Sunday, August 14, 2011

People Studies: Lessons from a Yard Sale

So, I had my yard sale this weekend. It went about as smoothly as any yard sale could go. Having been to quite a few garage/yard sales in the past, I've learned what works and doesn't work and I was well prepared for mine.

It actually went off without any hiccups. It was supposed to be the annual neighbourhood yard sale but there weren't many participants. The first year I lived here, there were a ton of sales. Last year, there were less. This year, there were even less. However, I was fortunate enough to be part of a cluster. There was one next door at Mr. Enormous Trouser's house and two across the street at the older folks' homes.

Being in a cluster is good. When I got yard/garage sale-ing, I look for clusters. It makes it worthwhile to find somewhere to park becuase you're getting more for your time.

I did have an early start to the day. My intention was to take the girls for a walk and check out to see how many sales looked like they were going to be set up. Then I'd come home and set up since the sales weren't supposed to start until 9 a.m. It was a little alarming that by 7:15 a.m. when we started on our walk that both Mr. Enormous Trousers and the lady across the road were already setting up but we went for our walk anyway. I did notice that as we walked on by, some 'early birds' were already converging on the lady across the street's sale. This was the reason I had planned on setting up later. Also, since Mrs. Enormous Trousers is an Avon lady, that's primarily what they sell at their sale and it takes a lot more time to set up than my bric-a-brac.

However, I set up by 8:30 a.m. and was ready for my first customers who arrived as soon as I went to sit in my chair and peruse my magazine. My last customers came right aroun 1:45 p.m. In between the first and last, I learned a lot about people. I think if you want to study human beings, having a yard sale is a great way to do so. Here are a few things I learned:

1) People are very, very cheap. Sure, they pretend that they're just like to get a bargain but what this means is that they're cheap. If I'm selling a high quality musical piano for $30 when it costs about $120 brand new, NO, I WILL NOT sell it for $5. Be realistic. Yes, ok, so I came down to $20 because a young boy fell in love with it and both his parents were encouraging and, well, I'm a sucker but $5? Come on.

2) See #1. I had lots of nice messenger bags to sell. Some even had the tags still on them. I was selling them because I simply didn't need them nor do I have the space. When they're priced at $1 and they have a TAG ON THEM that says they were originally $10, do you really think I'm going to be happy when you offer me $.25? Come on. It's a dollar.

3) People are cautious. Someone asked if I had bedbugs before she purchased some books. Firstly, ewww! Secondly, even if I HAD bedbugs, do you really think that I would confess it in front of a yard full of people browsing my stuff? Thirdly, ewww! (I don't have bedbugs, for the record). Of course, as fate would have it, my nice Terminex inspector did decide to come and check up on the house after the problem back in May DURING MY YARD SALE but fortunately, she wasn't in her company truck and secondly, she came during a quite time. Oh...Murphy, your laws are funny.

4) People are discriminating. I had a little side table that I got for $12 at IKEA and was in mint condition (AND ASSEMBLED, take that, IKEA!) that I was selling for $2. I thought that was reasonable. I also used the table to display other items for sale. I had one lady take everything off said table, flip the table upside down, inspect it for about five minutes, put everything BACK on the table and then sigh and walk off. Lady, it was a $2 table, you're not going to find a designer stamp on it. Sorry.

5) People always have a story. I had a lovely dog carrier on sale. I originally paid $45 for it and got it for Sookie when I went to claim her. Since I ended up coming home with a Rory and a Sook, it was already too small. I had it up for sale with the original tags and paperwork for $20. A lady came and asked if I'd take $10. I said no. Then she launched into a story about her friend who rescued baby animals like racoons, possums and skunks. She works for a non-profit, has no funds to buy stuff but does it because she loves animals. I said I could take $15. We ended up at $12. What can I say, I'm a sucker. Also, I happen to think baby racoons are adorable and living with my parents who live on a major highway, we did have a few occasions where we were asked to foster baby racoons after their mothers were hit on the road and they were left abandoned so she hit a personal note. The lady was nice and even came back to thank me again and tell me all about her own experiences as a skunk rescuer/expert. She studies skunks.

6) People are cheap (yes, I know, I covered this in #1 and #2) but it's still true. I'm sorry but a Sony Playstation One with controller, power adapter and two games is a bargain at $5. Sure, the Playstation One is out of date and irrelevant but you can still find games on Ebay and it still works. I'm sorry but no, I will not take $1 for the whole pack. The same goes for the 27 inch TV I was selling and had marked at $10. It's a working TV that served me well for the entire time I lived in L.A. and until last year when I caved and upgraded to an HDTV. I will NOT take $1 for the TV. I did end up taking $7.50 but that was only because it was really heavy and I didn't fancy lumping it back inside.

7) Kids can be cute. I had a box of toys with an old pirate sword I had for a costume once. A little boy who was about five saw it and his entire face lit up. He literally dived into the box to claim it and he was NOT letting that go for anything. He even looked suspicious that I'd take it back when he proudly came to give me his quarter. The same goes for the little girl who couldn't have been older than four who proudly picked out an old Eeyore, Teletubby and a bear from my toy box and was so excited when I said she only had to pay fifty cents even though they were a quarter each. Kids can be so cute.

8) Kids can be a pain in the rear. Son of Dog Whisperer and his friends drive me a little crazy. For one thing, Son of Dog Whisperer oddly decided that my front lawn was his 'football practice field' at about 9:30 a.m. He proceeded to put his football down and do that thing that football players do at the beginning of the game- you know, where they're leaning with one arm down on the ball and the other pointed to the sky right before they do that "Hut" thing? Oh, you know what I mean. Anyway, Son of Dog Whisperer kept doing this except he just stayed in that pose for quite some time. It was a wee bit creepy, truth be told. I was a little annoyed he was on my lawn but since he wasn't doing any harm, I figured I'd let it go. Of course, that was before he actually started throwing the ball. At one point, he threw it and it hit some of my yard sale stuff at which point I told him he needed to stop throwing the ball and go play in his own yard. He did stop throwing the ball but didn't get out of my yard. The annoying part is that at some point, BOTH Of his parents were outside, doing stuff and only one time did Wife of Dog Whisperer say "Did you ask [captain monkeypants] if you could play in her yard?". When Son of Dog Whisperer said no, that was it. There was no scolding, no "Well, you should." It was clearly a formality that his mother asked. Even if I did tell them that I'd prefer it if he stayed off my lawn, it wouldn't stick. I know Son of Dog Whisperer has some kind of learning disability so I feel doubly bad for being such an old curmudgeon but, well, it's MY lawn...They have their own yard.

7) People can be creepy. There were a couple of older men who were walking around the sales. Two of them seperately sidled up to the table where I was sitting, looked around shiftily and asked if I had "any gold or guns?" Well, no...sorry, I'm not a gold and guns kind of gal. One of the men was quite persistent about the gold. He wanted me to go in my house and check. He even showed me his little scale where he could weigh my non-existent gold. Since I'm not in possession of much gold, I tend to prefer silvery jewelry over gold and most of my jewelry isn't exactly high quality anyway, I didn't oblige. Besides, I wasn't about to abandon my yard sale to find gold for Mr. Creepy. I had at least two others come by later and ask if I had any gold or guns. It sounded a bit too Old West for me, honestly. What, do they think I've got a collection of Smith and Wesson rifles and gold bullion bars under my floorboards?

8) If it's free, someone will want it. I had a set of curtain rods with brackets that I took down from my Tuscan room when I redid it. They were sturdy and in good shape but no one wanted them for $2. Later, when it was getting obvious I'd be making a Goodwill run to donate the stuff I didn't sell, I marked the curtain rods as free since I wouldn't get anything by giving them to Goodwill. Lo and behold, within seconds, someone took them. I know it's a bad economy but they were only $2 to begin with!

9) No matter how cheap something is, someone always wants it cheaper. I was offered a dime a couple of times for an item I'd priced at a quarter. Yes, this is a variation on #'s 1,2 and 6 but...well, I know people like to bargain and get a deal but, really, you don't think a quarter for something is a deal? Really? Even when it's in the original packaging and looks pretty new? A dime? Really? Sigh.

10) People buy the stuff you don't expect to sell and leave the stuff you had trouble deciding to sell anyway. I had a few treasures that I had reluctantly decided to sell because I didn't use them much and they took up space even though I liked them. No one wanted these. They wanted the, uh, junk I had decided to try to sell and intended to donate afterwards. This included the pair of slightly-too-big hideous patent leather shoes with a giant bow that I had bought used for a 1980's costume party ($1!), the terrible French cookbook that was only $1 from the dollar store and proved to be...terrible (I got my $1 back!) and the shower curtain rings that were a pretty bronze colour but were terrible because a) they weren't closed all the way and whenever you opened the shower curtain, they'd slide off the rail. Also, they left a nasty brown powdery residue where they rubbed against the shower curtain rail. I made $2 on those! Meanwhile, my lovely Mikasa Christmas oil/vinegar/salt/pepper cruet set didn't sell for $3 (I decided to keep it after all) nor did my nice new-ish pink and khaki messenger bag for $1. That old "Someone else's junk is someone else's treasure thing is very true."

All in all, it was a successful sale. I sold 75% of everything, made a little money though, because people are (say it with me) cheap, I didn't make as much as I should and I had a nice time meeting some of my neighbours. Of course, I did have two sulky dogs who couldn't figure out what I was doing out there all day and I got quite sunburned because after a while, you cannot scoot back under the overhang of the house anymore without being indoors- thus, I was in the sun a lot. Sure, Son of Dog Whisperer did eventually find his 'posse' which, sadly, still doesn't include Raymond and they converged on my sale, threw a bunch of the toys on the floor and then ended up only buying one weird little dolphin snowglobe thingy for 25 cents but it was an interesting day. Afterwards, I confess, I was a little exhausted but there was something satisfying about taking my last few boxes of stuff to Goodwill and knowing that even by just a little, I'd decluttered my house a bit.

It's entirely possible that I'll build up more clutter over the next year and decide to have another sale when the next Annual Neighbourhood Sale date comes around next year. I think if that happens, my strategy will be to double the price on everything so that when people offer me less, it'll seem like a deal to them even though I'll secretly be making what I actually wanted to make on an item. You live and learn...right?

Happy Monday!

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