It’s that time of year again. Someone has hauled their treasures to their yard, driveway, or carport and we are free to treasure hunt. Here in Western Mass we call them tag sales. Everyone else in the country insists on calling them something else, like yard sales or garage sales. It all means the same thing.
I’ve been going to tag sales, sorry…yard sales since I was a child. I don’t remember as many sales as we have now, mostly because we owned less stuff back then so there was not so much to sell. Today, we are buried beneath our possessions and the self-storage business is booming, serving as our junk room. But that’s who we are now. All the better for people like me who enjoy the weird anthropological pageantry of tag sales. Here are a few things that I’ve learned along the way.
If you are planning a tag sale:
• Advertise on Craig’s list. It’s free. But you’ll miss the old school people (like me) who scan the newspapers for the ads, so advertise in the local paper too.
• Ask at least two friends to join you so you have more merchandise, split the cost of the newspaper ad, and share in the work.
• This is not a last minute affair. If you are going to put prices on the loot, do it the day before the sale. If you’re not going to price things, know what you want.
• Start at 8 am and end by 2 pm; you’ll be exhausted by then. If you don’t want people to arrive at your door at 7 am, state this clearly in the ad. “No early birds!”
• Put a few signs in your neighborhood with the date of the sale and address. Sure, most people have GPS, but it has also been known to lead us astray.
• Have fun, talk it up with your customers. This is like having a carnival in your front yard.
• Have lots of change. Wear one of those goofy fanny packs to keep your money in.
• If you have items that are too precious, too emotionally charged, don’t put them in the sale. You’ll hate people for not understanding that this was your grandmother’s favorite crocheted coverlet. Put it away, keep it, or give it to someone who will love it, but don’t subject your tender attachments to the raucous street theatre about to take place in your driveway.
• Bargain. Don’t lower your price too much first thing in the morning. But by 11, let the prices slide. You want this stuff to go away.
• After the sale is over, be a good neighbor and take down all the signs.
If you are going to Tag/Yard sales, here are some rules of etiquette:
• If the ad says “No early birds” don’t arrive early.
• But if the ad doesn’t say this, all bets are off.
• Say hello, be friendly. Remember, you have just entered someone else’s property and you are pawing over their possessions.
• It wouldn’t kill you to offer a compliment, notice a lovely cup, a well-tended garden, a colorful rug. You are making a statement about the homeowner’s life. Be generous.
• You might be an antiques-only kind of person. If so, you know what you’re looking for. Offer a fair price, not an insulting price, and be prepared to bargain. Know how high you can go.
• If you aren’t an antiques-only person, you are free to buy what you love; the lawn ornament that makes you smile, the rug that has trains on it for a young child.
• My new personal rule is to buy things that are in excellent condition and leave the rest.
• Bring cash. Don’t ask to write a check.
• Enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Here are a few of my favorite purchases:
• A black leather jacket in perfect condition.
• A silk rug with a blue dragon on it.
• A large green bowl from the 1930’s
• A faux Art Deco floor lamp.
• Stacks and stacks of blank journals that people meant to write in but never got around to.
• Complete sets of fine watercolor paints.
• Superman costume
Either way, for the seller or buyer, enjoy the festivities.