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The intricacies of garage sales
Aug 14, 2014

Listen, I know people love garage sales. I understand. That’s great for them, but my wife and I are past that. We found that one burns out of that activity after years and years of doing it. Anyway, recently the memories came back vividly when we visited our kids and they were deep into the garage sale culture.
Back in the day, I think that every two or three years I would forget how time-consuming and tedious the whole thing was. I would forget how much trouble a garage sale is.  I would also forget how it irked me to see other people not like our previously-enjoyed belongings, which my wife referred to as “junk.”
    Anyway, every few years we would slip into our “let’s have a garage sale” mode.  We should have known better. In fact, my wife did know better and used to say: “It’s not worth all the time and effort. Why don’t we just donate the stuff to an organization who will distribute it to needy people?” 
I would reply: “Yeah and they probably won’t like our junk either.”
But, having forgotten the truth of all this, I would say: “Hey, it will be fun. The kids can help out. We’ll get the other neighbours in the bay to participate, etc.” 
This is where the family members wandered away muttering: “Will he ever learn?”  
Apparently not, because I used to persevere and the garage sale would finally be marked on the calendar.
Timing is everything
Now, according to “Willoughby’s theory of garage sale timing,” late April is ideal because it will be one of the first garage sales of the new season. People will be eager to buy. They’ll be anxious to get outdoors again and enjoy the spring weather. There will be lots of customers. This is the point where I forgot how fickle the weather can be in April and how a cold, blustery, rainy and/or snowy day can ruin such a brilliantly planned merchandising event.
Kids helping out?  
Well, I’m sure you were way ahead of me on that theory. The only interest they show is on the night before the sale when we're setting everything out in the garage. It’s then that they discover their old discarded and forgotten toys, and declare: “You can’t sell this!” and take it back inside where they never play with it again.
Come to think of it, there is one other time that the kids take an actual interest, and that’s at the end of the sale when you're counting the modest proceeds from your labour. They think they should get a cut of the profits since some of the junk/merchandise was theirs.
How much is it?
One of the most difficult things about a garage sale is “pricing.” If a TV set cost $500 back in the depths of time is it really worth only $30 now? Yes. Mark it at $30 and get rid of it.
But it’s not easy. Look at all those expensive toys the kids got at Christmas. Remember how appalled you were that toy-makers could charge that much money for something that flimsy. Shouldn’t we try to recover some of that cost? No. Mark it $4 and get rid of it.
Make me an offer
I don’t think I ever got the hang of the garage sale bartering technique. I guess it’s not my style and yet people love it. You know how it goes: you mark the item at $10 and they offer $6. You counter with $8. 
Deal closed and everyone’s happy.  My problem is that when they say, “$6,” I say, “Sold.” This is where the family does that muttering thing again.
It’s all relative
There’s an old garage sale line that goes: “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” 
That’s true, isn’t it? 
It’s amazing how the things you consider to be “junk” are the ones that sell first and the really neat stuff you thought you’d make money on sells last at a giveaway price. Even worse, it sometimes doesn’t sell at all. You can’t believe it. You take it back to the basement because you can’t bear to throw out that “treasure.”
You want it? It’s yours
I found that by the end of the day, I’d lost enthusiasm for the “sale” part and found myself becoming a benevolent “giver-awayer” of everything. 
Shoppers don’t understand this and suspect some sort of merchandising scam that they haven’t run into before. They’re extremely wary of the “please take it, it’s free”syndrome. Plus, if they take it, they feel guilty because they didn’t actually buy anything.
But it's okay, take it, take it all. It’s free and we’re free of it, too? 
We would gain a clean garage and basement from the long day’s toil. And just look at all the profits — enough money to buy a whole lot of other stuff we didn’t need and be able to sell in the next garage sale.