Monday, May 13, 2013


It's nearly "Summer" 2013.  The garage sale season in west-central Michigan is off to a rocky start. Partly due to Mother Nature and her flooding, mood-swings in temperature, and taking national "kite flying month" to the extremes with wind.

It's also partly because many of you holding garage sales are not following the basic rules to make everyone happy...buyers and you, the sellers!  So, here we go, part of this blog thanks to a draft written mid-season last year but never published. 

There's been some real "dogs" where sales are concerned kicking off the season this year,  and real "dolts" who don't seem to know:  

First, the basicsl.

1) Advertise your sale. Craigslist is good, but...

2) Signs help us find you. GOOD signs. Large writing. Frequent signs if the turnoff takes more than a half mile. If you're using poster-board, don't let it turn into a "Taco Sign"  (one that absorbs moisture, gets hit by wind and folds over.)...and please, please.. make your letters W-I-D-E.  Drivers can't read sharpie markers from across the street.  Utility workers also remind's not safe for them if you put signs on utility poles. Leftover nails can puncture their safety gear!  Let's keep them safe!

2a) If using a standard plastic "garage sale" sign, spring for some stick-on wide letters from the hardware for the address number and street. This makes getting to you much easier as a driver, and you'll make it back in more purchases when you make it easy for drivers to find you!

3) Removal of Signs when the sale is over. Please save us sale-fans a whole LOT of gasoline.

4) Pricing. Please price your items, and...don't price them like new. If we wanted new, we wouldn't be attending your sale. Most garage sale attendees like the excitement of the "find" help us "find" some deals. Don't just put things out and not price them hoping someone will ask. Attendees don't know if you want the item GONE or if you're just testing the waters!  Don't make the buyer ask the price. Sure, tags will fall off, and it's fine to categorize and price entire tables or bins of items, but as a whole, don't make buyers uncomfortable by asking.

5) If you published hours in the local media, stick to them.  This is the "hobby business syndrome" that is found in many small businesses, too of late. (opening for your own convenience, not for the customers'!)  When business is slow, and it's an hour to closing, stay open for that late sale.  There really are  people who drive to your sale based on your advertising.  Be open. Gosh, that seems simple.

Now, what should be the "No Brainers."  the "Duh!'s" if you will....

1) Electronics, DVD's CD's, records, and similar DON'T LIKE THE SUN. If you want to bake your items, put 'em in an oven, not out for sale to ruin them before we can buy them. You're not sitting in the sun for 12 hours straight... and if you want to sell electronics, media, and software, don't put things that melt and malfunction in the sun.  
Ever seen a record left in the sun? Well, the same can happen to CD's, DVD's, game consoles, DVD players, TV's, etc. ELECTRONICS HATE HEAT.   (Duh #1)

2) We, as a general public don't want your outdated food and half used underarm deodorant. Yes, readers, we reached a new low last year. Outdated pudding at an Ionia, MI manufactured housing community garage sale. It was right next to the two non-collectible empty beer cans.  One weekend later, Greenville, MI brought the sight of a half-used stick of deodorant, with a garage sale sticker on it, AND it was melting in the sun.  Ick!  Get a waste basket, and sort your stuff before the sale!  Oh, and...if you're going to sell decorative candles in the summer in Michigan, see No brainer #1 above. We've seen them melt, too. 

3) Have electricity available if you're selling electrical and electronics items.

4) TRY to have all the parts to electronics with the item. Yes, I know you're selling to get rid of it, but LOOK  for the remotes, battery covers, manuals, boxes, anything that helps a buyer know more and want the item.

5) Clean, Clean, Clean.... clean the area in which you hold the sale. Clean any clothing, clean everything put out for sale.  Don't think that's important?  Ever been on Craigslist and viewed something that sounds nice, but the picture shows smudges, dust, dirt, and a "not so clean" background?  It turns you off, right?  Well, so do garage sales with this environment.  Barn sales with bird poop on items are a REAL turnoff.

And finally some ideas.....

1) Want to be modern?  Have a smartphone?  Have you thought about taking credit cards?  I've attended one private sale where the modern card reader was used, plugged into a smartphone, making larger purchases easier!  This is a trend I think will be growing as these card readers become more in circulation to the general public. If you do this, put it in your advertising! 

2) Group "like" items together.....people like to "gravitate" to their favorite part of a sale.  This shows organization and thought....the mark of a well-run sale!

3) If it's a "guy" sale or a "kid" sale or a "Mom's Sale.....make it clear in your advertising. This saves time when reading ads and putting together the weekly "garage sale itinerary.

In closing, no, I don't live for garage sales.  I enjoy them, on the faint chance I may find something for my collection that is unique enough to bring to the museum.  Some odd radio, electrical device, antique, or...whatever.  When I do have the time to attend them, I find it enjoyable when a GREAT sale is held, and disappointing when I waste time tracking down one that is closed early, cancelled, or missing.  I'm sure I'm not alone. 

Garage sales are a great way for people to save money on necessities, and a fun way to find things for whatever it is you collect!  

Here's to a better garage sale season....ahead!

Oh, and NOBODY buys treadmills. There's really only one in the whole area, and it keeps following me from sale to sale!