Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Garage Sale


Several weeks ago my wife decided that we should clean out the closets of old clothing items so that they could be donated to a local charity, but what began as a weekend closet re-organization project quickly transitioned into one of the most feared events for any homeowner: the yard sale. For the seller, a yard sale is a public acknowledgement that your ability to judge the long-term viability of material goods is greatly flawed.  For several hours you are inviting the general populace to silently judge you as they riffle through boxes of items that you were once foolish enough to acquire at retail prices. Ab Rollers, Bugle Boy pants, and a special edition DVD of Space Cowboys are just a few of the items to acquire at these roadside dispensaries, sometimes for mere quarters.
My wife organized everything including placing an ad in the local newspaper and hanging up several signs in our neighborhood. The plan was for the sale to run from about 6:00 AM – Noon that Friday and Saturday. As expected, some of the shoppers arrived earlier than expected (one family came Thursday afternoon) but overall I feel that the outing was a success. Having spent some time manning the table on Saturday, I was able to identify several categories of people that frequent these events:
The Pro – Stereotypically, this group consists of post-menopausal women who participate simply for the thrill of the hunt. Often they will acquire your wares only to resell them at their own garage sale a month later. Due to their advanced age, they require less sleep than a normal human and typically arrive fifteen minutes before the scheduled time of commencement. They will attack if threatened or overcharged.
The Opportunist – Their modus operandi is the procurement of “forbidden fruit.” They are only interested in purchasing items that you are unwilling to sell, usually at an insultingly low cost. Upon their arrival you will be offered money for any un-priced item within their field of vision. Heaven help you if their wandering eyes spot a push-mower or air compressor, and the more adamant you are on keeping it the more they pine for its acquisition. I had five people offer me cash for a lawn mower half-hidden under a tarp, but if I had priced it and displayed it prominently no one would have wanted it. The best defense against opportunists is a good offense. Price exorbitantly and claim sentimental attachment if you are questioned.
Opportunist: “You really want $2,700 for those work gloves!?”
You: “My Aunt once strangled a one-armed magician while wearing those gloves. It would break my heart to lose them.”

The Muddler – This specimen deftly combines manufactured confusion with guilt in order to gain a sizable discount.  They will pick up several clearly-priced items and approach you to check-out. Once you give them the total, they will appear shocked that the sum of the five separate $1 items equals a total of $5. Having already dislocated several pieces of merchandise, they will loudly announce that they didn’t realize it would be more than $4 (since that is all they have) and appeal to your sense of decency.
The Drive-By – Unsure that your used junk is worth the effort of extricating themselves from their vehicle, these shoppers will take several slow passes by your home in an attempt to gauge the quality of your offerings. We had several of these at our home and at first I feared that someone had put out a hit on me until Ashley explained that they simply did not see anything interesting. As ridiculous as it is to admit, I was more insulted by this than the idea that someone wanted me dead. Apparently our taste in clothes and collectables was so misguided that it could be easily spotted from the road. The least they could do is insult me to my face.
The Clinger – The rarer of the garage sale regulars, the clinger craves the atmosphere of a yard sale more than the merchandise. Any procurement of theirs is usually under $1 and meant to ingratiate them with the sale’s host. Depending on the nature of conversation, they can be enjoyable company although at times they have been known to overstay their welcome. If the subject begins to steer toward their medical history, shut it down.
The Closer – These individuals haunt the waning hours of a yard sale in order to take advantage of the seller’s melting resolve. Their weapon of choice is the “How much would you take for all this” attack at which point they will attempt to acquire an entire box of assorted items for a harshly discounted sum. When you protest, they feign wounded apathy as though purchasing your beloved pog collection for 35 cents was an act of charity. They have been known to procure entire CD collections for mere pennies on the dollar.

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