The Garage Sale
By Bart Vogelzang

Seven o’clock, and we heard a steady buzzing. A quick peak out the front drapes, and it was clear what was happening. We had “early birds”.

For a fortnight we had planned the big ‘garage sale’, and now our plans were to all coming to fruition. My buddy and I had been living in this house for several years, but we had to move. Accumulations of household goods, and personal effects, had to be gotten rid of, and a garage sale seemed to be the best way to go. We had checked out other garage sales, spoken with the people putting them on, and found out what problems occurred, not to mention what monies were made. We vowed to do better than merely $300.

The number one issue was always ‘walkaways’. That is, stuff walked away without any money changing hands. Easily solved, by containing ALL the goods inside the garage, rec room, and back yard with the 6 foot high fence. Everyone would have to exit via one exit.

The number two issue seemed to be fake bartering. Sellers would price tag the items, and when the bargain hunter got to the payment person, would claim that one of the other workers had been convinced to let the item go for less than the sticker price. Not quite so easy to deal with, but we developed a ‘code’ that had to be included on every sticker which was bargained down. No code, no price reduction.

The number three issue was early birds. Hawks, mostly professional garage salers, would swoop in early, buy the best stuff, and leave before most people had a chance to even arrive. By the time the rest got there, the excited feeding frenzy would have disappeared, and people ended up trying to bargain down everything. Our plan was simple, using the solution to #1. By keeping everything inside and away from the public until the exact correct time, we would avoid this issue.

The last major issue was publicity. People posted their sales in the Classified Ads 2 days beforehand. That was it. Well, not us. We created signs on plastic, and the night before we placed them up to 1 mile away, pointing to our place. Not only that, we also went the ad route, but started that 2 weeks early.

The buzz increased as it neared 8 a.m. Not that this meant anything to us, as we had announced 9 a.m. SHARP as the start time. However, when we looked outside again, it became obvious that we might just have a ‘situation’ on our hands. At least 50 people were standing outside, waiting, talking, laughing. My buddy went out to speak with them, and I made sure all was in order. Ice water, coffee, soft drinks, cookies, all at above grocery store pricing, were ready to go. Some of the people left, to come back at the right time.

Nearly 9 a.m. and it was a dull roar outside. At best guess, there were over 200 people waiting, and cars were parked from one end of the street to the other, for several blocks. My buddy went outside again, this time with the bullhorn, and announced that it was almost time. He had the nerve to actually rev them up, like a warm up act on a live TV show. He joked, he teased, he had the roar become almost overwhelming.

Nine, and we rolled up the garage door. The surge of people was enormous. All were quite controlled, but eager beyond words. They grabbed things, right, left, center. They checked out the back yard, rec room and garage itself. Racks of material were sold, with our code working perfectly. Then the racks themselves were sold. Coffee, soda, and cookies seemed to be breathed in. We grabbed one young fellow who tried to shoplift a radio, but his obvious terror at being caught made us decide to not call the cops, as we had serious doubts he’d ever try that again.

Eleven, and it was over. We were cleaned out, including some old furniture we had never expected to sell. The net take, approximately $3500. The only thing we lost was a large wheelbarrow, which some enterprising soul had managed to actually fling over our 6-foot high fence, into the neighbor’s yard, from whence he fetched it over their 4-foot high fence. Another neighbor, who didn’t bother to let us know, saw all this. Frankly, I’m not at all sure I’d have wanted to approach anyone large enough and strong enough to do that kind of flinging in the first place.

© 2008 by Bart Vogelzang. All rights reserved.