Garage Sales 101 — How to Shop a Sale

Ranting — Again in a good way

It’s been a damp and cool here in northeast Ohio but spring is finally here. I can tell by what’s begun sprouting on lawns throughout the county. No, I’m not talking about dandelions, although there are plenty of those to be had. Especially in our yard — we go for the natural approach to gardening.

I mean garage sale signs.

I sure wish I could get one of them Van Goughts!

Yes, I admit it. I’m a garage saler. Most of my clothing comes from sales and at work I’m well-known for finding such treasures as designer bags, books, CDs, DVDs, furniture, quilts — you name it — at garage sales. In fact, you could even call me a garage sale guru. I’m not kidding.  That’s what Sandy Nannfeldt and I dubbed ourselves when we did a program at our library a few years back.   When I became a supervisor and had to make the schedule, I was happy because — you got it — I could schedule Thursday as my night to work and thus have Thursday mornings off for garage saleing. And yes, despite what spell-check is trying to tell me, that is a verb.  I’ve been shopping garage sales since I was a kid which means I’ve been visiting them for … well, let’s just say a very long time. This qualifies me to educate you on the best approach.

First — and this is very important — find out where most garage sales in your area are advertised. When I lived in Cleveland, it was the Sun newspapers, a weekly that came out on Thursday mornings. Because of this, Thursday was the biggest day for sales. But when I moved to Medina County, I discovered it’s the free Tuesday Gazette, which means that sometimes the sales start on Wednesdays, although Thursday is still probably the best day. So, ask someone you know who goes to garage sales and plan accordingly.

Second — Make a plan. Get out your highlighter and mark the sales that sound appealing. But leave room in your plan for spontaneous side trips. Often the sales that sound fabulous turn out to be awful and one where you just followed signs turn out to be a gold mine. You just never know. And that’s the magic of garage sales.

Third — Make sure you have a good county map (possibly even ones for neighboring counties) and use it to map out your route.  My mom swears by her GPS and I must admit that’s the only reason I’d ever consider buying one.

Fourth — This is where many people fall by the wayside. You don’t have to buy anything unless they have something you want. Unless, of course, it’s a fund-raiser for a charity. Then, let your conscience be your guide. Even if the people are really nice,  it’s perfectly fine to say, “Thanks, but I don’t see anything I can use.” Then, smile politely and skedaddle to the next stop. If the place is dirty with moldy old garbage-y stuff, you can just go directly to skedaddling. I recall visiting a sale once and having the lady tell me, “We do this every year.” I looked around and felt like saying, “What? You pull all your trash out on your lawn and see if anyone will buy it?” But instead I smiled politely and said, “Thanks, but….”

Fifth — If it’s electronic or mechanical, ask for a demonstration to make sure it works. If it’s clothing, check to be sure the zippers work and all the buttons are there. Sounds simple, I know, but you’d be surprised how often even a guru like me forgets.

Sixth — A general guideline on pricing is an item should be one-fourth to one-fifth the value of it new if it’s in clean working condition. However, if you see something  you want and consider it reasonably priced then guess what? It’s reasonably priced.

Seventh — If the seller has something you want that you think is priced too high, offer less, but don’t be insulting. Offer somewhat less than you are willing to pay and wait for the proprietor to make a counter offer. Generally, you’ll meet in the middle. Sadly, some people who run sales don’t understand this concept. I generally assume they are amateurs who have never been to a garage sale and thus aren’t qualified to run  one. In this case, smile sympathetically and move on. If the seller seems torn about selling for less, you can offer to leave your name and number with an offer in case the item doesn’t sell. I’ve done this a few times and had it work once.

Eighth — When you’re buying a lot, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. Calculate what you’ve got. If it comes to $15, ask if you can have it for $12. For $25 worth of stuff, ask if you can have it for $20. Or, if you’d rather not be quite so crass as I sometimes am, you can say, “If I buy loads of stuff, are you going to cut me a deal?”  Many people say yes just because they don’t want to have to carry it all to Goodwill. This works even better on Saturday but by then, pickings can be mighty slim.

Ninth — If there’s a kid selling lemonade or cookies or pop, buy some. Entrepreneurship is the backbone of the economy and we all have to start somewhere.

Tenth — Take your time and really look. How do you think I find so many Coach purses?

Questions? Comments? If not, stop by again. Next, I’ll be posting how to prepare for a sale of your own.

About kymlucas

"Taking care not to take love too seriously." Writer of smart, fresh, contemporary romance and women's fiction. Blogging about writing, reading, and more recently, dealing with the ins and outs of breast cancer.
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6 Responses to Garage Sales 101 — How to Shop a Sale

  1. joysann says:

    I needed this! Thanks!


  2. kymlucas says:

    My pleasure. Nothing beats a good garage sale!


  3. jeovenobove says:

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!



  4. Peggy says:

    Don’t ever assume that the person hosting a garage sale “just wants to get rid of stuff”. If you can’t pay the price they ask, they may be more than happy to keep that item.


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