Saturday, June 21, 2014

Garage Sale Saturday Interlude

Garage Sale

A community event. The ultimate way to re-cycle. A great way to make some extra cash. A strange and truly american custom. Anyway you want to look at it, a Garage sale can be an interesting way to spend a Saturday. Well..... maybe once a year.

One of the things about being associated with a suave savvy sophisticated and money wise partner is you get to learn a lot of new things. For this week I was learning about Garage Sales. Did you know, for instance, that there is an entire science dedicated to the proper marketing of Garage Sales and the appropriate merchandising of the items contained therein?

Let me explain.

Garage Sale Marketing 101

First, you have to get out the word. Different communities are using different mechanisms. It used to be that the way to go was the Newspaper (in our case, The Oregonian) but evidently that is too passe even for the older neighborhoods. Just nobody does Oregonian anymore, probably because they don't actual deliver much anymore. No, we put a add online on Craig's List. And you don't just list your sale, you also list some of your big sale items. Perhaps you even list the big sale items separately and announce that they can be viewed from 9 to 2 on Saturday (hey, that is during my Garage Sale, Perfect !). In our case our big items where a nice china Hutch and matching dining table and a big bin of Legos. The Legos got a few calls right off the bat. More on them later.

Now once you have the word out, you have to price things and get things set up such that people will actually buy them. You have to do Merchandising. You can't just leave things sitting around and expect people to find them and buy them, no no no. You have to put them up high enough for older people (the ones with time and money) to be able to comfortably peruse. This means tables. Lots of tables. We didn't actually have too many tables, but what we did have was a bunch of long boards (no idea from where) and a bunch of small size moving boxes full of my books. Two boxes stacked on top of each other, 2 stacks for legs, board on top..... bang.... a table.

Then you need a bunch of the little circle labels and some larger sticky labels and a pen and you go to town.

But now what? Do you price things according to their value or to get them to sell? Do you put a high initial price and see if people but them? You can always mark them down later. But the real buyers come early. But if your prices are too low then you are losing money. I think the most important thing is to just get prices on everything. You can wander around the garage all day changing prices if you want.

My partner likes to arrange things by function. So we had a table for kitchen stuff (50 cents for any cooking utensil. When two households collide you have a lot of leftover spatulas), another table for electronics (with the cable grab box!!) and another table for household type stuff; like blankets and quilting supplies. In the center and spilling out into the driveway (Boy I hope it doesn't rain) were all of the random big things. We had some good random big things. We had: 2 air conditioners (one in-window, one standing), a lounge chair (very comfy), the aforementioned China hutch and table, numerous suitcases, my 2 old WWII down mummy sleeping bags (man it was hard to give up those bags) and a nice standing lamp. And a bin of Legos!

Did you know that there is a huge thriving business in re-cycled LEGO pieces? On eBay there are many sellers advertizing boxes of “newly cleaned” used legos. They sell them by the pound. About $20 a pound for just a bunch of random bricks (though they claim to have some larger and more interesting pieces (like airplane canopies and wings)). $20 a pound and it seems like we had at least 10 pounds worth. We marked the bin at $60. And we were not going to negotiate because this is one of the things that we know we can sell on Craig's list. (oh hell, if you had come and offered me $50, I would have buckled).

So, we have our advertizement. We have our Merchandising. We have our pricing. Are we ready to go? Hell no! You forgot two of the most important things: Change and Signage !! You need a whole bunch of 1's and 5s (cause everyone has fraking 20s) and you need quarters (cause you are a fraking idiot and think that the 25cent grab box-o-random-electric-cables is a good thing...twerp). You also need signs that start at some real road (that real people know about and drive on) and lead to your “Home in the sticks”. Geeze, we have a Portland Address and we have people telling us that they have no idea how to get “back to the road”. Of course, we had people that I was pretty sure hadn't found their way back to their homes in the last decade or so. But I digress.

So signs. Hand lettered. I wonder what they said, I never saw them. Let me ask. They said, “SALE, SATURDAY 9-2 ------>” and they had our address; 223157 stick street. Signs are important. Our neighbors have permanent signs that they use. They offered to lend them to us. I guess If people got to the house across the street they could then find us. We would be the house with the stuff in the yard. “You having a yard sale?” asked one of the first guys to arrive at 9:00 while I was carrying a box into the driveway. “No,” I replied “I just like stacking this shit in my driveway with signs on it”. Turns out this guy saw my partner out putting up signs and pretty much followed her back to the house. Well, he would follow the way she put up the arrow signs. He evidently got ahead of her one time and had to circle back till she put up the last arrow.
And this was one of the normal guys......

So. The people.

We have many classes of people. My neighbors with the permanent signs were one of the first to arrive. I think they just wanted to come over and chat some. But they looked around and took a few children's books for a school donation and were very pleasant. Perhaps that is why Americans have yard sales; to meet the neighbors. We had another neighbor come and buy the nice bicycle we didn't have room for. I didn't get to meet them. I must have been counting money or changing prices. Who else did we have? We had the WWII veteran. He was very nice. Told us about his wife of 60 years who just passed recently. He was looking for something for his great grandson who was coming to visit him for a week. Think of that, visiting your great-grandfather and actually being able to do things with him (and perhaps even remember him). I told him that I was getting married on Thursday and was hoping for 60 years with my wife too. He looked at me kinda funny and said “Good luck with that.”.

Who else?

There was the guy who really wanted to buy a lot of things but just didn't have the money. He did take the huge Ikea TV Console from Hell. Damn thing must have weighed over 100 pounds. But he bought it ($15 now and $15 more when I come back with my truck). He also ended up with a lounge chair. My partner let me talk to him when he came back, because he stood too close to her the first time. Funny, he didn't do that to me.

The junk metal guy came by in a pickup with high plywood signs. He just wanted a price on boxes of metal things. Pots and pans. Random metal weights. My wonderful but previously unused “50cent Box-o-random-electronic-cables”. $5.00. “Oh, you must be kidding, I just want the scrap”. He told me the story of his very well wrapped but slightly short middle right finger. (His english wasn't very good). “I was carrying metal, you know? And I had an air-conditioner and when I picked it up the freon sprayed on my hand, you know? It was very cold. Very Cold. But I shook it off and it stopped hurting after 5 minutes. No big deal, you know? Then two weeks go by and it turns black and it really starts to hurt. It really hurts and I go to the doctor. And they say they can't do anything for me. You know? They want to operate. I could see my bones in the flesh, you know? And they find a little tiny splinter. But they can't do anything for me, and they give me pills.” at this point he suddenly can say a few words very clearly, “They give me Oxycontin and Vicodin and Hydro Co Done. But it doesn't help very much. And as you can see, it is a problem. It is a problem for me because I play the accordion. It is very sad.” And off he went.

People of many sizes came in. Many people that I was amazed could walk came in and just wandered around for 5 minutes and then wandered out. No free large chunks of gold in that garage sale. Damn.

Had some nice families come in. Dad bought his son the flatscreen TV for $50. “He shot my other TV with an airsoft gun. Put a hole in the screen. It was an accident.”

When the families came by the son or daughter always went straight to the bin-o-legos. The boys would immediately start building something. Usually a space ship. I could tell because they would announce “I am building a space ship”. The girls would pick out the little lego action characters and make comments about their attire and social status. “This one is very rare, you know. Very rare. See the green shoes?” I liked the families. Dad would usually buy something. Mom would encourage the kids to get books. One young lady (perhaps 14) was going through the books in a very concerted fashion. At a dollar a book you gotta think that a book lover would be having some fun. Hey, Powell's Books !! LOL. (sorry, this is a double inside joke). I engaged her for a minute to see what she was interested in. There were a lot of good books there, but only if you like what I or my partner read or study. She found “Great Gatsby” and was very happy. I might be done with a book, but I still like it to go to a good home.

The Memories

Perhaps THAT is what a garage sale is about. You have all of this stuff. All of these parts of your life. Things you really needed and were kind to you in the past. That WWII air force down bag, for instance. That started life as a 2 foot square flat box with a quarter inch screw through it. It was made to be screwed onto the back of a ejection seat of a jet fighter pilot. I say a jet airplane but then I have to revise my WWII story. OK, Korean war jet ejection seat (be crazy to be Vietnam, it is a heavy down bag, for gosh sakes). Anyway, the flat box (made of fiberglass) had a metal zip cord around the outside rim. You pull on that wire and it would tear open the box and the bag would WOOSH out. (Well, it would woosh out exactly once. No getting it back in). Then you have this really fabulous down mummy bag. A really fabulous down mummy bag with screw holes randomly through it. My mom sewed up the holes (editor's note: with fabulous little red triangle patches) and then I started using it (Them actually, there were two. My brother probably had dibs on one). It was hard to find a place that was cold enough to use them. They were very warm. They were also reversible. Forest green on one side. Snow White on the other. Lets your jet fighter pilot eject into any enemy territory and hide out. No zipper. Just crawl in and pull the draw string tight. I remember using one in college on a hiking trip into the white mountains. It was very cold. I was not. Anyway. I have this thing with memories. A part of my life. But it doesn't fit me anymore and I can't find anyone that wants it (even after I tell the stories) and I have been hauling it around unused for 35 years now. Enough. I love you but it is time to go. I don't just want to dump you in Goodwill. I want to look into the eyes of the loving great-grandfather who had one of these “During the War” and wants to give it to his great-grandson that is now a first class in the Boyscouts. And for that, you need a garage sale.

You also need to be very lucky.

As my partner told me, on my second or third trip to the Good Will truck. “It isn't that no one wants your silly old sleeping bag. I mean, your very special and warm old sleeping bag. It means that no one wants your very special and warm old sleeping bag today. If we had done a little more advertizing and spent more time on merchandising and been open for 3 or 4 days, so that everyone had a chance to come by, we would have sold a lot more of our strange stuff. Maybe even your sleeping bags.”


Which brings us to....


When all is said and done, you still have a bunch of old redundant or useless crap in your garage and driveway. Suck it up, buttercup. Load up the old Adventure Mobile and cart that crap to Goodwill, wonderful down survival sleeping bags and all. Just throw that crap right away. But get a receipt and make a list. That crap is worth THOUSANDS on tax day.

Still for Sale:
Bin O Legos: $60
China Hutch: $250
Very Expandable Dining Table. With Pads. Matches the Hutch: $150
(Hutch and Table together: $350)
(Hutch and Table AND Legos: $400)

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