Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Garage Sale Etiquette Demystified

'Tis the season for outdoor sports, long evening walks and garage sale-ing!  Just last week I stopped at a garage sale.  And it put my hackles up, dear reader. There were so many things this seller did that was off-putting that I will never again attend one of his sales.  And he has them.  Every year, several times a year.  And every year he makes the same mistakes. He probably has sold stuff or he wouldn't continue.  But he'd sell much more by adhering to a few rules of etiquette.

So, let's talk about garage sales, dear reader. 

Advertising.  You need to put up signs at the very least.  And you need to think "big letters."  A driver can only scan your sign to get the address and days of your sale.  Don't clutter the sign with other info.  Save the detailed listing for your Craig's List mention of your sale.  Or the newspaper is usually reasonable enough in price that you can list some of your bigger items that typically draw a crowd.

Putting up several signs is a good idea.  Better idea: make all your signs the same color, same size and planted firmly into the ground on the right hand side of the road.  You wouldn't believe the amount of people that put signs on the left side of the road expecting drivers on the opposite side to notice.  Of course, signs that have arrows directing traffic toward your sale (a great idea, by the way) would be the exception to the rule when directing someone to turn on a specific road.

Early Birds.  They're out there.  They will show up earlier than you imagine or want them to show up.  They are the ones with a serious eye and want to get there while the gettin' is good.  Don't turn them away because they likely won't return to buy if you do.  Just deal with them politely allowing them to look while you finish setting up.  Then happily take their money when they spend!

Garage sales are not for making money.  You heard me right.  Garage sales and yard sales are NOT for making money. They are for getting rid of stuff.  Decent stuff that you no longer have a use for, but someone else might have a use for (Certainly, we must take into consideration that "decent" is a relative term.  If I am in a garage sale mood, I am willing to take my chances on differing in definitions).  Hopefully you will make some money, but it should not be seen as a money-making event.  You probably aren't going to sell enough to pay for Junior's braces. You might put a dent in the amount the orthodontist is requiring, but chances are, you won't pay for them with one yard sale.

The sale that I went to that inspired this post, had shoes for $50 and $60.  A tennis ball basket for $70.  Sleeping bags for $30.  And purses marked at $150 and $250. These are all items that are well used.  And that is putting it nicely.



Dear Reader, I am all for capitalism: buy low and sell high!  Except when it comes to garage sales. If you have things that have a significant value: put them on Craig's List.  Sell it on eBay. Advertise in the newspaper. They do not belong in a yard sale unless you are willing to sell it for less than what you think it's worth. Here's why:

Sale-ers are typically frugal. Buyers wouldn't be at your sale if they wanted to pay retail or anywhere near retail.  You want people to buy? Then sell low and get rid of it. You give someone a deal and then they are looking for what else they can buy from you. Better they give you their few dollars on a few items than walking away having bought nothing and giving their money to the next yard seller.  Just sayin'. Entertain reasonable offers, make a counter offer if you want, but do what you need to do to get that rickety hanging clothes rack out of your laundry room to make room for something you will actually use.

Am I saying that you can't put a sign on your boat or riding mower and sell it in your yard sale? Not at all.  Beware: unless you advertise them in other places also, chances are, you will get much less traffic and are less likely to get that boat off of your drive and mower out of your shed.

Also, I am less likely to buy from someone who yells out, "Make me an offer!"  I don't want to be rude by low-balling, but heck, I am cheap.  Give me a starting price with which to begin negotiating.  And don't do as the young man I mentioned above and scoff when someone does low-ball.  By expecting the buyer to make an offer, you can bet there are plenty of people who are going to take you up on that and see what they can get from you for a buck or two.  Me, personally? I will just walk away having not spent a dime.

Speaking of dimes.  I have a lovely, lovely relative who insists on putting 5 and 10 cents on items when she has a yard sale. If it's only worth a dime or a nickel, honey, toss it or group it with other like items where you can put a buck on it. Or put it in the free bin. Put a quarter or a dollar amount on your items and make it easy for you and you buyer. You don't want to have to worry about having tons of nickels or dimes in your cash box.  At the end of the day, who wants to be counting dimes, nickels and pennies?

Ain't nobody got time for that.

Set your sale items apart.  Clearly, if you are having a garage sale, there will be items in your garage that you aren't selling.  No worries.  But you do need to have some kind of barrier or a significant empty space so that your buyers get the idea that that particular portion of your garage sale is off limits.  Throw a sheet over your non-sale items.  Erect a line that you can hang a nice sized sign from that politely notifies your buyers that that area is off limits. Or haul everything out of the garage, have the sale in your drive. Shouting "Nothing beyond this point!" each time a new buyer arrives is rude.  No one likes to think that they've overstepped another person's boundaries.  Let's try to set up a sale where you don't embarrass your buyers.

Group like items together.  Buyers sometimes are willing to comb through boxes -- but don't count on it.  Put your items on tables or whatever you have handy that you can make a table out of temporarily. You want them to buy, not spend their time picking through a box full of Junior's unmatched socks in the hopes of finding size 6x shorts for their daughter.  If I have been to two or more yard sales already, I am not combing through boxes -- unless I am looking for something specific. I am scanning tables and hang-up items. If I don't quickly see what I want, I am back down the driveway and off to the next yard sale on my list.  I am not unique in this.  Trust me.

Put all the knick-knacks together.  All of the CDs together.  All of the tools together.  An unorganized yard sale tells me that the seller does not care to take the time to really sell anything.  And please, dear reader, no selling underwear.  Please.Just.No.

Take the time to put prices on your items.  I loathe, absolutely loath walking up to a sale that has no prices on things.  It is rude and inconsiderate of your buyer.  I don't want to have to ask for prices of each item that I may be interested in. When a sale has no prices I walk away, regardless of the "deal" I may be missing.  I'll tell you why.

The buyer thinks the seller is going to size him up and determine prices based on what they think the buyer is capable of paying. Rude. As in: slap your mama, rude. If you are lucky and your potential buyer doesn't think that, then they will definitely know your sale is a half-hearted attempt to rustle up cash.

The yard sale I mentioned above? It was obvious the young man bought items from Goodwill and various other second hand places and put them in his driveway to sell.  The price tags were still on many of the items.  To make matters worse, he was selling the items for five, and ten dollars more than what the Goodwill price tags said.  Rude.  He can sell for what he wants, sure.  But I don't want to give someone like that my money.  Now, if you buy things intending to resell them, have at it.  Lots of people make decent money doing that.  But take the time to remove the price tags. Let's not insult your buyer by informing him or her of the fact that you are asking for more than you were willing to pay yourself.

And let's be reasonable on our pricing, shall we? Oh, I already mentioned that?  It bears repeating.
Let's be reasonable in our pricing.  It's a yard sale.  Not Christie's.

Hope these tips help you become a better seller.  Here's to a long spring and summer of great deals!

Counting it all joy,


  1. Anonymous4/23/2015

    next time I have a yard sale I will refer to this!

  2. Thank you. Glad to be of help.


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