Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Art of the Deal Part Two

Eddie-tor's Note:  This was intended to be the second part of a two part post I started back in June.  Due to circumstances, it did not get finished, so I'm wrapping it up now as part of my January Blog Tidy Which may Stretch into March (JBTWSIM).  If you want to refresh your memory, the first part is here.

Continuing on our theme, there are two sides to every bargain.  We've talked about the buyer, now it's time to touch on the seller.  I think yard sale deals fail because of the seller's mistakes as often as the buyer's.  I say this as both someone who sells in an indoor flea market and as someone who has held several very successful yard sales.

The biggest mistake people who hold yard sales make is misunderstanding their goal.  A whole lot of people seem to think that their primary purpose in having a yard sale is to make money.  They price things too high and refuse to deal with buyers, and, at the end of the day, they're hauling most of their stuff back in the house, wondering why it didn't sell.

The goal of your yard sale (unless it's a fund-raiser--which is a different beast) should be to get rid of stuff.  You have too much of it, after all.  You want to get rid of it.  That's why you've piled it all on your front yard for a bunch of strangers to paw through.  To get it gone, you need to offer it at prices people want to pay.  Otherwise, they'll be on to the next sale. 

Which isn't to say that you can't make money doing a yard sale or that there's anything wrong with making money.  Making money is always a good thing, and you can make money at a yard sale.  You just have to keep it in perspective.  You make money at a sale by offering good, useable stuff people want at prices that they want to pay.  In other words, by having bargains.  Good prices means lots of sales, which in turn means lots of money.  You make your money in volume, not by high prices.  Keep that in mind when you're first starting out and your sale will be that much more successful.  You'll also be in a better frame of mind when it comes to bargaining.

Now that we've got perspective out of the way, let's look at the other things a seller can do to take part in deals that are a positive experience for everyone involved.

Price your stuff. (Or at least have prices in mind.)  It's a huge mistake to set stuff out without pricing it.  A marked price is a starting point for buyers to think about and for you to work from when you get an offer.  You mark the banana dibbler at ten, but they offer you five.  Now, you've got parameters, high and low, with which to bargain.  Better yet, both sides know them.  It's a level playing field as far as bargaining is concerned.

If you don't price stuff, then buyers are left having to ask about everything, which not everyone is inclined to do.  For me personally, if it's not extra special, I'm not going to bother asking.  I'll be on to the next sale.  No prices sends a message that everything in the sale is likely to be too expensive to mess with.  It also sends a message that bargaining is probably a bad idea.  The seller has way too much leverage when the prices aren't known.

Don't ask the buyer what they'll pay.  It's lazy and it gives all the leverage to the buyer.  It's also asking to be low-balled, which means you are more likely as a seller to end up feeling insulted or cheated and won't sell the item. 

Again for me personally, I take it quite literally when a seller says "What do you want to pay for it?"  My response is almost always:  "One dollar."  When a seller gets upset at that, I add:  "Well, you asked me what I wanted to pay.  And that's what I want to pay.  Now, will I pay more?  Maybe, depending on what price you set.  So, let's try this again.  How much is this item?"  It may seem kind of smart-ass, but I think of it as a teachable moment.  I want to see sellers succeed, so there will be more yard sales.  Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don't.  And, on occasion, I've actually gotten the item for the initial dollar offer!  Never hurts to try.

(I have a similar response whenever Keith asks if I want to do a particular chore, like take out the trash.  My answer is always:  "No."  Then I add:  "I don't want to do it, but I will do it, if you ask."  Over the years, he's learned to ask.  Teachable moments.  Yes, I'm a pedantic, literal bastard.  I'm also lazy.  But, I'm willing to cooperate, if asked properly.)

Remember, a good price is subjective.  Your lint baller may seem like a bargain to you at twenty bucks, but if my total yard sale budget for the weekend is only one hundred dollars, I'm not likely to see it that way.  If I know the typical going rate for lint ballers is four bucks, I definitely won't see it that way.  On the other hand, if I'm overwhelmed with lint that needs to be balled, I very well could be willing to pay anything for a good one.  You never can tell what's going on in a buyer's head.

Focus on value.  Sentiment ("That was Granny's nose flute.  She played it every day.") and nostalgia ("I had a corn husker just like that when I was a wee lad in County Meath.")  are not the same thing as a fair price based on an item's value.  If your attachments to something are preventing you from seeing it for what it is, you're better off not putting it in your sale.  You're just not ready to sell it.  And if anyone does make an offer on Granny's nose flute, all you're going to hear is the old gal rolling in her grave.  It's better to hold on to it for a little longer and play nose flute symphonies on the back porch.

Don't take it personally.  Someone offering a lower price is not a reflection on you, your stuff, your ability to price things, or your outfit.  The less time you spend feeling insulted and taking offense, the more stuff you'll sell and the more money you'll make.

Don't treat every buyer like they're trying to rip you off.  People offer lower prices for a variety of reasons, which I'll cover in a post later this week.  Acting like everyone is out to cheat you out of an extra twenty-five cents on your Etruscan snoods isn't fair and won't encourage them to spend money with you.

Which doesn't mean that they're aren't jerks and assholes out there trying to take advantage of sellers.  There are and they should be treated accordingly.  But don't treat me like I'm some kind of underhanded fiend, just because someone else is.  I don't want/need your snood that badly.

If you haven't figured it out by now, I am more than willing to put an item (or items) down and leave without buying anything if I don't feel that the hassle (whatever it is) is worth it.  I can (and have) walked away from anything, no matter how much I wanted it.  I'm not the only buyer that will either.  There are other sales out there. 

Listen to what the buyer is saying.  I was at a sale one time where a woman was looking through a rack of shirts.  She had three in her hand, as if she wanted to buy them.  She asked the seller how much they were (see first point).  He said:  "Two dollars each."  She asked if he would take five dollars for three of them.  He replied in a real condescending way that they were two dollars each.  She put two of them back and gave him two dollars for one.  If it had been me, I would have put all three of them back.  After witnessing that exchange, I opted to leave the sale.

Even when I think about it now, I still cannot believe how he totally missed what she was saying to him, which was essentially this:

"I have five dollars that I want to give you.  Can I get three shirts for it?"  The possibility also exists that she may have bought more than three, if he had been willing to deal.

All he heard was:

"I want to give you one dollar less for these shirts."

Use your listening skills!  Is five really that much less than six that you're going to:  A) turn it down and B) be rude about it?

Don't babble. If you can't/won't accept an offer, fine.  Just tell me so.  I don't need to hear that it's the Tsarina's pearl-encrusted doily which was carried over to this country by pigeons in the 1890's.  I don't need to hear what it would bring on eBay (see below).  I don't need to hear that it's new in the box, never been opened, stored only in a temperature-controlled dim closet and only taken out to be lovingly stared at for fifteen minutes on third Fridays in months that start with "M."  I don't need to hear what it retails for.  When I'm standing in your front yard, I really don't care about any of that. And none if it will change my mind or offer.  Just tell me if you'll take one buck instead of two or counter with one fifty.

Stay pleasant.  Your attitude, even when you're turning someone down, can make a big difference when someone is wanting to buy something.  There have been times when I was willing to pay full price, if my offer got turned down, that I didn't just because of the way the seller responded to me.  And there have been others, when the seller was so nice, I never even made my offer.  I just paid the full price and left.

Remember, you don't have to accept any offer. It's still your stuff and your sale.  You don't have to take an offer.  But don't turn it down flat.  Counter if you can.  Be nice, even if you can't.  One of the worst sales I ever went to involved a seller who kept screwing up her nose and going "Ewwwwwww!" every time I made an offer on one of her un-priced (ahem!) items.  Offers that she asked me to make, mind you.  Finally, after about three "Ewwwwwww!" responses, I said "Look.  You told me to make an offer and I did.  It doesn't mean you have to take it, but it does mean that you need to stop being rude. Say 'Yes' Say 'No.' Make me a counter-offer.  I don't care, but stop saying 'Ewwwww!' every time I make an offer."  She didn't get it.

Be prepared to counter-offer.  Negotiation doesn't mean you price it at ten, they offer two, and you turn it down and end the discussion.  It means you politely offer eight in return.  Maybe they'll come back with four, and you can offer seven as your lowest and you'll both be happy.  If you close things off after the initial offer, then the buyer will most likely just walk away.  If you counter and keep the discussion going, then they may end up paying a little more than they initially offered.  You'll have a little less money than you planned on, but more than they originally offered.  And, most importantly, the item will be gone.

Mean what you say.  If you say that you're taking offers or willing to negotiate, then people are going to expect you to deal.  Again, you don't have to accept every offer and it's perfectly okay to counter-offer, but acting offended that someone would make an offer is not.  I once walked into a sale as the lady running it was loudly annoucing that she was making deals and taking offers.  I offered a dollar on a CD that was marked two bucks.  She looked at me and said "Don't think I don't know what that's worth."  I left and spent my dollar somewhere else.

For god's sake, do not bring out the eBay print outs.  My biggest pet peeves are the folks who can't tell the difference between a worldwide market and their back yard.  If you want the eBay price, put the damn thing on eBay!  Of course, that involves a lot more work and a little bit of knowledge and it takes time and you have to pay fees--which is why these bozos won't do it.  Beyond that, most of them don't know how to look up a completed price, so the print outs they've plastered all the Victorian Dibble Doodlers with aren't accurate anyway.  Geez!  That level of ignorance doesn't inspire anyone to make an offer.  Hell, it won't even inspire me to stay in your yard and browse.

Remember, this is a yard sale.  Bargaining is part of the game.  If you're not prepared to do it or feel you shouldn't have to do it, then you might want to consider some other way of getting rid of your junk.


Chris the Yardsale Queen said...

I have a nose flute. I bought it new in Arkansas.

EM said...

I'm totally not surprised that you have one, Chris, or that you bought it in Arkansas. :) I sold a couple around Christmas time at one of the booths.

Now, do you have a dibble doodler?