Garage sales

9 things I learned about garage sales by hosting one

Once upon a time I fancied myself quite the garage saler. My friend Craig and I had the garage saling thing down to an intricate and fine art. I thought it’d be relatively easy to transition from buyer to seller. I was wrong.

I thought I could parlay my experience around the garage saling traps into huge profits. I was wrong.

Here are seven things I learned from our garage sale experience last weekend.

1. Be firm about starting time (in your ad). I explicitly said 7:30am in my ad. And I meant it. Much to the chagrin of the six vultures cars that pulled up outside our house.

2. Long weekends produce “scarcity” in supply and demand. Nobody wins. The date we picked was more based on necessity than design. The first group of professional garage sale types told us we were one of the few sales advertised, but the morning rush faded quickly into the daytime trickle.

3. It’s great when your neighbours have a garage sale too – but only if you’ve advertised together. Conversely, it’s not so cool when your neighbours have an impromptu sale and don’t tell their customers that the signs on the street and the ad in the paper are for the garage sale next door.

4. Garage sale customers aren’t particularly interested in coffee. I had anticipated making more money from sales of cups of coffee than from our stuff. Despite our meagre stuff sales, they dwarfed the value of my coffee sales ($2).

5. Garage sale customers are interested in cheap, portable, and resellable, goods. We had a pretty good range of stuff (I thought) on sale. But we sold books (for cheap cheap), DVDs (for cheap), some small glass bottles, and some other assorted goods priced between $10-15. We did not sell our furniture.

6. It pays to think a little bit about pricing before hand (and about if you want to sell stuff). We sold a couple of things that we’d put out a little reluctantly for much less than they were worth, because I was sick of not selling anything. I’d say we also overpriced a few things and the fact those prices were displayed meant people wrote them off really quickly.

7. It’s a soul-destroying experience being judged by your taste in material possessions. I try very hard not to define myself by what I own, but I also work hard enough in the purchasing process to be a little attached to some of my things. When I put them out for display so that other people might buy them, I might feel a little affronted if they turn up their noses and leave almost as soon as they arrive. I’m thankful that I’m storing up treasures in heaven.

8. Selling a couple of Christian books is a good conversation starter. Also – don’t sell popular atheist books. I pulled one from sale after I noticed someone looking at it because I didn’t want to be responsible for their destruction… I had the best conversation I had all day (and sold a coffee) to the young guy who grabbed the “Five Love Languages for Singles” (OK, so it’s not really a “Christian” book).

9. Gumtree is far superior to garage sales in terms of investment of time, ease, and reward. Garage Sales take heaps of time. Are low return strategies. And aren’t much fun. I put the stuff we didn’t sell on Gumtree and I’ve shifted a fair portion of it in 36 hours.

Garage Sailling

With the cost of living rising I can’t understand why there aren’t more people out garage sailing on weekends. It’s fun. It’s cheap. It’s full of bargains. Or, stealing a similar sales pitch triplet from Lock Stock – “It’s a deal. It’s a steal. It’s the sale of the…” hang on, that probably violates my sense of self censorship.

Anyway, I digress. On Saturday I teamed up with my regular garage sailing companion – Mr Ferguson, and a relative newcomer to the experience Mr Mildenhall. Craig and I have established some rules for our garage sailing trips that I think are worth sharing with the masses. He’s also harnessed the powers of modern technology to make garage sailing a breeze. I make no apologies for continuing the sailing motif.  

The rules:

1. You must barter, bargain, beg or negotiate on price. If the vendor refuses to drop the price you must try to get extras thrown into the deal.
2. You must buy something – somewhere during the day you must make a purchase.
3. Someone (usually me) has to buy a particularly stupid item for under $1.
4. Car doors must be locked at each stop.
5. Team members must be prepared to convince reluctant participants to buy something they clearly don’t need (like a fishtank).
6. You must have a friend available with a Ute or 4WD to pick up your bulky purchases.

Other observations on garage sailing regarding optimum conditions are best expressed by some mathematical equation where as time increases the opportunity to bargain increases and price decreases. But at the same time – availability of goods also decreases. The optimal time is somewhere in the middle – where bargains can be found – but the premium items have been snapped up by second hand dealers. Another element is consumer mood – where if you don’t get up at 6am – ie start somewhere closer to 9am – bargains are available and optimism is high.

Craig, being the technological early adopter that he is makes the process refined and efficient. Coordinates and details of each garage sail listed in the Townsville Bulletin are plugged into Google Maps – and routes are plotted with Craig’s laptop GPS system. Craig also now has wireless broadband – which means he can take photos of an item, email it to his wife and contact her via skype for approval. This is revolutionary stuff – and will change the face of Garage Sailing for ever. 

I’ll try to put up a photo of this week’s “trophy” a porcelain cow shaped gravy boat/milk jug – but for now you’ll have to content yourself with this pic


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