Thursday, March 18, 2010

12 Ways to Drive Away Buyers at Your Garage Sale

That is me, in the photo, standing in garage probably wondering, where did I put the change bag? ( I never said I was the most organized person), at a season's past annual garage sale.

Along with the first signs of spring comes yet another kind of sign: Garage Sale (or Yard Sale, as case may be). The reasons for holding one are varied. You want to declutter the house/apt/garage/basement. You need to downsize. Or, face it, you could really use the extra cash. Garage/yard sales are work but can be rewarding if approached with some stragedy going in. Imagine how you will feel once you reclaim your space and have some extra coins in your pocket to boot. After 40 years of attending/holding garage sales (I started early with Mom), I can safely say: avoid these deal-breakers so not to blow your hard work.

1) Smoking inside garage: Yes, it is your home but by opening the door you invited me in as a guest and I may be put-off or allergic to smoke and the smell. Last summer I was forced to throw away a brand new purse as the smoke smell lingered too long.

2)Leaving everything unmarked (a few exceptions may apply). Announcing, "make me an offer" as I approach is a study in frustration. You may be insulted if I low-ball the price I am willing to pay, and you might be sizing me up to determine what you think I can afford. I know you paid "good money" for that musical toaster-oven-thingy, but it is outside for a reason. If the item has real monetary value, then perhaps consign it, sell it online, or put an ad in the paper. A rule of thumb: you will probably get one-fourth to one-third of retail value if lucky. Items that have sentimental value because "little Jimmy" gave it to you, maybe you aren't ready to part with it or pass it along to a family member who can appreciate it. Larger items not displayed outside could be represented with a photo posted.

3)Putting off unpacking boxes. Just today, I rushed over to a posted "9 a.m." yard sale only to find: garage still stacked with boxes and nothing was priced at nearly 10 a.m. Boxes piled in the garage and on the driveway do not make a sale. Those are called "donations." In my experience, Estate Sale shoppers love looking for buried treasure in piles, yet the serious garage saler is hopping from one to the next and may not feel up to the task. Buyers want and need visual aids to draw them in. Place merchandise at eye-level as close to curb as possible, without obstructing sidewalks, so driver will want to park and come get a closer look. Unless it is raining, or you live in the inner-city, porch sales seem to cause people to shy away, as no one wants to feel trapped, so make for easy exit.

4)Calling it an Estate Sale. Unless the entire contents are included, call a spade a spade. Thinking you can attract more customers by the fancy title will not endear you to buyers. One beat up dresser does not an estate sale make (even if the house is on the market). Promote accordingly.

5)Pawning off smelly, stained couches, rugs, bedding. If you can not rid the item of pet odors and household stains then why would I want to pay money to mess with your mess? Best to call bulky item pickup.

6)Creating a safety hazard for customers. I have seen it all: swords, axes, knives, saws-all perched on tables or thrown on ground. This is a recipe for disaster. At one sale, the patio table had a board loose and it fell off and hit my foot. The owner barely looked up from her phone call to see if I was alright (I was). Think about what could go wrong and correct it.

7)Displaying merchandise in rank, smelly basements. Maybe you are immune, but my nose works fine. The smell of pet urine or mildew will send me running back to the car in a flash. No bargain is worth subjecting my nose to offensive odors. Allow time to air out the space, if indoors, to create a pleasant environment.

8)Offering broken appliances, phone, cameras for sale. What do I look like? The Maytag Repair man? No one wants to pay good money for broken items. If a printer needs ink, say so, or if CD/Radio combo only works on one setting, mark accordingly. The smaller items can go into a free box for pack rats to pick through. Larger appliances may appeal to scrap dealers or call bulky pick up.

9)Screaming at children, teens, pets, so on. Setting up and selling is tiring, I know, and as obvious as it is that you are doing all of the heavy lifting while the rest of the family racks up the cell phone bill, loud voices do not entice me to linger. In fact I probably will slink away quietly. I still recall one type-A yard sale diva yelling at her relative for mixing talking toys with non-talking toys. If I want conflict, I'll watch a realty TV show.

10)Letting dogs sniff or yap. No matter how much you think Fido is a part of the family, Fido and I do not have a history so Fido and strangers may not mix. It makes me and others nervous to approach yards with dogs off a lease and on the loose. Dogs barking behind the door or in the back yard are unnerving as well.

11) Bickering with relatives. I have heard it all. Hubby "lowballs" the antique bedframe, wife gets mad, yells then storms off. Siblings argue in earshot of me over who wants to keep family possessions verus who wants to clean out and move on. Do all a favor and decide before the sale and warn siblings/spouses that you plan on selling grandpa's taxidermied fox, or the fur will fly on sale day. Play nice for the customers for one day.

12) Opening up after advertised time. Yardsellers are up early and eager to buy. Throwing up road blocks such as the lady did today with her "late start, helper did not show up" excuse just makes it more likely she will be hauling unsold merchandise back into her garage at night. The "come back later when we are set up" line sours my mood and most likely other sales await out there. It is bad enough reading tiny signs at 35-miles-per hour, only to find an empty yard or late-risers. If you and crew are not up to task, postpone, or donate and take a tax deduction if available to you.

Other annoying habits of garage sale abusers: leaving signs up way past sale date and causing me to waste gas looking for a non-existent sale. Overcharging for soda and bottled water, or cheap homemade lemonaide, etc. Not having change on hand. Whole families chowing down on giant meals is no fun. A snack is one thing but watching you dine al fresco is rude.

Tips: keep doors locked. Keep change bag on person, keep large bills in bank inside. Do not allow anyone to use restroom. Show customers electronics/lamps work by offering to plug them in. Assemble computers to draw attention to them. Keep signs short and simple. Ask friends to price own items so you won't have to guess for her/him. Enjoy yourself!