don’t tell me I should lower the price because the item is broken, incomplete, or dirty – if it wasn’t, I would’ve priced it higher.

8) Pay attention to where you are parking – the 30 sec. you save by blocking my neighbors driveway, parking in the middle of the street, or taking up 3 parking spots is not going to get you the gold ingot – there is no gold ingot, so be considerate.

9) Don’t pay for a $1 item with a $20 bill first thing in the morning. You are taking all of my small change and I can’t leave the sale to go to the bank to get more small bills. Later in the day after I made several sales and have way too many $1 bills, fine; but not first thing in the day when I have a limited amount of cash.

10) Do tell me that you followed my signs (which took me a whole day to make and hang up) or that I have a great ad. It’s nice to hear what advertising works and that my hard work behind the scenes paid off.

In general, keep in mind that you are talking to a human being – not a corporation – that is selling their personal stuff. Much of that stuff has a history or is sentimental. Be kind. Be respectful. And earn a few karma points for that moment when you have to sell your possessions.


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  1. Barbel says:

    Can we make a book out of this No one can say it any better than you are Heidi let’s print it up and see what we can do with it I love it

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