Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Improve your garage sale with these tips

I recently went to some garage sales in my community and noticed some stark contrasts among them. It was not necessarily the presentation or the setup or even how the sale was along the sidewalk rather than in the garage. While I may not know much about hosting a garage sale (last year's attempt was a flop), I do know what I like to see when I attend one. Here are a few points to consider when you have a garage sale.

Be friendly and greet your potential buyers.
When the host or hosts do not even acknowledge me, I start to wonder what kind of situation I have stepped into. Sometimes the people involved in the sale are busy chatting with each other rather than saying "hello" to the person who decided to stop and take a look at the goods. For example, I stopped by a garage sale when I saw a sign by the road. When I stopped, I was mildly concerned about the dog at the end of the driveway as I am not a fan of barking and jumping on people, but hoped the owner would take charge of his pet. While I was grateful he did, the other two people standing at the end of the driveway did not even look at me, make eye contact or otherwise acknowledge my existence. Why would I want to spend money at the sale if the "hosts" are too busy taking a smoking break to say "hello" to me? I felt disrespected and annoyed, and did not end up buying anything from the meager offering.

Have the prices clearly marked, whether on each item or for a group of items (e.g., on a table).
Unfortunately, several garage sales I recently attended violated this rule. I find it frustrating to decide I like an item but then find no tag on it to tell me if I even want to buy it. Is the puzzle map 50 cents or $5? If it is $5, will the seller accept $2? It is hard to decide to buy or bargain on an item if there is no point from which to start. The nature of the host can also influence this aspect. If I did not receive a greeting and do not feel encouraged to talk to the host, I will walk away rather than ask about the price on an item.

Ask a friend or neighbor to help with the garage sale.
I found some rag rugs at a garage sale and was interested in buying them. While I did not need the rugs, I thought I might like to put them on the floor in the basement as a prelude to rendering it more useful than as a refinishing station. However, there were no prices on the rugs nor a sign listing "2 for $5" or something similar. While I did not hold the host's nongreeting against him (he was busy), I did get irritated when he said he would be right back before I had a chance to ask about the rugs. However, I decided I would wait for his return and decide whether I wanted the rugs or not. The host was showing some other customers the stepping stones he was selling, but the stones were in the backyard. Since he was the only one hosting the garage sale, there was no one else to ask question of or help out other customers. When the host did not return after a couple minutes, I decided my time was worth more than waiting around for this man to return and then find out I did not want to buy the rugs at his asking price. Therefore, I left, angry and disappointed. A second person could have taken care of me and the two other people who were interested in buying items, the other two with items to buy in hand.

Label items clearly.
I know it is difficult to price the item, organize the garage space and make each item accessible to potential buyers. However, if there is a label missing inside a garment, please add the size to the price tag or on a separate sticker. I find it annoying to find clothing that looks like it might be in my size but then the tag with the relevant information is cut out of the garment. While the person may not like the tag irritation, having a size, even estimated, would be useful for me to decide if I wanted to buy the item or not.

If pricing items by box or by a quantity, make sure the items are presorted. An open box with jars labeled "$4" does not help me if there are jars outside the box and I do not know if they are included or excluded.

Note for plant sales: Labels apply to these as well. This year, I have gone to three different plant sales in three different communities. The one in my community was an abysmal failure, in my opinion. While the prices were clearly marked, the plants were not. I have no idea what the name of the plant was, what its lighting requirements were, and the hostesses were standing around talking amongst themselves rather than making themselves available to buyers. Frankly, there was not a great variety of plants to choose from so I was disappointed in many ways. The previously visited plant sales had knowledgeable plant sellers with a great selection of well-organized and excellently labeled plants in individual pots.

While my list does not cover how to host a garage sale (good sites are here and here), I hope my list of suggestions helps improve the response to your garage sale. While it is hard to forget poorly serviced garage sales, I have several pleasant memories of friendly women and men who chatted with me briefly and made me feel a bit more connected with my neighbors.

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