Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Let's Talk About Church Sales

I honestly don't think you'll find a junker anywhere who doesn't like--nay, love--a church sale.

Seriously, what's not to love?  A large room, filled with all kinds of junk, with cheap prices.  If there's a better definition of "junker heaven" then I want to know what it is.  Throw in the fact that there are also clean restrooms (something I appreciate more and more the older I get) and often home-baked goodies, and you have a recipe for a perfect morning.

Living, as I do, in the buckle of the Bible Belt means that I am surrounded by churches.  Not only are there churches on every corner, usually there are two or three on every block in between!  That means there are a lot of potential church sales out there.  So many, in fact, that when I pass certain churches, I start thinking about when their sale is going to be.  If it's a church that doesn't have a sale, I start to ponder why it doesn't and how I could convince them to have one.  Seriously.  I really do this.  I am not well.  I know.

There are two kinds of church sales (that I know of, anyway):  the donation sale and the vendor sale.  Donation sales are usually the better ones, because everything has been donated to the church for the sale.  The church has as much interest in making sure everything is gone as they do in raising money.  This means that the prices start out great and get better as the sale wears on.  If you get really lucky, there's a half-price hour or box/bag sale lurking at the very end of the sale.

For the vendor sales, the church rents out spaces to people who then come and sell their stuff.  The prices may not be as good as at the donation sale in the beginning, but nearly every seller has a point where they realize they don't want to haul their crap home again and the bargains start to flow.

In these parts, yard sale season starts out with church sales.  There have already been quite a few, in fact.  Many of these sale are annual events, and I look forward to them every year.  Out of the dozens of sales that take place in these parts every season, there are four that stand out head and shoulders above the rest.  These four sales are the gold standard, in my opinion.

All four of them are donation sales.  Church members and others have brought their stuff to the church were it was organized and priced by volunteers.  Each of these sales always has tons of stuff and great prices, but they also have something unique about the way they operate that sets them apart and above the other sales in town.

Two of these sales have already happened.  One of the remaining sales is scheduled for April, while the last one always happens the first Saturday in June.  For this post, I'd like to talk about the ones that have already happened and what makes them gold standard.  When the others have taken place, I'll do the same for them (if I remember).

Yeah, I'll be talking about finds too.

The first gold standard sale is one of the earliest sales in the city.  What sets them apart is their efficient check outs.  They have tally stations where you get your prices added up and your stuff wrapped and packed.  The volunteers use calculators with print outs and give you your ticket, which you then take to the pay station.  They keep the ticket, which I think probably makes balancing the cash easy at the end.

This system really works and really makes the traffic flow quickly.  If something is not priced, the volunteers are able to name a price for the item, instead of hunting for someone in charge.  This is rarer than you would think.  The best part is that the volunteers are actually trained in how to use the calculators properly and they know the difference between five cents and fifty cents and how to enter each correctly.  You would be surprised how often this is a problem.  They also work quickly and don't chat and visit, which really helps.  I've stood in too many long church lines waiting for folks in the front to finish catching up so the rest of us can be checked out.

The second gold standard sale keeps tweaking their process every year, so that it keeps on getting better and better.  The sale benefits the church's program for deaf teens, and many of the teens volunteer during the sale.  They work really hard doing all kind of jobs:  cleaning up, carrying stuff out, organizing, etc.

A couple of years ago, they started having a holds area, where folks like me could stash stuff they're going to buy while they continue browsing.  The volunteers would take your name and label your stuff with it and then keep it organized and together until you were ready to check out.  This worked okay, but there were some of the teen volunteers who could not understand when people gave their names.  This year, they went to a number system, like a coat check.  You got a number, and when you took more stuff to be held, you could just show the number and everyone could keep track of your stuff.

This sale also has a big half price hour at the end of the sale.  They make everyone leave the gym and line up, while the volunteers go through and tidy up the tables.  They're also looking for things people may have stashed in anticipation of the half-price hour.  Plus, they bring out extra empty boxes and bags, since they know people will be filling them up.  These kind of refinements may seem minor, but they really help the process work smoothly.

We usually don't even go to this sale until the last hour.  There's always a ton of stuff, so I don't worry about missing out on anything.  We'll get there about a half hour before the half-price time and case the joint to see what all is there.  If there is anything super awesome or unique or that I think I might not be able to get my hands on during the half price time, I'll go ahead and buy it then.  After that, we line up and wait.

This year, they added the extra step of making the books, movies, etc fill a bag for three bucks.  I think they had been having too many books left-over, so they were discounting them further.  It definitely prompted me to fill a bag, instead of just grabbing a book or two like I normally would have done.  Constant improving and tweaking like this is what makes a gold standard, I think.

Yes, I spend too much time thinking about these kind of things.  I'm a process nerd.  It's what I do.  So what about some church sale finds.  After all, the sale can run as well as it wants to, but if there isn't any good stuff to buy, it doesn't really matter.  Does it?

So was there good stuff?  You betcha!

I solved my small shelf problem pretty quickly.  These pics give a good example of how I use them in the booth.

There were two of these aluminum lawn chairs.  I ended up buying them before the half-price hour.  The price was already super and they were sitting right my the door to the gym.  I just knew that they would not last during the half price time and I might not get them.  Sometimes you do what you gotta do.

Backyard lamp post for candles and a pitchfork.  There's wire wrapped around the handle to hold the head on the handle.  If it doesn't sell this way, then I'll separate the two and sell them individually.

70's Sit and Spin toy.  Who had one of these as a kid?  I always wanted one, but I was too big for them when they came out.

Chalk board memo/note/sign thing in fancy wrought iron frame.  I feel like writing the day's specials on it.

1971 Mattel chunky alphabet letter blocks.  You can spell and build with these babies.

Gold Standard sale #3 is scheduled for a week from Saturday!  Can't wait.  Does anyone else count the days to the good sales?

Please tell me that I'm not the only one.



Linda @ A La Carte said...

Church sales are the best!! I need to find a way to track the one's in my town. Last year the church I now go to had one and I scored some really cool things for super cheap prices. I bet I help at it this next year.

Joy@aVintageGreen said...

I LOVE Church Sales that are donation stocked. The few in our area have set dates when they run and are fairly well organized. My favourite is a Catholic Church that collects all year and has an amazing team of volunteers who set out in categories, price, work the areas (LOTS of volunteers) and the high school kids will help carry stuff out if needed. Good picking Eddie. Hugs.

The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

I think you've already heard about my two favorite church sales of the year - the evangelicals let you stuff a bag with clothing for two bucks for the last two hours, and the wonderful Methodist ladies hand you a big paper bag to stuff for five bucks at the START of the sale. I bet they have the fewest leftovers of any church in town!

Pat said...

I'm a church sale nerd too, Eddie. I usually look at the online calendars for the churches that put on good sales, and make a list of dates and places. I also look on Craigslist using the keyword "church". It's just a little early for the season here, but it's coming soon!

Melissa said...

There are definitely sales that I count down to... but I'm usually more excited for the garage sale routes than anything else. :)

Judy said...

OMG! I would take a church sale any day over yardsales. Going to one good church sale is like going to a day's worth of yardsales. The donated sales are the best with the lowest prices. I'm going to the best one of the year next weekend. It's two floors of junky, funky, antiquey goodness, plus a huge bunch of furniture, etc outside and it runs like a well oiled machine. Thanks for sharing your church sale wisdom. I'm as nerdy about them as you! Love that chalkboard, metal piece you got. That would be a keeper for me!

Donna Wilkes said...

Knights of Columbus here have the beat sale - lots of vintage stuff. Most of the other church sales are clothing and kid's toys - no furniture items. One church will not sell anything old. WHAT!?!

Shara said...

I can't think of any church sales around here. Isn't that the saddest thing EVER? There is a church sale not far form me on the last weekend of May each year - but it isn't terrible large or heavy in vintage stuff. Just some table with things on them. The hospital used to have a huge sale. I mean HUGE. They would find an empty storefront somewhere in Fayetteville and then set up for about a month. There were actual departments, a furniture room, aisle after aisle of stuff. It was heavenly. And, it started at 2:00 in the afternoon the first day. I'm no morning person or firat to be there sort of person. But I was always one of the first ones in the door at that sale. They built a new billion dollar hospital and quit having those sales. Such a shame!