Springtime garage sales: The art of the deal | SummitDaily.com

Springtime garage sales: The art of the deal

I did not wash my car. I did not put away my Sorels. I did, however, water my lawn, which might explain why we got another 2 inches of snow on the ground this week. In May.

No, I prefer to blame it on my neighbors, who held a garage sale of the most unusual sort Saturday. I might be in the dark on this one, as I have never held a garage sale, but I always thought people had them to sell junk to passersby, get a little pre-summer color and take in wads of cash on the side.

Not these folks.

As I understand garage sales, one person is designated the Garage Sale Host. They coordinate all the stuff that other people drop off into artistic piles that will catch the eye of garage salers. It’s almost like an exotic mating ritual.

Then the garage salers start circling like vultures. The pros – usually women – are the ones who got up at 3 a.m. to meet the paper delivery guy at the newsstand. Armed with the list of garage sale locations, they’ll plot a map that will get them from sale to sale most efficiently. They figure if they don’t get to a garage sale before 7 a.m., all the good stuff will be gone.

These people are shrewd. They race down the street, peering at addresses and shooting furtive glances at the few goods that have arrived. If you didn’t know any better, you might think these people were checking out the joint for a future midnight raid.

These people are hard to please, too. Sure, they might smile as they approach the tables, but underneath that seemingly innocuous facade is a mind hard at work tabulating the gullibility of the seller and the chances of getting a really good deal. In their minds, the ideal exchange might be a wool sweater for 75 cents, an original Picasso for $4, or the Holy Grail for $1.50 – $2, if the Garage Sale Host insists it’s the real thing.

These people pick through the stuff like it is little more than someone else’s castoffs. A typical professional garage saler will pull, say, a sweater from a box, then toss it on the ground.

Or she’ll pull a mink stole from the bottom of the box, scrutinize every seam for holes, hold the stole up to her body to estimate the size, then complain that it hardly warrants the $1 price the Garage Sale Host wants for it.

“I’ll give you 50 cents.”

“It’s my great-grandmother’s mink, dude. One dollar.”

“I’ll give you 30 cents and … a piece of gum.”


My friends set up a pile of stuff on one side of the driveway. It included the usual: clothes, a futon, CDs, books, toys, a kid’s bike, the kid herself. I purchased quite a few items from this side of the driveway.

The other side was obviously where the money was to be made, and included expensive chef knives, brand-new Swiss Army knives, brand-new outdoor gear, brand-new skateboards and brand-new food in the form of snack bars. All of this was going for full retail price – no dickering allowed.

The professional garage salers were done by 10 a.m., but we sat in the driveway the entire afternoon as the amateurs strolled by. At noon, the Garage Sale Host left and returned with a keg of beer. At 3 p.m., he left again, this time to buy brats, hamburgers, shrimp and halibut.

By the time the day was over, my friends made $48.28 selling clothing and CDs and spent $72.49 on barbecue food, snacks and beer. Everyone was a little sunburned, a little girl got sick after eating the shrimp and another broke her arm on the trampoline. Some greedy garage saler walked off with that for $10.22.

Everyone agreed the day was a success.

And therefore, it snowed.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or stebbins@summitdaily.com.

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