Saturday, August 23, 2014

How to host a yard sale

August continues to be a rough time of year for a yard sale picker. As mentioned in a previous blog, the garage sales have really dropped off. Although I have no scientific data to back this up, I think this summer has seen the fewest number of garage sales in a long time. The last few weeks have been particularly brutal, with only two to three sales each Saturday. What's a yard sale picker to do? In my case, I decided to stop whining and take matters into my own hands. If you can't find any yard sales, have one of your own! This decisive action was strongly encouraged by Mrs. Dude, who's been harping, ummm, I mean suggesting, we hold a sale to get rid of some stuff.

Stuff piles up fast!
After several non-starters due to rain, family events and other things that typically get in the way, we finally had our yard sale last Saturday. While we had a bunch of things from around the house to sell, much of our merchandise was made up of what I call my eBay "stinkers." This is yard sale or thrift store stuff I bought, but could not get sold on eBay or Craigslist. Hey, it happens! Even though I've honed my skills pretty well, once in a while this Dude gets stuck with junk I just can't sell. When I do, I usually conclude the item is a "stinker" and relegate it to a junk pile in the corner of my basement. Since it's been about 16 months since our last yard sale, the stinker pile has gotten big! I am sure more rational people might get rid of the stuff by donating it to Goodwill. That would be the easiest thing to do, but as the old saying goes, "In for a penny, in for a pound." In other words, I already paid for the stuff, so I might as well make a few nickels and dimes by selling the junk at my yard sale!

As a professional yard sale picker, I know a thing or two about running a sale. I begin by posting my sale on Craigslist early in the week, then reposting it every other day to make sure folks see it. It helps to put in a few teasers in the ad too. Mentioning good stuff you're selling like old furniture, old records, trains and other goodies brings the buyers out. In addition to my Craigslist ad, I post the all-important yard sale signs around town. This time out, I chose a very bright, very purple poster board. This ugly purple could be spotted a mile away. If you follow my blog over time, you'll notice that crummy yard sale signs are one of my biggest pet peeves. They can be too small, illegible and/or drooping over. Since these signs help buyers get to your sale, they should be clear, concise and easy to read! In my case, I keep it simple. My signs look like this...




Brief and to the point. When you think about it, how much more information can a person process when flying by a sign at 40 miles per hour? You don't need the hours of operation or the date. That's all useless information. Keep it simple and just point them in the right direction. (That's what the arrows for.) On Friday evening, I made a bunch of purple signs just like the above and with Sonny Boy's help, tacked them up around town.

After the first influx of pickers
On Saturday morning we opened at about 7:30. I was in no hurry to open up, but Mrs. Dude dragged me out to the driveway before I even had breakfast! (She's quite the taskmaster!) Surprisingly, we didn't get hit with a big influx of early birds. The ones that did show up early were pickers like me. I am sure when they pulled up to the house their eyes lit up. Our tables were packed with lots of colorful merchandise like old Fisher Price toys, wood puzzles, plush toys and other yard sale eye candy. To the untrained eye, it looked like the garage sale mother lode. Making it even more attractive, I priced most of the stuff cheap, no more then three bucks for any one item. It was funny to watch the pickers scoop up stuff I had no luck selling on eBay. One guy had his arms crammed with stuff from my reject pile. I got a chuckle out of his buying enthusiasm. If the guy could find a way to make money on my eBay stinkers, more power to him!

eBay stinker...this time.
After the first wave of pickers left, the tables looked a little bare. That's when you have to reposition stuff to fill in the empty gaps on the table. You don't want incoming buyers to think all the good stuff has been picked through. I made adjustments as the morning proceeded and even dug more stuff out of the house to sell. Stuff was selling quickly, even the the eBay stinkers. For example, I had some old newspapers for sale. I bought these 1980's era papers in a weak moment about a year ago for five dollars. I previously had some good luck selling old newspapers on eBay. There was a big difference however. My previous newspapers were much older. Apparently few people are interested in newspapers from the Eighties era. These dust collectors were impossible to sell on Craigslist or eBay! Fortunately, I found a buyer for them at my yard sale. A guy paid me five bucks for them...exactly what I paid for them a year earlier.

We were busy with sales like that all morning. As they day wore one, it was satisfying watching the eBay stinkers thin out and transform into dollars bills. While we didn't sell everything, we got rid of a lot of stuff. All in all, we made over $200 bucks at the yard sale! Not bad for a morning standing in my driveway. For now, the money went into the piggy bank. Mrs. Dude is looking to buy a new kitchen table, so we'll use the cash towards that big ticket item. Best of all, I was able to clear out that annoying pile of eBay stinkers that accumulated in the corner of the basement. Now the corner is completely empty...for now!

How's the summer wrapping up for you? Have any good yard sale hosting stories to tell? Share them in the comment section below.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Reality television...all at your local Goodwill store!

These are trying times for a garage sale picker. With many folks on vacation and the weather being hot, August is always a slow month for yard sales. The last few weeks have been particularly slow for me. I've found a few yard sales here and there, but it's been tough going. This hasn't slowed down my sales, however. I am still doing well with the few good pieces I've found. Shopping the local thrift shops has helped a lot. I've found that even though yard sales have gone cold, the action is crazy at my local Goodwill store. Although, not in a way that you might think, more like reality TV crazy! I'll get to that in a minute. First, check out this great summer time score....

Coleman Cooler 
Everyone knows I am a big Coleman guy. About a week ago, I found this awesome Coleman "Steel Belted 54" cooler at the local Goodwill store. Although it had a crack on the bottom corner, overall it was in pretty nice shape. Most importantly, the inside was clean as a whistle. It was tagged for only six bucks. This was a lower price then many coolers I've found at the yard sales! Even the cashier lady was impressed with the cooler, marveling over the condition and cheap price. With summer winding down, I decided I'd better sell it quick. Big coolers like this are always best sold on Craigslist. Reason Number On: No shipping costs. If I sold it through eBay, shipping for such a large item would be brutal! I've been burnt on the big items before, with my buyers invariably being on the West Coast. Since Money in the Garage corporate headquarters is situated on the East Coast, this always means higher postage costs!

To avoid all this, I sell the really big stuff exclusively on Craigslist. Following my usual practice, I listed the Coleman cooler under Craigslist's sporting goods equipment section for $75 dollars. About a day later, a nice lady e-mailed me asking if I would take $50 for the cooler? Of course, I countered back at $60 and she agreed!. We met that evening and she greased my palm with three crisp twenty dollar bills! I am no math major, but that's a pretty good return on my six buck  investment. Six turned into sixty...try getting that return at the local bank!

Coleman burner stove
In addition to the nice profit, I am always a little extra giddy when I successfully avoid using eBay. Imagine if I had sold the cooler on eBay. With a sixty dollar sale, eBay would have taken a nice bite out of my profit. As a quick comparison, I recently sold this portable Coleman camp stove for $51 dollars. ( I paid $5 for it at Goodwill.) After I charged $10.50 for shipping, eBay grabbed six bucks in final value fees. Crazy, right? That's 12% of my sale going into eBay's pocket! In the case of my Coleman cooler, my entire profit went straight into my pocket instead. Not to mention avoiding the drama of eBay's new and insane, "defect" policy. No worrying about some dopey buyer sabotaging your hard earned seller rating. With Craigslist, you'll never see, and more importantly, hear from that buyer again!

Better then a reality TV show !

Speaking of drama, I witnessed quite a scene the other day at my local Goodwill store. Two customers were arguing about some merchandise. It was like watching a reality television show! I should have pulled out my iPhone, because it would have been a real YouTube moment. Voices were raised and a fight almost broke out, as the man accused the women of taking an item out of his shopping cart while he wasn't looking. The guy got louder and louder, jabbing his finger in the women's direction. The women acted confused, claiming that she didn't know what the guy was talking about. (I had my doubts over her act.) Finally, when it looked like a boxing match was just about to break out, a Goodwill employee got in between the two and told the man to leave the store. The employee began yelling at the guy, "You're a grown man, now don't be yelling at this lady! Get out of my store now!" At that, the guy backed off and stormed out of the store. Crisis averted, thanks to the Goodwill employee stepping in.

I have to say these little shows are not that unusual in my local Goodwill store. On another recent visit, I was patiently waiting in line to pay when an angry women in front of me began arguing with the store manager. She was demanding a refund on a dress she had bought. Now if you know anything about Goodwill, you know the store has a strict "No refund" policy. While it's pretty much a cardinal rule at Goodwill, this didn't stop the angry lady who was now holding up the line. She insisted on a refund for her dress, claiming it was torn when she bought it. (If true, she should have looked it over carefully prior to buying it.) The manager calmly attempted to explain the Goodwill refund policy, but the lady was having none of it. Looking slightly possessed, the women glared at the manager, telling her in a low, scary voice that if she didn't get her money back, she would start screaming and creating a scene right there in the store. Seeking to avoid what promised to be a major hullabaloo, the manager wisely gave in and refunded the women.  Another drama averted and not a moment too soon. These little dust ups are better then watching a reality television show...shouting, screaming and finger pointing...all happening at a local Goodwill store near you!

How's the summer  treating you? Any drama scenes playing out at your local thrift store lately? Share the story in the comment section below....

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