Writings from my little corner of modern domesticity.

Saving Your Sale From Sucking: A Buyer’s Rant

Borrowed stock image: Photo credit to iStock.


Garage sales. Most people have been to at least a few in their lives, and almost as many have held at least one. We’ve been to a lot in the last month or so, and we’ve noticed a lot of things- both good and bad. So I thought I’d do a bit of a public service and discuss these things briefly.

Let’s start with the first thing most people see: signage. Most of it sucks. Seriously- a lot of the people are going to encounter your sign at 55 miles an hour. A load of details crammed into a 1ft by 2ft sign is not going to be readable. Neither are many of those neon posterboards- unless your writing is BIG and BOLD. A simple “SALE! 1254 Bargain st” and a helpful arrow is going to be plenty. If you have hours outside of the typical 5pm closing time, you may want to put that up- but only if your sign is big enough.
And if you’re more than a mile down from your sign, you’re going to want to have more signs along the way so people don’t get discouraged and give up. We have seen sign after sign for a sale that seems to be in China, for all we know.

Now, parking can also be an issue. If you live on a busy street (such as the main path of travel through your area, or any road that is a state highway), you’re going to want to try and provide some space for people to park in your yard and/or driveway. Nobody wants to get out of their car 3 inches from where people are going at least 55 miles per hour. If there is a wide shoulder, it’s probably not an issue. But ask yourself “Would I be comfortable stopping here? Would I be comfortable with my teenager (young driver) stopping here?” If the answer is no, try and make space for at least three or four cars on your property. It’s nice, and it’ll make people more likely to stop by if they’re comfortable with where they’re parking.

As for the goods, be honest about what you’re selling. Even if it is an antique or potentially worth hundreds of dollars, unless it’s a car or similar big-ticket item (solid-cherry bedroom set, entire set of leather livingroom furniture, etc.), you’re unlikely to sell it for that much at a garage sale. Period. If you’d be sad about letting it go for less, don’t put it out there- try Craigslist or a resale shop or something instead. And let’s not even talk about the other stuff- well, ok, briefly. If it’s a glass vase I’m going to find at the Salvation Army for $1.50, don’t try selling it to me for $5. Seriously. You need to sell it for less than what they can get it at Wal-Mart for or it’s probably not leaving your garage.
Designer clothes and shoes are no exception. If you want more for them because you paid more for them, you need to take them to a clothing resale place, not try and sell them at a garage sale for $50. Especially if you’ve worn the heck out of them- if it’s faded, pilling, has hanging threads, or just generally looks worn-out, don’t even try. You’re probably not even going to be able to sell that $237 blazer for $10 if it looks like that.
And that goes for everything you’re selling. If you wouldn’t buy it in that condition, don’t try to sell it in that condition. Unless you’re selling it dirt cheap- and I mean less than $3 –if it’s not in a condition where you’d give it a second look at someone else’s garage sale, don’t try to sell it, because odds are, nobody else is going to want it, either.
Another common pitfall we’ve seen is the poorly-stocked sale. One table of goods is not worth a garage sale. If you find yourself with just a few things, but you’d rather try to sell than donate, check with a neighbor, friend, or family member if they’d like to hold a sale with you. Chances are, between the two or three of you, there’s a decent amount of stuff to unload. Plus, really- if you’ve got maybe $20 worth of stuff (at garage sale prices- see above), is it worth your effort to go through the signage and the 3 days of sitting there to try and get rid of some of it? Probably not- so donate it. There’s ample drop-off sites these days, and the tax write-off you can likely get is going to be better than what you would have made at a yard sale on the same stuff.

That said, if you do find yourself with an abundance of stuff, try and organize it. Think about going to a store and what stuff is typically in the same aisles or section, and set it up to mimic that, for an easy option. Or, if you’re more interested in saving yourself the time of tagging individual items, organize by price- have a $5 table, a $3 table, a $1 table, and a “priced as marked” table, for example.  Which brings me to another point…

Tag your stuff. Really, if you’re not going to sort by price, do your best to tag everything. Few people enjoy having to ask about each and every little thing they spot, and while haggling is accepted practice at garage sales, it helps to have a point to start from. Think about when you’re at the store and stuff isn’t priced- it’s frustrating, isn’t it? Treating your sale like you’re running a temporary shop goes a long way in making things easy on you and easy on your shoppers- which turns into a better return for you at the end of the weekend!

And seriously- when your sale is finished, take down your signs. All of them. There is NOTHING more frustrating to someone out garage sale-ing than signs from last weekend. Not only do you waste people’s time (and gas, and these days, that’s not cheap!), but in many townships, you may be guilty of littering, and since your address is there, it wouldn’t be difficult for the appropriate fine to catch up with you.

So please, people- sell responsibly. Your customers will thank you. Let’s review the Buyer’s Rant Principles of a Good Sale:

  1. Signs, signs, signs. Make them big, make them legible.
  2. Be realistic about what you’re selling and what it’s worth (read: likely to sell for in your yard)
  3. Make your stock worth your time or donate instead.
  4. Organize- think of your garage or yard as a store.
  5. Tag your stuff- obvious prices make happy shoppers.
  6. Shut down, take down. No orphaned signs, please!

Those six easy principles with help you make your sale buyer-friendly, and we all know having buyers is the key to getting your stuff sold and out of your yard (garage, basement, closets, etc.)!

What atrocities have you seen at garage sales as a buyer? Share your rants and tips!


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