Monday, July 26, 2010

Queen for (half) a day

We did have our garage sale a week ago Saturday. Our soccer team raised nearly $1,100. We sorted items the night before, having to wait until the temperature cooled some. It didn't cool enough, though. I ended up awake most of the night with chills and fever from heat exhaustion. But that's okay. It made it easier for me to justify sitting in my camp chair throne all the next morning, confirming prices and holding the money, while other parents did the hard labor.

Our signs, put up before dawn on Saturday, said the sale would be 7:30 -1:00. On Craigslist we posted sale hours as 8:00 - 1:00. Our first customer showed up at 6:45. By 11:30 we were virtually sold out and closed up shop.

We had an unbelievable amount of traffic stopping by, sometimes with ten cars in our little court. It helps when you have good publicity. It really helps when you have fifteen year old boys able and quite willing to direct traffic our way from the nearby intersection.

The boys used signs, hand motions and general hilarity to great effect. At one point they came back to the house for more poster board and markers. They made signs advertising hugs for a dollar. It worked, adding five dollars to the pot. Most of the customers appreciated the good humor of it all. Some curmudgeon didn't, though, and called the police. A cop gently (we think) reminded my son, the guilty one, to stay out of the street.

Whoever called the cops might have been from the family having the garage sale down the street. Our boys had been setting up in the intersection to hide their sign, which pointed the opposite way. That's definitely why we had an anonymous young man sitting in a chair across the street from our house, holding a sign to get customers directed back towards them.

The best part of a garage sale is pricing the items. We tagged the larger items, but everything else was subject to whim, the particular customer and the time of day. People in the first hour paid "full" price. As the morning wore on, the prices dropped.

Since I had the change and was most familiar with the inventory, I generally got final say on prices. What power! I sat in my chair and ruled. For the little girl who wanted a book and bag of crafts, the price might be fifty cents. It's such fun to see a little one deliberate and finally choose and carefully pull out her own money. One woman spent $134 on clothes, dishes, shoes ($2 a pair and we sold about 80 pairs during the day), bedding, a chair and a washer and dryer. My older son, with his pickup and another parent, delivered the items to her nearby apartment. It turns out she had recently moved here and has a husband in a wheelchair and needed everything she bought from us. That was sobering.

Another early shopper bought lots of clothing at $1 an item and then wanted a better deal because she was buying clothes to "send to Mexico." I told her no, this was a fundraiser to help boys afford competitive soccer, but I could make a deal at the end of the sale. She called me at noon and I offered all the clothing we had left, several hundred items, for $50. She agreed. Of course, when she got here, she suggested $40 should be enough. Nope. (I was still queen.) I told her the minimum was $50. Otherwise I would donate the clothes to our school district's clothes closet where I knew they would go to good use. She paid the $50 and we completely filled her car.

Now why was there so much clothing and shoes? Just think about all those fifteen year old boys who have grown 4-8 inches and three shoe sizes in the past year. We sold a lot of boys' and men's items.

My favorite negotiation of the day involved a well dressed couple driving an expensive car. They had stopped by twice, annoying me each time, arguing over a dollar here and there on their purchases. The third time they came by the woman was interested in a lap blanket designed like an American flag.

"How much is the blanket?"

"The blanket is $5.00 and I'll throw in the American flag pillow for free."

"Will you take $4.00?"


"Well, I don't want the pillow, so how much is just the blanket."

"It's $5.00"

"But wouldn't it be $2.50? I don't want the pillow, I just want the blanket."

"The blanket is $5.00, I'm just throwing in the pillow if you want it."

She paid $5 for the blanket, and I guess she did want the pillow, because she took it, too.

Garage sales can be a lot of fun with the right attitude. If you need to rent a queen some time, just let me know. I work cheap.


Jennifer said...

you were awesome and i appreciate the article and the fun had! Although, you didn't write about how by 3pm you were in a zombie state on the back porch at the team party! :-)

Life in the Fifties said...

Some things are best blocked from memory!