Summer is in full swing and that means yard sales are in full swing, too. There are lots of sites with good advice for having yard sales, but only a few with advice for going to them. Let me rectify that a bit with my own take on the subject.
1. This is supposed to be fun.
It doesn't matter why you're out there. Whether you're looking for cheap goods or stuff to re-sell, going to yard sales is supposed to be fun! Even on those relentless hot days when the bargains elude you, you have to take time to enjoy yourself at least a little bit. Talk to the cute babies. Look at the pretty flowers in the yards. Play with the friendly dogs. Buy a soda from the kids. Laugh. If it's not fun, then why do it? If it stresses you out, why do it? If you don't enjoy it, why do it?
2. Take someone with you.
Batman has Robin. The Lone Ranger has Tonto. GI Joe has...well...other GI Joes. So, too, every yard saler should have a partner. To begin with, just having someone to talk with about the crazy seller you just left with the crappy over-priced stuff can keep you from blowing vital gaskets. And then when you find the rare whatzit that you've been hunting for years, you have someone to celebrate with.
And then there are the practical aspects: One to drive and one to navigate. One to spot and one to drive. One to assess sale potential and one to get you where you're going. It's so much easier in pairs. Plus, you've got each other's backs. Two pairs of eyes searching for those sought after whatzits is better than one. Just make sure your partner is as into it as you are.
3. Leave the kids at home.
You'll be glad you did. I cannot count the times I've seen hot, bored kids dragging along behind a mom or dad out saling, They're tired. They're cranky. They're ready to go home. And usually everyone around them is ready for them to go home too. Kids just don't get it. Leave them behind, and everyone, yourself included, will be glad you did.
4. Be open to the possibilities.
I know time is tight on a Saturday morning and the temptation is to stick with the sure things--listings that match your interests or score-rich parts of town. But, leave a little room for a few sales that may not have obvious potential right off the bat. They might surprise you.
Last year, we headed into a subdivision following signs that promised "The World's Greatest Yard Sale!" When we got to the two piddly tables in a driveway, I said "Yeah, right." But I walked away with a stack of graphic novels that I paid 25 cents each for. Maybe not quite the "World's Greatest" but certainly worth the stop, despite the meager first appearances.
5. Make offers, but be respectful.
You might think you’re offering a reasonable amount, but no one has to accept it. Don't get offended if they don't, and listen to what they're saying. You might get a counter-offer that is acceptable to you. Read more about the art of negotiating here and here.
6. Change out your large bills before starting.
All sales should be well-stocked with change, but you would be surprised how many aren't. You can get around this hurdle by being well-prepared yourself. I try to spend the day or evening before swapping out my big bills for ones.
7. Start early. Take breaks. Eat. Potty. Keep your fluid intake up.
Taking care of yourself only enhances your saling experience and gives you energy for the long haul. Remember, you could be going through a large neighborhood sale for hours on end. It's inevitable that the weather will be hot and muggy. It's summer after all. Be prepared with water, sun screen, and a hat. Wear good walking shoes, too. Yard saling is an endurance sport!
8. Your life doesn’t depend on buying someone else’s cheap stuff.
Remember Tip #1. If you find that you're getting a bit too intense over things, maybe it's time to take a break. It's only stuff. There will be plenty more stuff at the next stop. Seriously.
9. If you’re a dealer, don’t act like a jerk.
Please. Seriously. Stop giving all of us a bad name with your grubby, grabby antics. There's no call for it. Ever. I know reselling is a hard row to hoe. That doesn't give you an excuse to be rude, pushy, grabby, or to lie and try to cheat someone. If you think it does, well, all I can say is I feel sorry for you. Oh, and go to Hell.
10. If you’re not a dealer, don’t act like a jerk.
All of that goes for you if you're not a reseller, as well. Well, maybe except for the "go to hell" part. Still, you're not making yourself any friends or doing yourself any favors. So chill! okay? Whatever happened to common decency?
11. Of course you have the right to think whatever you want about someone’s prices, selection, etc, but you do not have to be rude about it.
Make your comments to your partner once you get back in the car. Trying to insult or badger a seller is not going to make them come down on anything. Why on earth would you think that it would? Stop raining on everyone else's parade.
12. Sometimes people make mistakes. Be reasonable about it.
Something will get put out that's not supposed to be sold. Or something will be mismarked. Or someone will not give you enough change. Or you'll get goofy and try to buy something that's not for sale.
One time, I tried to buy a seller's cup of morning coffee. I couldn't figure out why coffee kept spilling out of the cup when I looked at it. Finally, she said "Uhm, that's my coffee..." Another time I tried to buy a lady's gardening tools that she accidentally left outside. Her son was taking my money when she softly said "I really wasn't wanting to sell those." Stuff like that happens. I know it can be frustrating, but there's really nothing you can do about it. Laugh about it and go on.
13. Look for themes.
A really fun way to pass the day is to see if there are any recurring themes--items that seem to keep popping up over and over throughout the day. Or maybe it's a certain kind of dog or house every seller seems to have. Or maybe everyone that day seems to have the same bad taste in music or books or clothes. Make a game of it. Look for the oddball items. have fun.
14. Celebrate your super finds.
Yard saling is the ultimate treasure hunt. When you strike gold, be sure to holler! Debrief with your partner and identify your "finds of the day." This is best done over Mexican food, I have found. Make a list of the specific items you are looking for and cross them off when you find them. Share your finds on your blog or in appropriate online forums. Call your mother and tell her. Little things like this can keep the fun alive on those hot, hot days.
15. Wrap your goodies.
Some sellers will wrap up stuff, but not all will, and not all will do a good job of it. Keep a stash of paper and a couple of boxes on the car, so you can protect and preserve the goodies you find. Remember to wrap more than just the obvious breakable items.
16. Look for bang for your buck.
Keep track of which parts of town have the best sales. Know what neighborhoods to look for sales in. That will make each stop more useful and productive for you. Also, look for citywide, neighborhood wide, and block sales with lots of homes in one vicinity participating. This will minimize your travel time. And check out large sales like church or school sales or other fundraising sales. Any place where there is a lot of loot under one roof increases your chance of making a find.
Next time, I'm going to leap into the "advice for holding a yard sale" pool!