What I Learned at my Accidental Garage Sale

Have you learned/observed anything funny or productive out there from a garage sale?

Though I wasn’t planning to, I received an impromptu lesson in garage sale vernacular a few weeks ago: people showed up as I was cleaning my garage and tried to buy my things I was arranging.

As the people rummaged through my garage, I didn’t have the heart to tell them I wasn’t having a sale. At the same time, I was curious. I didn’t care about most of it and we were saving up to rent a couple of dumpsters. It was kind of a rush. I wondered what my junk could go for? In the hours that followed I fancied myself quite the garage salesman, but after several only marginally profitable sales, I realized I had a lot to learn about this odd breed of people.

In the negotiations that followed, I learned that terms like “really good condition” are not the best when trying to get the highest price. One has to somehow let the buyer know that the item is of good quality without bragging. The reason is that if one brags too much, the buyer will feel the need to find fault in it and haggle a lower price. I even had one buyer completely drop an item and leave when I extolled the virtues of a never before used water foot spa, he probably wanted it for a quarter though, so no real loss there.

One guy who bought about $40 worth of my stuff seemed like a pro. He had gloves in his back pocket and a tape measure he pulled out more than once. I’ve often wondered since that day if he was an eBay enthusiast. If he was, he probably made quite a profit off some of my things. I admire that guy for knowing his craft. I’ve already bought my gardening gloves and I’m ready to be on his side some Saturday when I can convince my wife it’s worth my time!

Hindsight is 20/20. I learned that one avoids the pitfalls of low selling prices by stating a price one wants up front and using dispassionate, minimal language like,

“Yes . . . that’s for sale . . . it works. . . . it’s 15 dollars . . .etc.”

In doing this the buyer doesn’t have to wring his/her hands and tell you dramatically about how it is missing this or that or show you the holes in it to get you to lower the price. In short: Play your language down and hold on a price. This is the best way to get the most money for your stuff.

It was a key strategy I learned over the course of my 4 hour accidental garage sale. If I had known it at the start, I would have gotten a lot more money for my things. I made the mistake of thinking that retail sales strategies are the same as garage sale ones: they are not. At Best Buy, for example, a salesman would extol the virtues of a plasma TV to get the $3000 from the buyer . . . that would make sense. At a garage sale, extolling the virtues of wares can backfire when the buyer senses they have no chance to talk the seller down. This can be a real problem especially since traffic at garage sales is not guaranteed throughout the day as it is at Best Buy.

At any rate, I did okay that day and we took the kids to John’s Incredible Pizza (Kind of like a Chuck E Cheese of the High Desert) with the proceeds that night. I’m looking forward to putting my lesson it into practice first thing the next time I have a garage sale. The only trouble is that it may have to wait a while . . . I’ve already sold all my junk. Maybe in 10 years . . . this approach is probably timeless so I hope I’m in luck. I know for sure I’ll have a chance soon to be the buyer, so watch for that post. Since this experience I have learned that garage sales can be the BEST places to get things.

Have you learned/observed anything funny or productive out there from a garage sale?

Patch of Orange Groves

my family and I sure appreciate what one man’s dream (Walt Disney) did with a patch of those orange groves.

A journal entry from January 2, 2007.

I left the High Desert for a while today. Wife and I took the kids to Disneyland and it was really great. The main point of this trip was to get my son on a scary roller coaster (California Screamin’). He’s 8 going on 30 and walks around acting like he’s the smartest, toughest kid around. That’s why I was astonished that he refused to go on it.

We spent time on kiddie rides, and even Space Mountain (which I coaxed him kicking and screaming to go on last trip) but he maintained a nervousness about that whiteroller coaster over at California Adventure.

I finally forced him to go on it, and now of course . . . it’s his favorite ride in the world!

My baby girl loved “A Bug’s Life” and “Snow White.” Because we have annual passes, we didn’t stay that long. It was WICKEDLY crowded. If you know what fast passes are, we checked the fastpass return time for “Space Mountain” at 11am and it was 7:30pm!!! All the ride lines were about an hour. This isn’t too bad, you talk in line, it’s cool in an old fashioned way. Plus people hear you talk and comment and you meet new friends who you never see again once they get on the ride away from you. All the rides were cool. My favorite was “Soarin’ Over California.” I love the part where you fly over the Orange Groves. You can almost smell the citrus as you soar like a hang-glider.

The drive down the hill to Anaheim (about 1 1/2 hours from where we’re at), the familiar OC freeways, the park, and dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack made me realize how fortunateI am to have been brought up in Orange County. I miss it sometimes. The average house is probably worth about 750K to 1 mil. That tends to keep me in the High Desert. It all used to be an Orange Grove once upon a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Many years later, my family and I sure appreciate what one man’s dream (Walt Disney) did with a patch of those orange groves.

Thanks Walt.

The Library – Browsing Humanity

libraryI went to the library yesterday. There is a book there called “The Writer’s Market” that I needed some info from. I wasn’t sure if it would be there since I live in a 1/2 rural area of California (compared to Orange County where I grew up). As I asked the librarian for help, I was struck by her eagerness to offer it. Not only did she find me the book I needed, but she recommended a book to me as well that I read while there and it was VERY helpful.

I’m working on a book. It’s non-fiction and I really think it has some potential. Unfortunately, the process of writing it is inevitably taking my perfect idea and ripping it to shreds. My goal is to hold some semblage of the idea together to the end of the journey!

While in the library I saw a heavy kid in a T-Shirt reading “The Big Money” and I was blown away. Here was a kid reading a book I read (and loved) in college. And in Hesperia of all places!!! It reminded me that the library is a place where we can tap into history and humanity. In the library we are all equals. My wife and kids were with me. there was a kids section where the two went and played/read. My wife looked at books she was interested in. I photocopied the pages of agents I needed for my ongoing project and marveled at the number of people around me seeking out knowledge, entertainment, inspiration. I thought about life as a very temporary thing, sometimes filled with pain, other times pleasure. The library gives us the tools to make it through both. Someone said no one should write their autobiography until she/he is dead . . . there may be some wisdom in that. Nonetheless, thank writers on every subject for sharing how they made it through to now so we can get our help along the way. This is whether it be for bucks at Barnes and Noble, or for free . . . browsing through this place

Significance of Community

From a cultural standpoint, there are many communities local and global. One person will be part of many whether willing or not. By sheer statistics, each person will be part of distinct communities and those communities will shape her/his life as she/he shapes that community. Communities exist for every aspect of our lives:

Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace … these are all online communities that have evolved from a need for community in the online arena. These are used to promote people and services and many people spend part of their day in these communities making connections. How many of these do you belong to? My guess is more than one.

Work: If one has a job, then one has a work community. In my case, my work community is my primary interaction these days. Since I graduated high school wayyyy back in 1987, my personal contacts seem to have frittered to few and far between. I would like to develop more “in real life” (as opposed to online) friendships but with all my blogging, my family hours and? and time spent at work, my work community is really my main outlet to cultivate friendships. I hope this will change if not in my 40’s (which start June 9th, 2009) then maybe closer to retirement age when my kids are grown.

Marriage: Though this is a community of only 2, it is a community nonetheless. Nurturing our marriage and spending quality time with each other is a goal for my marriage community.

Niche Communities and forums:see deals all the time for travel to Vegas with a group. Before he died, my gradfather used to take senior buses out there and they got amazing deals on things. A retired colleague of mine is also a veteran and he was able to get an amazing deal on two VW beetles through a veteran’s “fleet” sale.

These are just a few examples of communities and how people benefit finacially from them. There are also instrinsic, non-monetary benefits to belonging to a community but I’ll save those for another post. It can feel like we are ants marching to a cliff sometimes as we go through life. Community helps etherize that feeling. Whether you join one or start one, I hope this post has made you more aware of the significance of community. If nothing else, joining a community nowadays can qualify you for some great deals, right?