Garage Sale Etiquette 101

This weekend we held a garage sale–Mom needed some money to materialize from the ether for her car tags’n’taxes, and we (and some friends–thank you, KC, DT, and PH!) needed to offload some nouns that were taking up usable space in our lives. And while the sale itself was a success–we hit our monetary goal, and got rid of a lot of stuff. Hooray!–it has occurred to me that perhaps people could use a bit of a refresher on the basics of Garage Sale Etiquette.

So without further ado, I present to you:

The Ten Commandments of Garage Saling

1. Thou shalt not park in such a way that thou blockest the driveway. I’m absolutely willing to waive this one for folks with mobility issues; but of the people who parked sideways across the foot of our driveway, parked with the front or rear halves of their car blocking half the driveway, or (heaven help me) parked directly in the driveway, exactly zero of them had any visible mobility challenges. However, the guy with the walker, the lady with the cane, the guy with the pronounced limp, and the lady carting the oxygen tank all parked across the street. Don’t be a jerk, folks.

2. Thou shalt mind thine own children. You’re right–your kid is cute. And fun. And brilliant. And all those things. However, your kid is also your responsibility. Please do not let him run on the treadmill, or play with the glassware, or drag all the toys out of the boxes and leave them strewn around the driveway, or poke all the electronics. Your kid stops being cute somewhere around the part where she takes the bowling ball out of the bag and we have to chase it into the street.

3. Haggling is fine. However, thou shalt not insult me with ludicrously low offers. I am totally ready to entertain any offer that is at least 50% of the marked price; but when you start your bidding at $1 on a $50 item, you’ll be amazed at how quickly I decide that I cannot budge on the price at all.

4. Haggling is fine. However, thou shalt phrase the haggling as a request, not a demand. “Would you take $25 for the treadmill?” will get you somewhere. “You’re obviously kidding about asking $50 for this piece of junk treadmill. I’ll give you $10” will get you a pitying smile and a very, very firm “Sorry, I can’t budge on that one”. Frankly, when you’re a jerk, I’d rather keep the thing than let it go live with you.

5. Thou shalt keep thy opinions about the merchandise to thyself until thou leavest the sale. The phrase you’re looking for is “Ehh, they don’t have anything I need”, not “All this stuff is crap”. Sure, some of the stuff at the sale was crap–some of the stuff at any sale is crap–and that’s why we had a “freebies” table. Who knows, maybe someone will want the chipped mug so they can break it to make art out of it. But there was also some stuff that was brand new, still in the packaging; and when there are 8 boxes of books (including quite a bit of Real Live Literature from Real Live College Classes), “everything here is crap” just makes you look like an illiterate buffoon.

6. Thou shalt turn off thy car and hang up thy cell phone. When you hop out and leave your car running, we know immediately that you’re not going to buy anything. Save us both some time and effort. And blabbering away on your phone the whole time doesn’t impress anybody; it also means that we pointedly ignore what you’re saying, so as not to eavesdrop, so when you have to repeat your question to us 3 times, that is your fault and not ours.

7. Thou shalt leave the merchandise as thou found’st it. Look, dude with bar code scanner, I don’t care that you’re buying the books so that you can resell them, and that’s why you need to scan every bar code. As long as you give me some money and take a lot of nouns off my hands, you can do whatever you want with ’em when you get home. But do me the favor of neatly restacking the ones you don’t want–turning them spine-down and piling them on top of each other so that the pages get crushed is just a jerky thing to do, don’t you think?

8. Thou shalt not steal. I can’t believe we even need to cover this. Especially when the items people took were each marked at 50 cents…and there was an entire table of freebies. Seriously, people. Be ashamed of yourselves.

9. Thou shalt read the posted signs. I have learned from garage sales past that having a “Cash only, thanks” sign and an “All Sales Final” sign can save me a lot of headaches. I have also learned that people don’t read them–even when they’re in giant black letters on fluorescent posterboard right next to where I’m sitting with the cash box. For that matter, I’ve also learned that people don’t read the stickers that we spent 3 hours putting on all the merchandise. You’re literate, folks. It’s an amazing gift. Use it.

10. Thou art welcome to ask about specific items, but thou shouldst use thine own eyes–and common sense–first. I admit, this was partly a function of my own fatigue…but at 3:30 in the afternoon of the second day, when I am tired and have been cleaning up after people’s children for the last 8 hours, I get a little crabby. So browsing through everything and then asking if I have any ladders for sale will be met with a polite “Nope, sorry”, but what I’m thinking is “Do you see any ladders, ya idjit?”. And when an item is far-removed from the sale area–such as the memorial wind chimes hanging near my front door, which I received as a gift when my father died–you are welcome to express interest, but should probably assume that it is not among the sale items. Sample dialogue, which I-kid-you-not really happened:

Customer:”How much for those chimes?”

Me: “Sorry, they’re not for sale.”

C: “Would you take a dollar for them?”

M: “Um, no, they’re not for sale.”

C: “Ok, how about three dollars?”

M: “Ma’am, they are memorial chimes that I received when my father died. They’re not for sale.”

C: “Well, then, you shouldn’t have them out here where they’re visible.”

…Guess who’s not currently at the top of my Most Amazing People of All Time list?

Look, I’m not saying that you have to be on Fit-to-Meet-the-Queen levels of propriety and behavior when you’re out bargain-hunting. But what I am saying is that the people who are running the garage sale you’re visiting are people. Real live human beings, with feelings and a soul, and you are a guest on their property. So maybe, as a favor to me, we could all agree to act accordingly? It won’t hurt, I promise; and as the friendly guy who got the $25 box of computer parts for $10 learned, sometimes it can be mighty lucrative.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go see if there’s anything I secretly want to keep before we start hauling all these leftovers to Goodwill.

Everybody loves a bargain. Nobody loves a jerkface.



Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

3 responses to “Garage Sale Etiquette 101

  1. Tricia, you should make a poster of this to sell – it would make you a potential fortune!!

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