13 Tips To Throw A Perfect Garage Sale These tips will help you get your goods sold and make the shopping experience good for your customers. BY DIANE GOTTSMAN
Illustration by Gabriel Lefrancois
With these tips, you'll make money and enjoy your garage sale.
With fall fast approaching, what better time to spend a morning with your husband or wife, walking or driving from home to home, visiting some neighborhood tag sales. I recently experienced the "rush" of hosting my very own and after a few tag sale bumps and bruises, I got the hang of it and enjoyed the experience. Although my husband was less than thrilled with the prospect of selling junk on our driveway, he reluctantly agreed to help. I also got my father and mother involved and we had a family-friendly fall sale. Along the way, I learned some valuable tag sale etiquette tips that I would like to share with anyone considering or willing to give it another go.
1. A plastic cookie container left over from last Christmas is not an appropriate moneybox. An alternative is a zippered pouch worn fashionably around the waist or a sturdy cigar box with the words Tag Sale Change written across the top. My father had the pouch and the cigar box. I had the cookie container with a few leftover crumbs still included.
2. Label all items in advance of the big event. My husband encouraged me to take some time and do this the night before, but I confidently informed him that I was testing the label-free approach. It failed miserably. I foolishly thought I could just price as I go. When someone asked me for my "price," I would tell him or her and we would negotiate. So it went like this, "How much for this?" I replied with pride, "$10," and they would counter with, "I’ll give you 70 cents." We would both look at each other and both ask the same question under our breath, "Are you nuts?"
3. Don’t take it personally. How could someone shamelessly offer me $15 for a lamp I paid $100 for? But sticking to my rules and without remorse, I took it!
4. Setting up a small table announcing "Free" coffee, cider and sweets is a good ploy to lure them away from the competitors. I didn’t do it this time, but I will employ the tactic at my next sale.
5. Make pleasant conversation with your customers. A friend of ours, who brought over muffins and coffee, noticed that my marketing strategy was somewhat inferior to my fathers. My father, I am told, was up front spinning tales and telling stories about each item he was trying to peddle. There was laughter, there were tears and there was singing and reminiscing. Of course, his strategy was superior. By the time they got to me, they were laden with all of his junk—they were also penniless. Just as well, I was too busy looking for my misplaced Glad Ware container that held all my money, my lost coffee mug (I think I sold it) and chasing down random plastic bags for Dad's customers to carry off their future garage sale items.
6. Have a good supply of paper bags available for your customers to carry away their items. It would also be a good idea to have available a few strong teenagers to assist the customers with their heavier purchases.
7. Don’t sell anything sentimental (in front of the person that gave it to you or in front of the person that it belongs to). My husband ran across several special mementoes that he had given me throughout the years and my daughter walked out just in time to find her high chair being carted off by a stranger. She eventually forgave me, but my husband is still a little upset.
8. No returns. Cash and carry only.
9. No layaways. Yes, I was asked and almost considered it.
10. Have an electric outlet available for people to check out the iron, coffee pot and AM/FM radio you are trying to sell them. I was surprised at the number of people who asked to try out the blow dryer and electric skillet before purchasing.
11. Tear down your tag sale signs promptly. Your neighbors will thank you and so will city hall.
12. Don’t abuse the tag sale opportunity. Once in a blue moon is fine, but there are many who make it a weekend habit of having a garage sale. It is not good for neighborhood morale to have your repeat customers trampling over your neighbor’s fall garden on a weekly basis.
13. Don’t forget to say, "Thank You." Courtesy always sweetens the deal.
At the end of the day, it is always fun to get rid of clutter, meet new neighbors and laugh at some of the unexpected tag sale experiences you will be talking about for years to come.
Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com.