As Is: The LAGuide to Your Best Sale Yet.
Trust me. Here in Central Pennsylvania, there is many a morning in early March so raw that it sends all sensible people back to bed with a hot water bottle and a copy of an early P.G. Wodehouse novel, so they might pass the time studying the meanderings of the Empress of Blanding as she is poised to win the big prize In the “fat pigs” category at the local Agricultural Show. Until May, we say here—meaning that’s when you are likely to see me outside voluntarily. We say it often. And yet each year around the start of Daylight Savings Time, yard sales sprout like wild mustard greens and a hardy bunch of souls trawl for trinkets in other peoples’ garages.
My great Aunt and Uncle, Marlene and Matthew, are stout, seventyish and usually so gentle and mild-mannered that they might be poster people for kindness personified. In fact, they were thrice named grandparents of the year by AARP magazine. And yet, come “the season,” they become garage sale warriors and heaven help anyone that comes between them and their treasure. Marl and Matt, as they are known on the circuit, spend weekends immersed in the culture of the garage sale. Thursday finds them at their kitchen table with maps and markers and our local newspaper plotting their routes and schedules with the precision of the fascist railroaders of the Thirties. Friday and Saturday they strike—setting off before dark, with their pockets full of small change and their ancient Volvo station wagon filled with gas and packing materials— attacking each sale as if it were the last. They move with the agility of the young, are fiendishly efficient at separating the wheat from the chaff, and together are able to bargain in an astonishing seven languages.
Here at Stevieslaw, we believe that garage sales, like all good scavenger hunts, should be challenging and worthy of the talents of M&M and others like them. And so with a challenge in mind, we are very pleased to publish “As is,” the Less-intelligent-than-average-American guide to your garage sale. In the guide you will learn about:
Advertising—Your ad must be the largest in the paper—much bigger than the one for the sale at the local church with 114 dealers. Remember to put items in the ad that are odd and unusual. Also remember that you do not have to have the items. You can always tell the furious early arriver, “No, we sold the baby goat last night as we were setting up.” “Had six offers for it and in the end couldn’t stand to disappoint little Mary, who wanted it so badly.”
Opening time—Set the opening time for your sale at least a half an hour earlier than the earliest time you have ever been awake on a Saturday. That way, hordes of frustrated garage salers can watch your silhouette parading around in pajamas, clutching a steaming cup of coffee and casually setting prices.
Stock—Where do you think you can buy jigsaw puzzles missing one or two pieces, tea pots without handles and garden forks short of teeth? Shop for your junk at Good Will, flea markets and, of course, other garage sales. Who knows—the junk might actually sell. You bought it didn’t you?
Pricing—Price anything decent you might accidently have at under a dollar. Price all the other stuff at the high end—say, antique mall prices. Then bargain, bargain, bargain. Think of the great fun you can have arguing for an hour over whether or not you will sell a slightly stained Naugahyde pocketbook for 50c or a dollar. Always label one item as rare. At this year’s sale, I found a button on the floor of the garage that I am labeling as rare and will price at $50. On that one item, I will refuse to bargain.
Setting up: Have your most scatterbrained cousins or your Aunt’s twin toddlers set up the stock at your sale.
Offer additional services: My neighbor loves his flower garden. At one sale a few years ago, I made all my profit on 50c guided tours of my neighbor’s garden. He was surprised, but happy, to show people around.
Set a Reasonable Goal—My wife and I consider a successful sale one that earns sufficient profit to buy a medium pizza at our local that night. A great sale gets you pepperoni. We had one banner year, in which we earned a pizza with pepperoni and green pepper and two small side salads. We had almost enough to split a beer.
THE GOLDEN RULE—Do unto…no, not that. The rule is that nothing comes back into your house. At the end of every garage sale, you must pack up the remaining junk and drive it to some Good Will or Salvation Army store. Sure, you may buy the same junk again on Monday in preparation for you next sale, but at the end of the sale on Saturday afternoon everything must go.
Buy the guide. Worse comes to worse, you can always sell it at your garage sale.