How to Have a Successful Yard Sale
Yard Sales That Really Sell:
Tips & Tricks for Pulling off a Profitable Yard Sale
By Julia Wilkinson
Advertising Your Sale
Community Yard Sales
Don’t Leave them Guessing: Where to Post
What to Do
Preparing for the Sale
Setting Stuff Aside
During the Sale
Dealing with Early Birds
The Art of Haggling
“Who’s Taking the Money?” Money Belt/Cashier Table
What to do with the Stuff that Doesn’t Sell
You’ve decided to have a yard sale. Garage sale, yard sale, tag sale, rummage sale – call it what you like – just a good old-fashioned American get-your-unwanted-stuff -out-of the-house-and-make-money-off-it sale. Maybe meet some new neighbors, enjoy the morning weather, share some doughnuts and coffee in the process -- great. What’s not to like?
Plenty, if it’s a poorly run sale. A well-run sale will see lots of customers show up, the majority early, and they will have been informed a week or at least days ahead of time with good advertising and signage. They will see clearly posted prices, nicely displayed items, and they’ll know whom to ask questions of and who to pay.
A badly run sale, however, that hasn’t been planned out well, can have your head spinning with people coming at you from all angles like a game of Whac-a-Mole, and you losing money because you’re running into the house to find an extra plastic bag when the guy who drove in from the city can’t find you to ask what year your old radio was made.
This special report is intended to be a quick guide for those about to run a yard sale, so you know the key things you need to do and have ready by the day of the sale, and make your sale day a pleasurable rather than a frantic experience – or worse, a boring, time-wasting day of sitting outside while no customers show up because your ads and signs weren’t effective.
I’ve been going to yard sales regularly for over 15 years, and I have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. Some suggestions also come from subscribers to my free e-newsletter, Yard Salers, available at www.yardsalers.net.
Now, without further ado, let’s get started with your yard sale money-making, clutter-clearing fun!
Advertising Your Sale
“People will come.” That’s what they said in the movie “Field of Dreams.”
Or will they?
If you don’t advertise in the right places at the right time, they may not. Let’s look at some of the best places these days to get the word out about your sale:
This is the new favorite site of most folks having a sale. It’s free, it’s easy to post, and it’s where most of the people I know who go to yard sales regularly look for listings. So even if you take a newspaper ad or post on other sites, don’t skip posting here.
(Look for the “garage sale” category in your local city’s site. If you don’t live in a city that has a craigslist site, post in the site of the nearest city to you. Many folks will drive within a certain radius of their city to find unique things at yard sales).
If you have a lot of one particular kind of thing at your sale, for example, jewelry or collectible toys, you can also post in those craigslist categories – there are “jewelry” and “collectibles” categories on my local Washington, DC site, for example – though the categories may vary from city to city.
In a bad ad – the date and time is not in the title, and it doesn’t give any detail about what’s in the sale.
Thie ad does not give any information about what is in the sale, nor does it give photos or any other clue as to how to get to the sale. It does, mercifully, give the date, and start and end time.
In a better ad, you have the date, start and end time, address, and also a listing of some of the stuff that will be available at the sale. These are the kinds of things people will look for when they go through the ads, so it’s important to include these elements if you can.
In the “best” type of ad – it includes those things mentioned above, plus photos.
But be sure not to post in categories that don’t fit your sale, or the craigslist community will flag the posting and the Craigslist gremlins will pull it down faster than you can say “money belt.”
Kijiji.com is a free classifieds site owned by eBay – sort of eBay’s answer to craigslist. It may not have CL’s critical mass yet, but its numbers are growing – TechCrunch, a well-known weblog that reviews new Internet companies, reported it grew from 360,000 in July ’07 to 1.8 million in January of ‘08.
At Weekendtreasure, you can post your yard or garage sale for just $4.99. What is weekend treasure? It’s like a google maps/classifieds “mash-up”: “Merging the world of garage sale classifieds and Google Maps, the site has become the first of its kind to list literally thousands of sales plotted on an interactive and searchable map.” This gives people an easy way to find their way to your sale...click through to it.
It’s free to post your ad here. People search by state. Like Kijiji, this site doesn’t have a ton of sales listed at this writing, but appears to be growing, and has a great google ranking when you input the words “yard sale.” It also means your ad won’t have a lot of competition when you do post it.
- your major metropolitan area newspaper
Although it can be pricey, major city newspapers’ classifieds sections are still great ways to go to reach the people who are looking to attend yard sales for the weekend. But consider ways you can defray the cost – for example, put together a multi-family sale, and have everyone pitch in equally for the cost of the ads.
And while most newspapers sell print and online ads together, some papers may offer an “online only” ad option for less money – check into it.
Consider, too, the types of items you’re selling. One piece of furniture which you think can fetch $1000 or up may justify the cost of a $100 ad.
If you live in the heart of a paper, there may be an urban newspaper that is cheaper than the paper that covers the whole metro city/suburban area. For example, in Washington, D.C., we have a paper called the “City Paper” that is more geared to downtown happenings, while The Washington Post covers both the city and all the surrounding suburbs.
- Piggybacking on Neighbor’s Ads/Sale
Here’s another strategy, but one that is better for running a smaller, last-minute sale. When a neighbor has already placed an ad in a newspaper, or you see they have signs up in advance of a sale, you can take advantage of their traffic by joining in and hold a nearby sale of your own. However, I recommend checking with that neighbor first, and returning the favor when you run a major sale and place ads, by offering to them to piggyback off your ad.
(See “Community Yard Sales” section below for more on this).
- Local/weekly papers
Don’t forget your local newspapers. Some people are only willing to travel within a few mile radius to a sale, anyway, so they will be more likely to just look at the classifieds in the papers within their local neighborhoods. So take advantage of those cheaper ad rates. But be sure to find out the advertising deadline ahead of time for, say, a local weekly paper. Sometimes these small papers offer free ads!
A couple of popular local-based classifieds-oriented newspapers which are a chain are the “Pennysaver” and the “Shopping Bags.” The former has a web site at:
So check out your local area to see what kind of local classifieds newspapers are offered, and what their advertising deals are. (You can often find these in a 7-11, barber shops, and other local shops).
Community Yard Sales
As mentioned above, putting together a community-wide yard sale can be a great way to defray the cost of your newspaper ads, but it also brings more people to the individual sales, as they’re drawn by the excitement of a large neighborhood event.
A nice thing to do at these events is to have simple neighborhood maps ready to hand out as flyers at each house, with X marks or other delineations on the houses that are having the yard sales. You can print out a map of your neighborhood easily from Google Maps or Mapquest.
Let’s not forget the most basic, but often the most important, strategy: posting bold, eye-catching signs that point the way to your sale. More about this in the next section.
Bad signs can lose you money big-time. I have seen so many bad signs, I could create a photo gallery exhibit of them. One of my all-time favorite bad signs is the torn-piece-of-cardboard-with-faint-pen-writing. You can’t read the writing unless you slow down to a crawl and get so close you could be walking by. (And of course, when you’re driving with other people behind you, you can’t always do that).
Don’t Leave Them Guessing: Where to Post
Another problem with signs, aside from small, illegible writing, is the placement of the signs themselves. Some of the major problems I’ve seen with signs are the following:
- not placing them on enough adjacent major roads;
- not having enough signs along the way to the sale; waiting too long between placing one sign and the next one (for example, if one sign is placed where you turn off a major road, but the next turn isn’t for three more miles, have a few more signs in between to remind people they still have a ways to go and haven’t gotten lost);
- not having the date and address (or at least street name) of the sale on at least some of the signs.
- not securing the sign well enough, so it flaps in the wind or folds over, and no one can read it.
OK, those are some things not to do. Here is a checklist of…
What to do:
- DO have a bright, colorful, sign (or at least a light color).
- DO use black or dark lettering against a light background so the letters are easy to read.
- DO use large lettering so people can actually *read* the sign from their cars or from a distance!
- DO use the words “Yard Sale” or “Garage Sale,” the street name, and have an arrow pointing to the direction of the sale
(Some sales only say “Yard Sale” and have the arrow; that can work too if you post enough signs so your customers can actually find the sale).
- DO have signs from as many nearby main roads as you have time to post.
- DO be sure to post enough signs on side roads and along the way on long roads, so people won’t get lost along the way, wondering where in the heck the sale is.
- DO check with your local government as to what any rules are about where you may or may not post the signs. (Try your local government’s web site). (And please don’t staple them to trees; it’s just not nice and not good tree karma). ?
- DO use waterproof ink or order signs that use it; or have your signs laminated if rain is expected. (Good to do in any case because one can never be sure if it will rain!).
- DO remember to take the signs down after the sale! ?
Feel overwhelmed by the challenge of making all those signs? You can simply order them from salesigns.info.
A sample of salesigns.info’s signs. Tough to miss!
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Use coupon code “yardsalers” when ordering to get *$5.00 off* a $30 purchase.
Preparing for the Sale
OK, your signs are up. People driving around town are being alerted to the weekend fun. Now you have to get organized from within.
Setting Stuff Aside
Ideally, you’ve been setting your yard sale stuff aside for a while now, as you’ve been using it (or, more likely, as you’ve not been using it).
Some clothing organizational experts recommend that you box up or otherwise remove all the clothing you haven’t worn in a year, and put it in a separate room, or in boxes. If you don’t find yourself missing it or needing it again, out it goes. This is a great “baby step” to getting the stuff the heck out of your closet without feeling stressed that you’re throwing out something you may want again.
Similarly, you can box up all the clothes you plan to sell and put them in your garage or a separate room, or even a designated corner of a room if your place is small.
The clothing should be in clean condition, so make sure it is laundered (or dry cleaned if needed).
Captain von Trapp: “It's the dress. You'll have to put on another one before you meet the children.”
Maria: “But I don't have another one. When we entered the abbey our worldly clothes were given to the poor.”
Captain von Trapp: “What about this one?”
Maria: “The poor didn't want this one.”
- Captain von Trapp and Maria in “The Sound of Music”
Books – go through all your books, weed out any you won’t be needing to consult in the next year. Think you might need it? Remember, there’s a thing called the library. A lot of times people cling to things because they think they may need it. Remember, nowadays, with eBay and amazon.com, it’s pretty darn fast and easy to replace things such as books and toys.
Records, CD’s, Cassettes – this is a good time to sell all those various formats of music you aren’t listening to anymore. (In some cases, people have digitized their entire music libraries to homemade cd’s, and they sell their entire CD or record collections at these sales).
Toys – check with your kids before getting rid of them. You can ask them to go through their own stuff. Give them two boxes or two shopping bags and tell them to put keepers in one, and the ones to sell in the other.
(Tell them they get to keep the money, and you’ll be amazed at how motivated your little helpers will become. Plus, it’s a good lesson in capitalism).
If you have time to check for recalled toys, you can go to this web site: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/toy.html.
Kitchen – go through and get out all the glassware, mugs (yes, those infamous mugs), pans – all the woks, crocks, and pots. Kitchen appliances, pots and pans, serving dishes – those sorts of things tend to sell well.
Above: Dishes, drinking glasses, a cookie jar – all the kinds of things you tend to see at a yard sale. Photo by Jeff Wilson for Yardsalers.net, from the “World’s Longest Yard Sale.”
It’s a good idea to wash your kitchen items in the dishwasher before putting them out for the sale; it will help them sell in some cases.
Tools – I’ve seen all kinds of strange tools walk out of estate sales attached to happy buyers. And people love old/antique tools, too.
Bath – unopened toiletries, perfumes (even half-used bottles, if not too old), unused cosmetics, etc. will often sell.
Towels, in good condition with no stains. Shower curtains.
Linens – blankets, unused or gently used sheets (clean, of course!); bedspreads, quilts, napkins, tablecloths, placements – you name it. Linens in decent condition often sell.
“You little guys start out with your woobies and you think they're great... and they are, they are terrific. But pretty soon, a woobie isn't enough. You're out on the street trying to score an electric blanket, or maybe a quilt. And the next thing you know, you're strung out on bedspreads…”
Michael Keaton as Jack Butler in “Mr. Mom,” trying to get his son to give up his security blanket.
- Broken Items. That old clock radio/stereo/whuchumucallit used to work but doesn’t anymore and you don’t know why? Someone may want to by it and tinker with it.
Did you know the first item ever sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer? That’s right. EBay founder Pierre Omidyar listed a laser pointer on auctionweb, the predecessor site to what is now known as eBay.
When the person bought it, he reminded them, “You know it’s broken, right?” This story brought laugh from the crowd when he shared it at an eBay conference.
Supplies for Running the Sale
They do make removable labels, so I recommend buying those if possible, so they don’t mess up the items you’re selling. Otherwise, any old pricing labels will do, if the packaging isn’t part of the value of the item. You can grab stick-on labels at any office-supply store and most drug stores. (If you’re already ordering office supplies such as paper, some office supply chains offer free delivery – this will save you one more thing to do).
Masking tape can be invaluable during a sale, both as a cheap, fast way to attach a price to something (get some nice sturdy black or blue markers – Sharpies are great, but they’re permanent ink, so be careful not to write on the item itself and keep the price on the label or tape).
It’s also an easy way to organize loose multiple items that go in a set, such as napkins, placemats and tablecloths. Fold them neatly and tape all around so all the matching items go together.
Pick up several boxes of the Ziploc ™ sandwich bags. I prefer the ones with the actual little plastic zippers, because they are easier to close, and you won’t be fooling with trying to get the bags sealed instead of doing one of the million other little things on the day of the sale.
Buy several different sizes…the small sandwich size and the gallon size are great. The small sandwich size is great for organizing necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings and other odds and ends – it keeps them organized, you can see through them, and you can write the price right on them with marker.
A garment rack to showcase your clothes and make them easier to browse for sale-goers can pay for itself in clothing sold. I’ve seen them new for as little as $27.99. But...I’d look first on…where else? Craigslist, borrow one from a neighbor (send out a group email), or even shop around at yard sales yourself before your sale.
I can’t tell you how many yard sales I’ve been to where some decent-looking garments were slumped forlornly on a chair, scattered about on a lawn, or thrown onto a sheet, making them difficult to browse through. And even worse, people sometimes trample on them.
But if you don’t want to spend the dough for a new rack, there are ways of constructing a makeshift one. For example, string a clothesline between two tree branches or other supports; attach a broomstick to two supports; or, as I’ve done in the past, simply hang the clothes hangers themselves on tree branches that are within reach. We have a dogwood tree in our front yard that I have called into service for this purpose; it was just the right size.
The alternative to a garment rack, as touched on in the “Quilt” section below, is the spread-out cloth…you can also use a tarp or paint cloth. However, I’ve found that items spread out on the floor tend to not get as much attention and get rumpled by shoppers. You’re likely to sell more if you can keep things off the ground. The cloth on the ground is something to think about, however, if you have a lot of clothing and/or simply can’t get ahold of a garment rack or facsimile therof.
These are great to have for those miscellaneous small items. Again, if you don’t have one, you can borrow. Consider borrowing tables from your church or ask your local rec center or library for loaners.
Throw an inexpensive tablecloth over one if you can to make it more presentable, and also to hide any stuff you need to stash under it.
If you don’t have any card tables, you can bring out your lesser-quality coffee tables and other furniture from your home that may help in a pinch. But cover them with tablecloths or otherwise denote “not for sale,” if they are not. Believe me, people will most likely ask to buy them!
Above: Various items set out on tables and in boxes at one of the stops in the “World’s Longest Yard Sale.” Photo by Jeff Wilson for Yardsalers.net.
The catch-all of the yard sale, you can put a bunch of stuff in a box, and price it all the same. Books, candles, Christmas ornaments, what have you – grab your fat marker and put one price on the side. Try to make your price large and easy to read, and in more than one place if possible.
Try to keep it to one layer of stuff per box, lest the stuff get abused in people rooting through it. You can often get your hands on free boxes by asking around at local stores in your area – your hardware stores, Radio Shacks, liquor stores, and even grocery stores.
The Dollar Box
Many estate sales make up “dollar boxes” of lesser expensive items and place everything in there for people to sort through. Then you can just price the side of the box “$1 each,” and you needn’t worry about putting little price tags on all the items inside – a real time saver.
Consider also having a “free” box for that stuff that is really small and you just want to get rid of – mismatched stuff, McDonald’s toys, etc. This is just to save you a trip hauling the stuff off to charity.
To have enough cardboard boxes, start saving any that come in to the house for weeks preceding the sale, if possible, and set them in a designated space.
Again, if you still don’t have enough, check with some of your local stores, such as liquor or hardware stores, to see if they have any empty boxes you can use. Most store managers will be happy to disgorge some of their cardboard clutter.
Donuts, cookies, brownies and a thermos of coffee can make a yard sale a lot more festive. I’ve been to many sales that sell donuts or brownies for $.25 to $.50 or so, and I am happy to pay that if I have worked up an appetite.
It’s also something nice to share with your neighbors for free if they come wandering over. Sometimes kids set up a lemonade or juice stand. This is also something you can consider, although if the kids are young enough to require help and monitoring, it may detract from what you need to do to keep the sale running.
Staging Your Sale - Setup
Furniture and Big-Ticket Items – Up Front
Furniture is a huge draw for any sale. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is, or even if it’s a little beat up; people just seem to love furniture. I’ve seen all kinds of furniture sell at sales, if the price is right. But put it up front or out close enough where it can get people’s attention from the street. A bunch of mugs and old glassware ain’t gonna cut it in terms of getting some people to stop and get out of their car.
Aside from the fact that quilts and bedspreads are in and of themselves highly sellable (assuming they have no unremoveable stains), they can be useful for spreading out and placing all those items you didn’t have room to put anywhere else. I have seen people fold up clothing and arrange it on a quilt, put out toys, board games, vases, garden urns, and various and sundry other things on blankets and such.
I can’t say this is the very best way to display things, and don’t use your best linens, as people are likely to walk on them, but it’s an option for keeping things off the grass or mud.
Starting a few days before the sale, if possible, start putting prices on your items with the labels. Remember that it’s a yard sale, not eBay. Having said that, you may have a few higher-end items that you want to ask more for.
The time to ask for higher prices is earlier in the day. If you’re going to get it, you’re likely to get it then. If by noon or so, people are scoffing at your price, it may be time to come down a bit. Another thing you can do is take the name and number of the people who are interested and say you’ll contact them if you come down in price at all. Otherwise, you’re left with nothing, and those valuable leads have all gone away.
Remember, you’re trying to make a little money, but also to get rid of stuff. People are expecting bargains. You don’t have to give away your stuff for ridiculously low prices, but I don’t think people expect you to have prices on the items that are “what it would sell for on eBay.” (I once went to an “estate sale” which consisted largely of books which the people had individually priced on alibris.com. They printed out the alibris asking prices and stuck them inside the books. People were irritated and felt cheated, as they’d come for reasonable bargains (not to mention that alibris’ asking prices for books tend to be optimistic). Needless to say, many left empty-handed.)
Prices are up to you, of course, but here is a ballpark for some common items that I have seen around at sales over the years:
Clothing: usually around $5 an item; I’ve seen as low as $2 or so and to $10 on the high end. With some specialty, designer items, if people are aware of the label, they may ask more; for example I bought two “Tommy Bahama” (an upscale men’s silk resort wear label) garments priced $15 for both, and considered that a very good deal.
Furniture: I’ve seen coffee tables for around $10 to $30; couches for usually around $25 to $100; dining room tables for $100 to $300.
Books: Hardbacks are usually $2 - $3. Paperbacks are anywhere from 0.25 to $1. I usually see them at $1.
Sometimes, at the end of an estate sale, when the sellers are desperare to get rid of rows and rows of books, you’ll see deals like “a bag of books for $1” or such.
CD’s: These usually go for around $1-$2. If you have a nice boxed set or double set you might consider charging more.
Jewelry: Set fine pieces aside and price separately; these you probably will want to look up on eBay.com or other web sites to see their value. This does not mean you have to price things at retail or the going rate on eBay, but use it as a guideline and you can set your prices a bit down from there.
Typically, I see prices of between $1-$10 on costume jewelry pieces. Finer pieces’ prices can be all over the place; at many estate sales I see prices of between $50 and $300 or so on the nicer pieces. Obviously, some of the nicest pieces will be worth $1000 and up. (Also, if you have a piece that nice, you really may want to put that up on eBay yourself, rather than selling it at a yard sale at a sacrifice!). ?
Obviously, there is a lot of variation there depending on how new and nice the item is. If in doubt, you can go with your higher price early in the morning, get a feel for people’s reactions, and come down in price later in the morning. And again, get people’s name and numbers if they’re interested but don’t like the price so you can call them with an offer later if you don’t get any other takers.
(Many estate sale companies start the first day of a sale at full price, then go to 25% off the 2nd day, then 50% off the third day, and then make whatever deals they need toward the end of the 3rd day to close out the sale. You can practice this concept compressed into one day if you like).
Jewelry can be placed out in the sandwich bags on a card table, in a box, or in a basket, which looks nice. Another thing you can do with jewelry is buy the little string and paper price tags for the odd-shaped items. This looks especially nice on the fine jewelry.
Speaking of fine jewelry, if you are selling any, have it near the cashier and have someone keeping their eye on it at all times, if possible.
My rule of thumb for pricing things on eBay when I list stuff on there is to go for around 1/3 to ˝ of retail prices; I think people expect to pay less than that at yard sales.
Do try to have a price on every item. Otherwise you’ll be fielding more questions from people during the sale than you’d like.
(I have a friend who disagrees with me on this, and doesn’t price anything at his yard sales. He finds it a “time saver,” but acknowledges some people may not like having to ask for the price (I am one of those people). ? When people ask him for the price, he then comes back with, “How much would you like to pay?” He says this strategy works best for him, although he has you need to be the kind of person who can interact with the customer to do this. So I am throwing that out as another strategy for you to consider. But I think it will keep you busier than a one-armed paper-hanger with an itch at the morning rush.
If you start to get low on time near the start of the sale, and you’re left with a lot of inexpensive items still unpriced, consider putting them all in a big box, or in one area, all marked one price.
During the Sale
Start Time / When to Run the Sale
Which and How Many Days
Most yard sales are one-day affairs, but some people run their yard sales like an estate sale, as multi-day events. In that case, it is often Thursday through Sunday, or Friday through Sunday.
The risk of rain or other bad weather is something you need to account for, especially if you’re not in California or the Southwest. Decide what you’re going to do if it rains, and put that in your ads, if possible.
The day of the sale has come, and you’re up and at ‘em. Your sale most likely starts at 8 or 9 a.m. – I personally think 8 a.m. is better, because you get a lot of people who like to get up at the crack of dawn for these things. People have even been known to start waiting in line at 4 a.m. outside a house for an estate sale!
However, even starting at 9 a.m. will be OK, just be warned that you may have those “early birds.” Which leads us to…
Tweet-tweet: Dealing with Early Birds
Many folks don’t mind if some people show up 10-15 minutes early. And overall, I feel it’s good to allow at least some early bird-ism simply because if you don’t, you may lose those eager-beaver customers who may go on to another sale if you won’t let them in a little early. Yard-sale culture is an early-morning one (much as I don’t like it some mornings when I want to sleep in!). ? There tends to be a “morning rush,”
and then things calm down to a steady trickle, usually.
However, if you feel strongly that you don’t want people coming before you officially start, you can state “No early birds” in your ad. Otherwise, simply be firm with people that you won’t sell anything until the official start time.
I have been at some sales that were held in a fenced-in area such as a backyard, and they dealt with early birds by closing the gate until the sale officially opened, taping a sign to the door with the start time and that the gate would open then.
If you don’t have a fenced-in yard or space to hold the sale, you could try delineating the area with chairs or other items from your sale.
The Art of Haggling
When you put on a yard sale, you can expect that people will try to dicker you down. Some people, anyway. The age-old art of haggling is alive and well in yard sale culture.
Start Firm, Discount Later
That doesn’t mean you have to take their low-ball offers. You can work it like many estate sales do, where early on, prices are firm, and later, you are willing to negotiate.
The way many estate sales work, items are full price the first day of the sale; 25% off the 2nd day, and 50% off the third and final day. As the third day ends, the seller has more flexibility to take whatever is being offered if he or she does not want to keep the stuff that’s left.
Discounts for Buying in Bulk
You may also want to give people a discount for buying many items or buying a “lot” of items..e.g. they offer to take a whole three boxes of books off your hands, and instead of $1 a book, you give them a bulk deal of $30 for 50 books, or the like.
Here’s a look at haggling from the other side: some things people who like to go to yard sales had to say about it:
Dickering Down: Readers Share Stories and Strategies, from “Yard Salers” newsletter
We got some excellent reader mail about dickering down. I'll let them speak for themselves. Our first letter is from Maggie:
RE: Dickering down. EXCELLENT point that you have to be sensitive about doing that. I was once at a sale where there were a lot of 25 cent items. This old geezer holds up one and asks the woman, "Would you take fifteen cents for this?"
A psych prof once suggested that when negotiating, have the exact money you want to offer in your hand and say, "Can I GIVE you X dollars for this?" By saying, "Can I GIVE you," it frames it in a more positive context and the visual cue of seeing the money is more likely to sway the potential seller.
Two years ago I was at a sale where a large obnoxious man was badgering the seller over a box of books. I got closer and saw that it was a box of 1960's kids series books -- in fact all 34 books in the series. The woman had a price of 75 dollars on the box and he was telling her that no one sells books at a garage sale for more than a quarter each, while holding out a ten dollar bill to her.
Fortunately I had enough cash. I walked up, smiled sweetly, handed the seller 75 dollars and picked up the box. The jerky guy freaked out -- I guess I would too if I saw someone walking away with 3000 dollars worth of books that could have been mine -- LOL. He told the woman he'd give her 75 dollars, but the seller said, "Sorry buddy, they're sold."
He followed me out to the car cursing and screaming at me. Penny-wise and pound foolish. If you're already getting a fabulous deal, do you really need to deal down more? Doesn't the original seller have a right to get something as well? I'm not saying that if a seller drastically under-prices something that you have to say, hey these go on eBay for a hundred times that price. But in that situation I think it's the ethical thing to pay the asking price.
Thanks for the thought-provoking newsletter.
And thank you for the thought-provoking letter! You said it better than I did. I totally agree with all your points. That is so funny about the geezer offering 15 cents for the 25 cents items. I mean…really! ;)
So that’s a look from the other side. You don’t have to take rudeness, and you are free to reject too low-ball offers.
“Who’s Taking the Money?” Money Belt/Cashier Table
Speaking of paying for stuff, have you thought about how you’re going to take money?
I recommend having a clearly delineated cashier table or money-taker. Even if it’s a big colorful apron (preferably with multiple pockets, for dollar bills, change, tape etc.), have a money-taker that stands out.
(A tool belt will also work for this purpose, though it stands out less than an apron).
If you don’t want to wander around with an apron, you can have a money-taking table, such as a card table or other small table, with a cash box on it. But do make sure someone is always manning the station and has their eye on the table, just in case!
I’ve been at many sales where there was no clearly designated money-taker or cashier table, just people sitting around chatting and sipping coffee. Sometimes they get so absorbed in their conversations that you have to interrupt them – “Excuse me, but who do I pay?”
Not a huge irritation, but why not make it clear who’s getting paid? ?
I’d start with between $100-$150 in cash to make change, especially if you have furniture to sell.
Be careful with giving change – in some stores, they advise cashiers to keep the bill that was handed to a cashier out in front of them until the change is handed over, so a dishonest person can’t claim that they gave you a $20 and not a $10, say. I’ve had a manager in one job I worked advise me to do that.
You may want to have a designated cashier, who uses a calculator, if possible and another person who can wander and keep an eye on things.
Bag It – Getting People’s Purchases Wrapped up
Have a stash of plastic grocery bags, shopping bags, and paper shopping bags with handles, if you can, for people to take away multiple purchases.
(The good news is you can also purge your home of these space-hogging bits of clutter!)
And grab that big stack of old newspapers and set them out next to the bags for people to wrap up their fragile items. When things get busy, they’ll see them to wrap up themselves. Otherwise, if it’s slow and you have time, it’s nice to wrap things for them.
Run a Sale You’d Like to Attend
The “Weekend Treasure” web site (www.weekendtreasure.com) advises going to other yard and garage sale to “see what you like or dislike about each one and incorporate those aspects you prefer into your own. See what works and doesn't work. Think like a shopper.”
What to do with the Stuff that Doesn’t Sell
It’s 1 p.m., customers have slowed to a trickle, and you’re ready to close up shop. If you have stuff you still want to unload, try slashing prices as low as you’re willing to go, and/or tell the customers there you’re willing to bargain.
What to do with the stuff that’s still there? Resist the urge to put it back in the house. Some folks like to put it in the back of their truck or car, and drive it off immediately to the nearest Goodwill or other charity.
There is a thrift store near my home that has big bins in front where you can simply leave your donations during store hours. Be sure to get a tax receipt from the organization and fill it out if you want credit for the charitable donation. (At the thrift store where I go regularly, you simply ask for one at the cashier).
Now your home is clutter-free…at least until the next sale!
Appendix: Yard Sale Timeline
3-4 weeks ahead
– get any neighbors and/or friends involved; send emails; call people. Start putting aside clothes, toys, books you no longer want into boxes or designated area
3 weeks ahead
– check newspaper ad deadlines
2 weeks ahead
– make sure print newspaper ads are placed
1 week ahead
- start organizing inventory in one designated area; bag jewelry in individual containers, ziplock bags, egg cartons, or the like
- post signs all over your neighborhood; make sure you get one on major roads and connecting roads; ensure they are sturdy and upright
- gather up card tables or other tables in your house to use for the sale, or ask neighbors if you can borrow theirs. If you plan to rent any tables, look into it at this point.
- Start saving up your smaller bills like fives, ones, and even your change, and keep it all in one place. You may need it to make change the day of the sale! Where possible, pay with a twenty where you go that week or two before the sale, so you can start getting lots of small bills. (Your alternative is to make a trip to the bank to get change, but just getting change for a while as you make regular purchases is easier).
2-3 days ahead
– obtain cardboard boxes for the sale that people can use to box their purchases; gather your plastic and paper bags;
- email or otherwise warn your immediate neighbors (if they don’t already know and aren’t involved) that you are holding a sale and there may be a lot of cars parking around the area the morning of the sale. This is not 100% necessary but a nice courtesy for good community relations. (If you are selling or giving out doughnuts or brownies the day of the sale, it’s also a nice gesture to give some to those neighbors and will create goodwill).
The Night Before
- Make a final check to be sure all your stuff is in one spot and can be easily carried out in the morning; set out an apron/tool belt or box you can use to hold money and make change
- Don’t forget to set your alarm for a good hour or two before your sale is set to open!
The Day of the Sale:
- Get up at least an hour ahead and start setting up your sale. Enjoy!
The Afternoon or Evening After the Sale:
- Don’t forget to take your signs down!
Also by Julia L. Wilkinson, Available at http://www.yardsalers.net/bookstore.asp:
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