Aug 172010

On my Saturday Savings post, Janel asked,

“Wow!!! You did great! Are you this lucky all the time? You always have great things that you find!”

My answer is no. No, I’m most certainly not that lucky all the time. It’s just that I only consider it blogworthy when I am 🙂

We love garage sales, and go to a lot of them. We estimate that we’ve been to at least 800 garage sales in the 10 years that we’ve been together, and while many of them are great, most are just OK, and some are disastrous! Last night we were cracking ourselves up, reminiscing about some of the worst garage sales we’ve ever been to. Just for fun, we started writing down our memories, and I realized that there are so many categories of garage sale hilarity that I could write a whole series of posts! This is the first in that series – the worst garage sales we’ve ever been to.

1) The world’s most depressing “citywide” garage sales. I use the term “city” very, very loosely. These were held in a tiny town of 130 people, with only three business places, all of which have been closed and abandoned for many years. There’s still a church and a town park, but nothing happens in this town. Every sale we went to was more depressing than the last, but the worst was at an old, falling-down house, completely packed full of crap. They were burning the worst of the junk in a giant bonfire on the front yard. The house hadn’t been cleaned or occupied for years, and as you picked through the dirty, mildewy piles of junk, the floorboards creaked and squished beneath your feet. These people were trying to sell greasy pots and pans, chipped dishes, old mismatched silverware, jars full of rusty nails, old light fixtures, dirty, yellowed lampshades. One whole room in the back was full of Dale Earnhardt “collectible” merchandise with damp, mildewed packaging. One of the sale operators said to my husband, “Son, what you’re looking at there is a gold mine.” My husband blinked at him a few times and walked out. Honestly…if I had to live in this town, I think I might seriously contemplate suicide.

2) The sale that made us want to scrub ourselves with turpentine and sell everything we own. This sale was held in a cold, dirty, damp garage with a dirt floor. There was such an unbelievable amount of total garbage, all of it filthy and moldy and smelling of cigarette smoke. When we got home, we scrubbed our hands 10 or 15 times, and as we sat in our clean, dry, uncluttered living room, my husband looked at me and said, “We’ve got to get rid of more stuff.” That’s how traumatized he was.

3) The “Lowered Expectations” garage sale. If you’ve never seen the Mad TV “Lowered Expectations” dating service sketches, here’s a clip (with Stuart as an added bonus).

This sale was held in a small town park with a playground, and consisted of – I kid you not – horrible 70s clothing and, for some unfathomable reason, a whole bunch of kerosene lamps. To make matters worse, my husband was cornered by the proprietor, who was a chatter, and yes, to save myself, I abandoned him and bolted to the van. However, I was punished for throwing my husband to the wolves because the van was facing the park, and I was forced to witness an extremely unfortunate-looking couple as they engaged in a hot and heavy make-out session all over the curly slide, possibly scarring me for life. And that’s how this sale got its name.

4) The “Old Folks” garage sale. I have a real fondness for the elderly, and I love talking to them, but I hate their garage sales. God bless em’, they’re just so darn frugal that they keep absolutely everything, and when they finally get around to selling it, it’s worth less than nothing. This includes baby food jars from the 60s, rusty Tone’s spice tins, and Calumet baking powder cans, cheap, plastic jewelry, used support hose, and ancient polyester pant suits. They also seem to have acres and acres of handmade yarn crafts, such as crocheted tissue box covers and scary-looking dolls with knitted skirts (which fit over tree-shaped, Airwick air fresheners that you can no longer buy), all of which are crafted in the tackiest of colors, and reek of moth balls and old soup.

5) The “Make Me an Offer” sale. These are the sales where nothing is priced, and stuff is usually piled in bins that you have to dig through. Most people look around in a baffled, something’s-not-right manner, pick up a few things and search in vain for price tags, and then awkwardly try to slink away. The too-lazy-to-price-stuff sale operator then chases them down the driveway shouting, “Come back this afternoon! We’ll have more stuff then!”

6) The “Town That Had Nothing but Crap” sales. These were the only citywide garage sales we’ve ever gone to where we bought absolutely nothing. We theorized that if there was anything good at these sales, it was obviously snapped up long before we got there. At every sale we went to, people were selling only worthless garbage that should’ve gone to the landfill. Popcorn tins, rattletrap playpens from the 70s, cassette tapes that they dubbed off the radio. Yellowed tupperware, musty Harlequin romances with mildewy pages, VHS tapes with no cases. When we got in the car, I turned to my husband and said, “Have you ever in your life seen so much crap?” At one sale, someone had plastered a hunk of blue masking tape to the side of a cat, which read, “My name is Marbles. I’m free!” I felt so sorry for that cat, having to live amongst such idiots and all of their useless junk.

7) The “Our Stuff is Better than Anyone Else’s Stuff” sales. These are the sales where people are extra proud of their stuff, and price it accordingly. For example, a book that would cost 50 cents at any other sale costs $2.00. DVDs that most people would sell for $2.00, they try to sell for $5.00. We’ve noticed that some entire towns have this “Our Stuff is Pure Gold” mentality, and we don’t waste much time going to their garage sales.

8) The “Failed Business Attempt” garage sales. These are sales held by people who tried to make a go of selling Watkins/Avon/Amway/Mary Kay/PartyLite/Making Memories, or other products of this ilk, and weren’t successful. They then try to sell their excess inventory at garage sales, for way too much money. Don’t waste your time at these sales, because these people have not yet learned the difference between “garage sale,” and “retail.”

9) The “Professional” garage sale. Also known as the “Perpetual” garage sale. These are people who try to make a living selling the same overpriced, tired old stuff every single weekend. Sometimes the price tags on this junk are so faded that you can’t even read them anymore. We’ve learned to recognize these sales right away, and we have the addresses of the worst offenders memorized. These people often have large amounts of new merchandise that they obviously bought on clearance, hoping to resell it at a profit (often they’re disgruntled former eBayers). If you ever go to a sale where they have an entire wall of TVs blaring, or a table full of cell phone chargers and accessories, or a sign that reads, “Welcome! Mom and I always enjoy seeing you at our sales!” be afraid! Take my advice and run – don’t walk – to your car, and drive away, for no good shall come of it.

10) The “Hillbilly Bake Sale.” I’m sorry, but I can’t think of a nicer way to describe this. This woman was selling a dazzling array of dirty plastic buckets and tin cans, as well as $2 (???) homemade cookies and murky-looking iced tea. She had her “bake sale” set up in a rickety, cobwebby garage with a dirt floor, and not only was she missing several teeth, but her hands were so grubby that I’m pretty sure she could grow potatoes under her fingernails. She was nice enough, and I actually felt really sorry for her, but she kept touching my baby’s head with her filthy hands, and trying to persuade me to let the girls have cookies, which I was thoroughly convinced would give them food poisoning or parasites. Finally my husband said, “We have to go now,” turned abruptly, and walked away. I smiled apologetically and trailed after him, and when we got to the van I made the girls use hand sanitizer (even though they hadn’t touched anything). I rubbed some on DJ’s nearly-bald head too, just to be safe.

Ah…small town garage sales. You want to go to some with me now, don’t you? C’mon, you know you do!