Monday, June 5, 2017

Post garage sale reflections

I’m one of those sick people who enjoy garage sales – both shopping and selling.  With our last soon to graduate high school we made a thorough cleaning of our house, shed, garage, basement, etc. and I held our big event over the past Memorial Day weekend. In this post I reflect on our event.

Prep work pays off – We grouped all our stuff over the course of a month or two so that it was all in one spot and ready to go – no last-minute hunting or day after the sale remorse… “I should have put that out there…”. Organizing also meant keeping a running to-do list, including signage, plenty of change, plenty of plastic grocery bags for shoppers, preliminary pricing and even some pre-selling.

Rain day became my friend – I had targeted Friday and Saturday which seem to be the 2 most popular days in this area.  Friday was forecast and turned out a little rainy throughout the day.  This forced me to be more organized and creative in setting displays up in the garage in advance.  This made my opening day much easier as much of the set up was already done.  My traffic was pretty good and I wonder if maybe there was less competition due to both the holiday weekend and others not holding garage sales due to the weather.

Craig’s list as an active communication tool – If you’re having a garage sale, Craig’s list is a no-brainer… but maximize its potential.  Be specific about what your selling – if you have books, add some titles and authors; if you’re selling clothes, let potential shoppers know what type (men’s, women’s, pants, shirts, shoes, etc.) and sizes. Also, don’t be one of those people who post a picture of a garage sale sign… everyone knows it’s a garage sale; instead, be generous with your photos – take lots of pictures AND update your pictures (and ad) as the sale progresses – I placed edits such as “New pictures as of Noon Friday…” so that potential customers could see that there was plenty of treasures still left.

Regrettably, there will be one or two who will steal – there’s no kind way of putting it.  Regardless, of how reasonable your prices may be, anticipate that there is a good chance that a few items may be stolen. My strategy here was to mitigate the risk by ensuring I didn’t put extremely expensive small items out.  Regardless, I did notice that a “purse” with tokens & wooden Nickels in it disappeared as well as a jackknife (pocket knife).

Know what’s hot and what’s not… What’s hot is hand / garden tools.  I wish I’d priced mine a little higher; I could have easily sold them about 4 or 5 times over.  What’s not hot is glassware and figurines (and to add insult to injury, it’s a pain to try to display and avoid breakage).

Price clothes and household items well below thrift store prices.  Yes, I realize you may feel your clothes are better than thrift store clothes (I do), but a thrift store will be open 6 or so days a week, week after week – you have 2 days to clear your stuff out.  Ditto with books – second day all my books were at 50 cents and yeah, some people got some great deals, but I had much less to cart to the library this year than I did last year when I tried to get $1 for hard cover both days.  Yes, you can donate stuff, but often cash in hand beats a tax deduction – there is no need for documentation.  A deduction is not the same as cash – it only reduces your taxable amount.  So if you donate $200 and your tax rate is 25%, your true value is only about $50… so if you’d sold this stuff at a garage sale for $100, you’d be ahead financially.

Enjoy yourself at your sale – I enjoy chatting and joking with the customers… I try to engage them as they arrive… “oh great, you’ve got a truck, you can back it up right here…”. This also means being attuned to any item that might pique their interest so that I was ready to make them an offer they couldn’t refuse to cart it to their car. In contrast, I frequent lawn sales as a buyer and I find it disturbing when you pull up and not only does no one greet you and make you feel welcome, you wander the “sale” and the host does not show for several minutes… by that time I’m ready to leave.

It’s your sale, don’t be afraid to follow your heart – I enjoyed chit-chatting with a Vietnam vet – he picked up 2 books (one being “When Heaven and Earth Changed Places” – recommended reading).  He got the veteran’s discount –no charge.  My neighbor across the road who is extremely friendly got the neighbor discount (free). And I was happy to mark down my 50 cent item to a quarter for that old guy who looked like and expressed a super tight financial situation (and I helped him cart a pile of free firewood from my driveway to his car).

Keeping things moving toward the end of the driveway (and preferably to someone’s car).  I had a “free” area at the very end of the driveway, then there was a 25 cent pile a little way up the driveway and then further up the driveway there was a 50-cent pile.  As time elapsed, I constantly evaluated to see what could be pushed “down the driveway” (to the next lower pile) to get it gone.

Show your stuff – There are many who will do a quick drive by assessment of your sale and they will keep going if you have very little and/or are loaded down with stuff they don’t want.  One of my pet peeves is when I go to a lawn sale and their items are all in boxes.  It’s like they have it already to be donated or discarded.  Spread your stuff out to look larger and put eye catching stuff within easy view (and no, glassware is not hot so don’t make that your focal point).  Recently, I dug a pair of small speakers out of a box and started finding the right wires among umpteen other wires in the box… I was a bit miffed when the seller set his price as I was thinking that his price might be a good price if you had them all set up and displayed and working but stuffed in a box with all kinds of crap it doesn’t seem like a great deal particularly if I need to find all the wires myself.  Showing your stuff means to display your stuff like you’d like to see it if you were shopping.  This means if you have books, they are displayed with their bindings showing so you can read the titles and if you have clothes, you don’t heap them in a bag or a box; instead you neatly fold them into sensible piles on the table.

Be flexible – we had an air mattress that included a pump... I had lowered it to around $4. Someone offered me $3 for the pump… I couldn’t say “sold” fast enough… oh, and I sold the mattress for $2 a little later. We had a box full of kid’s outdoor toys – I offered someone a package deal – the whole thing for $10 (I could see my wife’s jaw drop as I know she thought I was selling too cheap).  They turned it down, but bought $7 worth of selected toys… I made much more than $3 on what was left.

Be creative in maximizing your location.  We live within eyesight of a large park. I made sure that we had signage for park walkers who may be interested… and was thrilled when several appeared (and even more thrilled when they bought a bunch of stuff).

The more the merrier – when it comes to having a great garage sale the more stuff the better.  Last year my neighbor brought over and donated a bunch of books – some sold; some didn’t and were donated. Don't be bashful about accepting donated items from friends and family. This year I had stopped by a garage sale a few weeks earlier and they had 3 garden tools (2 clippers and a shovel) marked at 75 cents each… yup, I snatched them up and marked each clipper $2 at my sale and the shovel was so nice I marked it $4 and settled for $3. As I reflected earlier, I wish I had more.

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