Thursday, June 12, 2008

How to Do a Yard Sale...

Brandon is currently in a plane, flying somewhere over the western states. Everything went well with packing and driving to the airport, minus a few emotional breakdowns on my part yesterday.

However, today I am feel good and very excited about this opportunity he has.

In other news, Amy Beth asked for tips and advice on how to do a yard sale. And while I don't have all the answers, I do have some "tricks of the trade" passed down in my family from generation to generation. You know, some families have secret recipes... well, we have secret yard sale techniques.

But, since you all are such fabulous people, I will share our generational wisdom here, in none other than... the list format.

First, how to price items....

1. Items on tables sell better than items on tarps on the ground.

2. Clothing items that are hung up sell better (and for higher prices) than clothing items that are folded on the table or tarp.

3. However, clothing items are usually the last thing to go (or to be packed up for the next yard sale), so don't price them too high. If you have some really nice, name-brand clothing that you want $25 for, you might be better off taking it to a consignment shop.

4. Alway price items a little bit higher than what you will actually take for them. Brandon and I have a complex mathematical equation: we guesstimate (an official yard-saler's term) what an item is worth, price it a dollar higher, and will usually take a dollar less.

5. And don't be insulted when someone offers $0.25 for your grandmother's hand-crafted heirloom hair brush (complete with loose hairs). Things that you value for sentimental reasons probably shouldn't be sold at your yard sale because nobody will ever offer enough. It's better to donate that stuff "for a good cause" to ease your mind.

6. Price everything in increments of $.25. This makes change (and math) easier for you and the buyer. Got some items worth a nickel or dime? Bunch them together and write, "10 for a dollar" or "5 for a quarter."

7. Don't be afraid to haggle. You priced it at $5? They offer $2? How bout $3.50? A lot of amateurs... *ahem*... I mean, novices... don't do this because they're afraid it will make someone angry. But a "professional" yard-sale shopper feels that, if they purchased something that was haggled for, they probably got a good deal. If the seller just says, "Ok", then the shoppers always walk away kicking themselves for not asking less. C'mon! Make those shoppers feel good about their purchase and HAGGLE!

8. When pricing and haggling, consider what you want your end result to be. Do you mind having stuff leftover at the end of the day? Will you box up the leftovers for the next yard sale? Or will it all go to the dump or goodwill? If you don't plan on re-boxing and re-storing the items, then price items low enough (or be flexible enough in your haggling) so that you get something for them now, rather than nothing at the end of the day.

9. If you want to get rid of everything, advertise "Half off at 11:30am on Saturday." Most of the time, the shoppers will still purchase things now because they don't want to risk the items being purchased before they come back. But then they'll usually still come back at 11:30am to see what's left. We have had people come back to our yard sales three and four times because of our advertised incremental mark-downs.

10. Don't sell items that are: stained, broken, or missing pieces. That's just not nice, ya'll.

Second, how to attract customers...

1. Newspapers,, and any other local advertising resource. You should include: Address, relative location ("near behind Jackson Elementary" or "Off First street"); this gives them a general side of town so that the "professionals" can map their course. You can also list 2-3 examples of what you're selling. Also, things like "multi-family" or "moving sale" really bring in the crowds. Just remember not to spend more than $25 or so because that's eating into your profits.

2a. Signs! Signs! and more Signs! And ya'll, don't use those itty bitty white or pale yellow signs with 12 point font that stick 2.5 inches out of the ground. Go the extra mile and get BIG pink and orange poster board with legible bubble letters which include: Arrows (the most important thing) and street name and number. Also optional: date and time (if you hang the signs the day before). Hang them on street signs and lamp posts at about eye level (barring any city ordinances that prohibit it).

2b. Location! Location! Location! In my personal opinion, you should put signs on every street corner within a mile radius of your yard sale. But, if you don't have the time, manpower, or desire to go to those extremes, at least... AT LEAST... put them on either end of your street and at the closest major intersection, with CLEAR arrows.

2c. If you live in a muggy area or if it is a rainy day, be sure to use poster board that won't wilt... or, if you're REALLY fired up about the sale... have them laminated. Don't laugh. I've seen it done. Of course, not by me... maybe.

2d. Nails work best. Tape doesn't work at all.

3. Move stuff around... all. day. long. Don't ever let there be blank spots on the tables or tarps. Empty spaces show the drive-by's that everything has been picked over. Also, if those drive-by's see people walking around the yard with stuff in their hands, they think, "Man! I'm missing all the good deals!" So they'll stop.

4. Don't sit too close to the tables. This may seem like common sense, but I can't TELL you how many tables I have NOT looked at a table because I felt like the people were staring me down. Give the shoppers some breathing room. Sit your chairs/pay table a few yards away from the sales tables.

5. Open early. If you say you'll be open at 8am... you should be setting stuff out at 7am. Some of your best buys of the day can happen when those "professional" yard-salers, who have been shopping since 6am, come by to pick through your still-unpacked boxes.

Third, random thoughts and comments...

1. Typical yard sales run 7am-6pm on Fridays (to catch the crowds going to and from work) and 8am-1pm on Saturdays.

2. The days will have lulls and mad rushes, and rarely anything in between, so make sure you have plenty of help.

3. I usually get about $50 in change. (1 roll of quarters = $10, plus 40 one-dollar bills. Don't worry about giving someone 13 one-dollar bills; yard-salers love small change.)

4. Establish one person to take the money at a check-out table and one person to bag the items. If it's too difficult for the shoppers to figure out who to pay, they'll just drop the stuff and leave. Trust me... I've done it.

Ok... now it's your turn... help Amy Beth out and tell her all of your yard saling secrets. Whether you're a seller or a shopper, let her know what you do and don't like about yard sales you've been to. Us yard-salers have to stick together, yo!


Amy Beth @ Ministry So Fabulous! said...

Oh my goodness! Now I know EXACTLY who to come to for future yard sale advice! You are the Y.S. queen! I wish you were here to run this for us. :)

Can't wait to read more from your readers... :)

christan said...

You are HILARIOUS!!! Yet also wise...

Natalie Witcher said...

That was perfectamundo!

Brandy Thixton said...

Perfectamundo?! Really?! I'm so flattered. That's like... at least a step up from Perfecto... and like TWO steps up from Perfect.

You're so sweet!

The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood