A Good Garage Sale Guess

 Posted by on September 7, 2010  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Sep 072010

A guest post by my husband 🙂

Saturday, we had one of those garage sale days that we talk about days and even months later, Since I haven’t guest-posted for quite some time, Heather suggested that I share this experience you.

We’d been to several sales, and most of them were a bummer. The kids were cranky and tired, so we stopped to eat and take a break. DJ was melting down, but after nursing, he relaxed into his car seat, and we stopped by Grandpa and Grandma’s. An ice-cream truck went down the street playing “The Entertainer,” and the girls got excited (we don’t have one in our neighborhood). We have a new rule – no food or drinks (except water) in the van – so we decided to relax while Bee finished her ice cream bar. Heather looked for more sales in the newspaper, and I fashioned a snow cone holder out of a drink cup with a lid for Cakesie’s snow cone (I knew it would take her a half hour to finish it, and we wanted to hit the road). We assured Cakes that she could resume eating at the next stop.

Off we drove, DJ asleep, and the girls watching Strawberry Shortcake on the DVD player, to find some sales en route to home. It was surprising how few sales there were, and the first few we stopped at were ridiculous. One of them was at a house that I used for an appraisal comp last year, and I was appalled at how much “junk” the new owners had been able to cram into that house in less than two years! They must’ve had over 300 old VHS tapes and lots of other worthless garbage that nobody wanted. The sale extended from the garage into the basement, which wreaked of cat urine. Very depressing.

About to give up for the day, we slathered on the hand sanitizer and piled back into the van. DJ was getting restless and hungry again, so we gave up on going to more sales. It was 2:30, and most of the sales advertised closing at 3. I remembered passing a sign for a yard sale as we neared the “cat urine house,” and I drove back that way. Announcing “yard sale” to the family, I suggested we swing by this one sale yet. When we got there, DJ made it very plain that he was going to nurse again. The girls got out with me, and Heather stayed in the van to feed The Boy.

When I walked up the steep drive, the first thing I noticed was tables full of girls’ clothing, most in sizes that would fit Bee and Cakes (on up to teenage sizes). The name brands were predominately premium, as were the prices. Usually, we see clothing prices of 25 cents up to $2 at garage sales. These people had tons of blue jeans at $5 each, and shirts at $3 each. Typically, this is when we turn and walk away. I decided to investigate anyway.

The next thing I noticed was the proprietor sitting in the garage at the top of the steep drive, calmly reading a book, and not too concerned about her sale. This was a good sign. If the owner comes out and proudly shows you their outdated and overpriced merchandise and won’t shut up about it, you always sense the pride level and willingness to hang onto everything. This sale seemed different. I knew her sale was closing soon and Heather was busy with DJ, so I asked if she would be open for 15 minutes more. She said yes, and I told her my wife was in the car feeding our baby and I wanted her to see the clothes on the sale. In the meantime, I asked her if she was considering late day volume discounts on her sale items. She said “I can do that!” Another good sign.

Heather finished with DJ and I told her she had to see the “nice selection of overpriced clothes.” She asked why, and I told her to trust me. I said “Find a pile of stuff you want and ignore the price tags.” I saw the astonishment on her face as she piled up $3 and $5 items, and the puzzled look on her face as I reassured her. When she had a large pile accumulated, I told her I was going to total up the price tags, and wanted her to look at each item as I held it up and keep a running total of what she would pay. My total of the price tags was $74.50. Hers was $15. I went for broke, carried the pile of clothes up to the owner (still engrossed in her book), held up the armload and said “These items are priced awfully high. If you’ll take $15 for these clothes, I will take ’em, otherwise I’ll put them back.” She hesitated for a moment, however didn’t stop to add up her price tags and said OK.

Heather was amazed when I walked toward the van with the clothes, and told her to look for anything else we could use. “This lady’s getting rid of stuff,” I said. Heather continued to shop, and I continued to bargain. It was good. It reminded me of times when we’ve been at sales where the owners were moving far away or overseas, and the more we bought, the more they gave. Definitely a mutually beneficial transaction. Following is the reward we went home with:

Clothing brand names included Bongo, Arizona, American Living, Lei, Nike, Malibu, Speedo, Skechers, Bonnie Jean, Disney, Athletic Works, Hannah Montana, and Fuel. Most of the clothes we purchased were size 4’s for Cakes, who is just now outgrowing size 3 pants.

8 pair jeans (all looked like they were only worn once or twice)
2 pair capris
1 shorts
1 skort
2 swim suits
1 backpack (for DJ)
8 shirts
1 fur-trimmed Christmas dress
1 footie PJs (new with tags)
2 pair shoes (Nike and Skechers)

Total for the above items – $15

This sale brings to mind some important garage sale principles:

1. Anytime is a good time to stop at a sale. The early birds get the best selection, and the last visitors have the best opportunities to negotiate.

2. The owner said that it was their first sale ever, and they didn’t know how to price things. I think she was frustrated that more things hadn’t sold. Sometimes people just need help in pricing their stuff.

3. Garage sales in which the owner seems to have little interest in their sale can be a huge bonus. It shows a lack of attachment.

4. Prices sometimes need to be ignored. The important thing to do when objects are overpriced is to assess the situation, throw out some questions like “Volume discounts?”, and try to determine if the seller has any interest in keeping items. If you can determine that they really want to liquidate, price is not an issue.

5. When shopping at garage sales, it’s helpful to have price points in mind that you won’t exceed, especially if you’re planning to bargain (which you should. Most people expect it). For example, here are some of Heather’s clothing price points:

Jeans/pants – $1
Shirts – 50 cents
Coats – $2-$3
Shoes – $1
Dresses – $1-$2
Hats/gloves – 50 cents
Shorts/capris – 50 cents – $1
Backpacks – $1

6. Sometimes, just asking “What is the best deal you can give me on these items?” will end up with an answer that is lower than you are willing to pay.

Editor’s note: It also really helps to have a husband who loves to bargain, and isn’t afraid to ask someone if they’ll take $15 when they’re asking $75. Which I would never do in a million years.

For more tips, please see Our Power Garage-Saling System.