Tag Archives: bargaining at yard sale

Yard Sales for Fun and Profit

Gin-and-tonic season is almost over, and that means so is yard sale season.

I often work on my blog posts on Friday, but this last Friday I spent the entire day sitting in my front yard. Sunbathing? Only indirectly. Since my husband and I are moving at the end of September, I decided to try and get rid of a few unneeded items in a yard sale.

We didn’t really have that much—we did a major purge four years ago, when we sold our land in Washington. Now, that was a huge sale! How do people always manage to fill the space they have?

A sale has to be a balance between displaying things prominently to attract the drive-bys to stop, and piling things so that people who like to dig feel like they’re finding something special. And don’t skimp on signage. Because we live on a major bike arterial, I relied on people happening upon it more than “professionals” who read the newspaper and Craigslist.

As I discuss in Get Your Pitchfork On!, not everyone who comes to a yard sale has innocent intentions. If you are selling the usual sundry household items and clothing, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. If you’ve got tools and other things that have serious resale value, watch for thieves.

There are two kinds of people—those who think bargaining is a fun game, and those who won’t even ask what something costs if there is no tag on it. The bargainers kind of drive me crazy—I price things to sell, not to make money. I’m already practically giving it away; it’s silly when someone tries to act outraged by the injustice of a pair of pants that cost two dollars.

However, I had the opposite experience in July, when I visited Seaside to give a reading at their library. On my way out of town I stopped at a yard sale, and as soon as I got out of my car I realized this was one of those perpetual sales. Among other telltale signs, there was a long table had about fifteen table lamps on it. No one has fifteen table lamps. The proprietor lives on a major thoroughfare of a major tourist destination in Oregon; it makes sense for her to have a sale every weekend, and to buy things elsewhere to sell at her sale.

That was all well and good—in fact, I love those giant old ‘70s lamps with 3-foot-tall shades on them. There was even a pair with ornate golden feet and green glass globes at the base. I looked at the tags–$25! Each! This lady was nuts. The shades were period, but a liability. They didn’t match and weren’t in very good shape. One even sagged off its metal armature.

I’m not usually much of a bargainer, but I wanted those lamps. And I was not about to drop fifty bucks on them. They were not family heirlooms; she probably got them at a sale in one of the tiny farm towns inland.

I stewed over it while I considered the rest of the sale: a bunch of ceramics, probably made by a friend. Videos. Sports equipment. Not bad stuff, all in all. I found a ceramic pitcher that I really liked ($12) and a brand-new hunter’s cap with drop-down ear flaps ($8).

“Here’s the deal,” I said to her. I’m usually not a bargainer! But I wanted those lamps. And I was telling the truth, which helped. “I would like to buy these two things, and those two lamps. But I have $40 in cash. If you want to take $40, I’ll buy them.”

“There’s an ATM in town,” she said. “And I’ll be here tomorrow.” She had these sales every weekend, remember.

“I’m headed out of town,” I said. I let her consider in silence for a minute.

“It’s up to you,” I said, and held the two twenties toward her. She looked at me, and she looked at the lamps.

“Okay,” she said.

I was very proud of myself as we crammed these giant lamps into the back seat of my car. The damaged lampshade came completely off as she worked one in, but I didn’t say anything. I had bargained!

I have already packed these fantastic lamps into a moving box, but I promise to post a photo of them on the Get Your Pitchfork On Facebook page once we’re in Wallowa County and settled in. Stay tuned!


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