Garage SaleThere’s a popular urban alternative to the waste disposal site. It’s called the “garage sale.” It’s for getting rid of items that you couldn’t give away for free. So you set a price and either lower it or throw something else in.

Folks advertise their sales with computer-generated flyers printed on brightly colored paper. To protect these informative notices from the elements of weather it’s customary to wrap them in cellophane before stapling them to wooden hydroelectric poles in the area the week before the sale, where they’ll be visible for months to come. Apparently it’s not customary to take them down after the sale.

You’ll be fielding offers most of the day, so you’ll want to be comfortable between bartering sessions. You may want to drag your favorite easy chair out of the basement rec room onto the lawn so you can preside over the marvel of commerce that will unfold in your driveway.

You may receive help from relatives on the big day. A helpful mother-in-law may be kind enough to correct the prices you’ve spent the previous night attaching to your items. Enterprising 8-year-old nephews and nieces have been known to make tidy sums operating lemonade stands at garage sales. But if the profits are too high and the kids make a ripple in the local economy, you can bet there’ll be a Seattle-based coffee shop across the street in time for your next sale.

You’ll probably see the true garage sale veterans a half-hour before the advertised start of your sale. You most likely won’t notice them drive up. They’ll stroll stealthily onto your property and quickly conclude why your prices are too high. They’ll be carrying that morning’s paper with all the other garage sale notices highlighted. These folks will have determination in their eye, purpose in their stride… And a coin dispenser on their belt so when they break your spirit, you won’t have the opportunity to reconsider the negotiated price as you make change.

Many shoppers respond to having something else “thrown in.” For example you may be having trouble moving a warped ping pong table, till you offer to “throw in” that rack of snooker balls, even though one of them is a spray-painted tennis ball. It’s best not to ponder how the buyer will use snooker balls on a ping pong table; you’ll need your energy for the next bartering session.

There’s a moral obligation not to lie to people about merchandise. But if anyone casually browsing your barbecue items mistakenly assumes two badminton rackets wired together with a mounted bass between them is a fish-grilling device and buys it, a sale is a sale – And it’s final. Another popular resale item is the decades-old stuffed rabbit with tiny antlers added during the taxidermy process. When potential buyers ask why the small rodent-like animal has horns, the correct answer is “To bring good luck!”

As the event draws to an end you may calculate that the sales you’ve made have nearly recovered the cost of the paper for the flyers, and enjoy a moment’s piece… Unless you notice your mother-in-law helping the last shopper lift your favorite easy chair from your spot on the lawn into a van.

Not everything should be displayed at a garage sale. There are items too embarrassing to sell on your own property. The domestic garage sale is not the forum to display a clever hybrid version of a lava lamp hooked up to a sound-activated switch that responds to clapping. It’s also not the place to associate yourself with any exercise device sold by a celebrity on a late night infommercial. To market these you need to go to the next level – Disguise yourself and rent a table at a flea market in the next county.

By Rick Dickert.