Weekend-morning scenes of magic-markered, barely-tethered signs flapping on street corners, encouraging us to go into a stranger’s home and look through their unwanted stuff at an uncomfortably early morning hour. Summer is yard sale season and it’s in full swing! This week Style Fetish offers some tips for being a savvy yard sale shopper and seller.
This sell-it-yourself system is the original, tried and true, pre-Internet method and is wonderful for all its aspects. For buyers it saves money, helps us to consume consciously not conspicuously, it’s reusing and recycling, it’s finding rare and stylish vintage items which are usually of a better construction than modern things and not least, yard sales provide the thrill of the Find that appeals to our hunter/gatherer nature. Sellers get the easiest way to eliminate a middleman, unload some crap in the comfort of their yards, make space, make cash and get up super early to deal with all of us.
1. Don’t Make (loud, obvious) fun of the items on offer, even if they are absolutely ridiculous, scary or gross. These were once someone’s possessions. Someone chose, paid for and lived with the stuff. So be cool. And it’s really bad form to snark-out on a dead person’s possessions in front of their family selling it!
Laughing at the random rejected ridiculousness in an uncurated thrift store is different and impersonal so go ahead and rag on stuff in that setting but mind your manners while in someone’s home or garage, ya big mouth.
2. Don’t insult an item to get a discount or argue a price. It will only make the seller annoyed and unwilling to deal with you. Denigration is a tactic that never works. If it’s so crappy, why do you even want it?
3. Do ask for a discount when you are buying multiple items. Sellers are usually appreciative of moving a bunch of stuff at one time. But ASK for a discount, do not demand or assume one. Preface the request with positive language like, “Are you willing to …” or “Would you consider…” Etc.
4. Don’t assume they will take a personal check or a card. Bring cash and small bills to make paying easier.
5. Don’t expect a retail-shop situation. You are in a garage or outdoors, not a fully-functioning, professional shop setting. Poor lighting, dirt and dust, having to dig through boxes, no fitting room, no mirror, having to ask the price on everything – these are fairly common inconveniences at a home sale.
Sellers, remember this fact in regard to your pricing. Yours is the position of wholesaler – you aren’t a retail store so retail prices (even second-hand retail store prices, ahem) are not justified at a garage sale, sorry!
A seller could, however, add value to their selling situation and possibly command higher prices by improving on the usual inconveniences experienced at a yard sale. Have your decent-quality goods be well-displayed, well-lit and priced. Offer somewhere for customers to try things on and an electric outlet to test out tools or equipment before buying.
6. Don’t buy something unnecessary merely because it is cheap and present. That is the immature impulse of a child with cash. Temporary sales give the impression and feeling of urgency. Don’t fall for it. Mind your answers after asking yourself tough questions such as: Do I need this or just want it? Will this replace something else that I can now get rid of? Would I pay full price for it? Do I have an immediate need or use for it? Is it in decent condition? This piece of shit is broken now but will it be useful after being fixed? Do I have the time, materials and inclination to even ever fix it? And so on.
7. Do inspect items closely for conditionCheck for holes, stains and excessive wear. Check the inside of the collar, edges and armpits first – these areas get the most wear quickest and can be deal-breakers. You may ask for a discount because of condition; the seller may have missed the damage. This tip goes for any used-item-buying in a thrift store or vintage store as well.
So happy hunting and good luck from Style Fetish. Be cool, be reasonable and don’t buy a bunch of crap you don’t need!
Heather Narwid owns Sideshow, a vintage and modern clothing store for men and women located at 208 County Road 250 in Durango. She has experienced elation, anguish, terror and joy at yard sales but hates getting up early.