I haven’t had a lot of experience with garage sales. I don’t troll neighborhoods on weekends looking for them. I’ve only held 3 or 4 in my adult life. But I think I understand the basic premise: you collect up all your junk, put ridiculously low prices on little stickers all over your items indicating you are serious about getting rid of them, set out some signs, maybe some balloons and lay bare the detritus of your life out on your driveway in the expectation that folks will come and buy ALL your cool stuff, the BEST stuff put out at a garage sale EVER, so you don’t have to haul it back to the basement. I’m not sure the rest of the population gets this. Some people seem to miss the inference of “garage sale” and expect that you’re running some kind of retail operation.
Take our sale a couple of weeks ago. An early bird asked about scrap metal. “I recycle scrap metal,” he told me. I showed him the cast iron fireplace grate that we hoped to get rid of. “How about this?” I asked. He held it up by one corner between two fingers, at arm’s length like it was a stinky bag of dog poo. “Oh, I don’t know. That’s not good for much,” he declared, “Do you have anything bigger?” Gosh, no, sir. We ran out of scrap metal minutes before you got here at 7:30am. "Sorry," I said. He grunted and huffed away as though my customer service had been deplorable.
Another man came by asking if we had any LPs. “Well, yeah,” I told him, “I have some LPs, but not out. Mostly they’re ones that I want to hang onto.” “I collect LPs,” he explained, “Musicals!” “Oh? We have some records from Broadway musicals!” I said, cheerfully, thinking that if he wanted to come back later, I could drag them up from downstairs. I wasn’t expecting anyone to buy LPs and so, had not displayed any. “No, not Broadway,” he said, “Everybody’s got Broadway. I mean musical scores. Like from the movies.” “Oh, yes?” I inquired, “Like ‘The Magnificent Seven’ or ‘Exodus’?” I remembered my Dad had those. “Nope, like, ‘I Walked with a Zombie,’ and ‘Fire Maidens from Outer Space,’ and ‘The Beast of Yucca Flats.’” Uh, no I, I don’t have any of those. Come on! What are the chances? “Have you tried a used record store?” I asked. “Aw, those stores get picked over,” he said, “Albums like those get snapped up pretty quick.” “I bet they do,” I replied. “How about eight-track tapes?” he asked, “Got any eight tracks?” Gosh, fresh out, I’m afraid.
Another guy took a brisk look around and wanted to know, “Do you have any fishing lures?” It doesn’t look like I have any fishing lures, now does it, sir? “How about power tools?” Oh, you know what? Those are in my other garage. 'Sorry!"
Yet another man wanted to know if I was selling shower curtains. “I use them for drop cloths,” he explained, "I’m a painter.” I did have a used one upstairs tucked away upstairs in the linen closet, but by now I was totally sympathetic to shop clerks who tell you, what you see is what we got! “Nope, darn it! Sorry. No shower curtains.” Was I stupid to miss my opportunity to sell that old, mildewy shower curtain? It might have raised my profit by at least 75 cents.
Later in the day a woman seemed taken by a framed picture of four black and white cow faces set against a grid of four colored backgrounds, kind of Andy Warhol-style. She seemed so delighted and picked it up for a closer look. “Oh, this is so cuuu-uuute! I love cows!” she squealed. Ah, a sale! “I’d buy this, but my family raises Guernseys,” she continued, “Holsteins just won’t do. Does this come in Guernseys?” Gee, let me check the stock room. I’m sure we had some Guernseys earlier, but I guess they sold out. “Regrettably, I have no Guernseys!” I told her. “O.K. Well, thanks anyway,” she said with a cheery smile as she walked away. Honestly, for a dollar she couldn’t have bought Holsteins?
The day kind of went like that. Who knew garage sale enthusiasts were such specific shoppers? Here I thought the idea was to browse through other people’s trash to find cheap treasures that you didn’t even know you needed and buy them right then and there with cash just because they’re 25 cents. But these folks were clearly on mission-driven.
Still, it was fun to dicker over prices. “This is marked, $1.00. Will you take 50 cents?” Sure! Why pay retail?
Mind you, we did get some impulse buyers. My tomato crusher, a collection of Buffalo mementos and a 1970s Flokati rug have now all gone to good homes. I bet none of those customers woke up that morning saying, “Yup, today’s the day I go looking for a tomato press, some bison-themed items and a Greek rug!”
It’s a shame that the humidifier/mood lamp didn’t sell, though. I even plugged it in so folks could see how its pastel-colored lights could be so soothing. But you know the old saying, “It isn’t junk until it’s been in three garage sales.”
On second thought, maybe I’ll just pack up all this leftover crap and haul it to Goodwill.