Monday, May 23, 2011

Garage Saling Etiquette aka Garage Saling Manners

I had been looking forward to this past Saturday's garage sales for several weeks.  There is a big one in our area and over the past few years it has grown bigger and bigger.  With that growth, though, there have been problems.  My garage saling partner and dear friend and I had a horrible experience on Saturday.  I have a wonderful garage saling partner that makes it possible for It made me realize some of the lessons we've learned over the past four years of garage saling together.  

Here are a few of them:

1)  Take an extra measure of patience with you.  Whether you need to be patient with other people, cars, or wrong directions, it is important to be patient.

2)  Be polite.  Wait your turn when driving down skinny streets and always choose safety over time.  When someone bumps into you, be gracious and don't snap at them.  When someone reaches for something you are looking at, let it go.  It's just a thing.

3) Look for what you need first, then what you want.  Buyers remorse works with garage saling just as it does at retail stores except that you can't return anything.  If you buy something that is broken, don't dwell on it too much.  Check out what you can before you buy since all sales are final after all.  But, some things you won't foresee.

4) Offer to pay what you can afford and feel is reasonable.  If the host of the garage sale isn't agreeable to the price, that is okay.  If someone refuses your offer, then very politely set it down, smile, and wish them good luck with their garage sale.

Some folks having garage sales feel that their things are worth a lot of money and aren't willing to part with it for less.  Others are interested in getting rid of stuff they no longer use.  The reality is that almost all the time whatever you are buying is used.  And often it is much used--so the original purchaser has often gotten a lot of  value for their purchase already.  

If you do need a certain amount of money for items, they are in like new condition, and you are considering having a garage sale, I would recommend instead consigning the items.  You are going to get more money for your children's clothes and other items than you would at a garage sale.  At a consignment store, if an item is sold at 50% of the retail price, you will receive between 20-25% of the price.  If it is sold for less, then I believe you will receive less.  Some consignment stores will require you to bring clothes in clean and pressed.  

This is something I keep in mind.  My rule of thumb is generally 10% of the retail price.  But, all of that goes straight to the person I'm buying from and they didn't have to transport their goods.  Sometimes people will tell me that they can get more on ebay or craigslist and I wish them luck.  Again that is more work on the part of the seller and something they have to be willing to do.  

If you simply want to get rid of things, having a garage sale is a great way to go, but if you want to receive a certain amount of money in exchange for your things and you are willing to put in the work and take any associated risks, then Craigslist, ebay, and consignment stores or sales are a wiser activity to pursue.  

Sometimes there is a need on the part of the garage sale host to make money to pay a bill or raise funds for a charity, but most of the time, I've found when I or friends of mine have garage sales that the money is simply to buy other "wants".  If you do need to make a certain amount of money from something, the other avenues I mentioned earlier, might be wiser choices.

One thing I've noticed is that in the many blessings we have in this country, we can begin to hold onto them.  They can become a "lesser idol".  But, they are just things.  Sometimes there is a sentimental value that we ascribe to them, but most of the time I find we get caught in the thinking that we need to make the most money from what we have.  It is a value of capitalism.  But, it is not biblical.  I've never found a spot in the Bible that says make the most money from what you have.  The parable of the landowner and three servants does advise not wasting what is given to you, but we are warned repeatedly in other places in the Word to keep ourselves form the love of money.  When we hold onto "things", we are tempted to love money.  We have to be careful and guard are hearts.  

My way of guarding my heart has been to simply give things away.  Once in a while I am tempted to want a certain amount of money for something, but then I remind myself of how God has taken care of us.  It is work actually at times to find someone who wants something I need a new home for, but when I find that new home it is so satisfying!

But, I am thankful for all the people who have garage sales, since I enjoy meeting folks and shopping at their garage sales!  

5) Don't Cuss.  Be Careful about what you say.  This one may seem very obvious, but you'd be surprised at some of the things I've heard and overheard.  There are usually little ears around too listening to what others are saying.  

6) Enjoy the unexpected.  Some days we find huge treasures and others not.  You never know what you are going to find.  It is a bit like a treasure hunt.  Last Saturday, I didn't find any big treasures, but I did find what I needed!  I bought 4 pairs of shorts for $1 for Eli, 4 brand new short sleeve shirts for the girls for $2, a plastic bucket for $1 for my kitchen compost scraps, a backpack for Sami for $2, 4 books for a birthday gift for $1, and a baby monitor for a friend for $5.  

7) Be aware.  In the basic motorcycle course I took last summer, we were advised to use this acronym as a guide:  
Scout ahead
Evaluate what to do
Execute and act
The most important step is the "S".  Scout and be aware of all that is going on.  When garage saling, I have noticed that many pedestrians and drivers are distracted and not paying attention.  Be a good defensive driver and pedestrian.

8) Be honest and have integrity in your exchanges with people.  This has many implications surprisingly.  But, at garage sales you, whether a buyer or seller, are exchanging money and goods and so you need to be wise and have integrity.  Don't sell something that is broken if you are aware of this.  Don't give someone less money than you've agreed to pay.  Don't agree on a price and then go back on it, whether you are a buyer or seller.

So, here's my story...

I do want to share what happened last Saturday to help you put all of this in context.  My friend and I drove to the BIG garage sale.  As we were driving into the parking lot, a woman walked right in front of my car.  She did not look around her or behind her.  She simply walked.  She blended into my line of sight with her black shirt and tan pants and my friend alarmed me about her appearance close to my car.  I stopped in time and the woman never even noticed.  We were both shaken up.  I saw the woman later and approached her.  I cautioned her to pay attention to where she's walking.  Closure.  But, that was only the beginning.

A bit later we witnessed something fall on someone and the person became very angry and cussed loudly about the incident.  My friend and I were notably shaken up.  I still am actually.  

We did try to go on from there, though.  Another row along in the yard sale, someone accused my daughter of stealing a book I'd bought from another vendor.  I would never think of not paying for something, nor would my friend.  

At that point, we began to quickly find our way through the rest of the vendors.  We wanted to leave.  We had such a bad taste in our mouths from these encounters.  I'm not sure if we'll go back to this yard sale again.  Something seemed to happen and change at this yard sale this year.  With more people came more problems.  Maybe it's that I don't like crowds and I prefer space.  I feel safer with my three kids when I can keep a closer eye on them and not feel so encroached upon.  

I still love to garage sale.  We found many more to go to after the big one.  My treasures actually were mostly found at the small ones, rather than at the big garage sale this Saturday.  We just may not go back to the big one again next year.  We'll see...

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