‘Tis the season and either you do or you don’t. I, of course, do. My husband does not. To garage sale or not to garage sale, that is the question.
I come from a long line of sturdy salers (no pun intended) and we take our craft seriously. Any of you in this exclusive club know exactly what I mean. Timing, appearance, and even tone, play crucial roles in negotiations and can mean the difference between going home empty-handed or with a car full of treasures.
It dosen’t get any better than this
This past Saturday was a red-letter day for our household. First, my daughter had borrowed my minivan to move her school furniture and I was fortunate to have her car, a 1995 Toyota Corolla. Second, my husband was working and third, Max and Sam had saved a few bucks and were pumped and ready to roll. The stars had aligned and our antennas were up and searching for the universal neon signs that would guide us to our destiny.
My boys and I can spend hours searching for bargains and I have taught them well. Not to brag, but for children still under ten, they can spot a “good” sale from the slow drive-by. “Baby stuff, furniture, large dish table,” Max, my nine-year-old, might comment. “Keep it moving.”
Many of the life lessons that I have taught my children come from the experiences I have had with the “sellers” that I have met along my journey. Example, they know how to play the “I’m only a kid” hand in the way that gives the biggest bang for their buck. They understand the “long face” and how that can mess with an adult’s decision. Most important, they have seen the power of a “walk-away” and the critical timing involved with the “over-the-shoulder last chance glance”.
You have to know when to hold ‘em
As I mentioned, Saturday we hit the motherload. It started slow but picked up after we discovered the free (yes, FREE) toboggan from 1965. It took us a sale or two to get into the groove, but by noon we could do no wrong. A harried mom in a stained sweatshirt, a damaged beater for a car, kids wearing Crocs that are two sizes too small, blue frosting still on their mouths from the last garage/bake sale . . . we were working it.
“How much for the hockey stick?” Sam, my eight-year-old, asked his first mark that morning.
“It’s a lefty; I’ll give you a dollar.” Sam reached into his Spiderman wallet and pulled out one of the carefully folded bills and waved it slowly in front of the man’s face. The “hard-cold-cash” ploy worked and the seller took it.
“Will you take 25 cents for this?” Max held up the electric bug zapper shaped like a tennis racquet to the woman at our next stop.
“I paid ten bucks for it,” she said as if insulted.
Max shrugged his shoulders and slowly set the zapper down. The woman knew that she either had to take the hit or keep the zapper. “Fifty cents,” she countered.
“Sold,” Max replied cheerfully.
And know when to fold ‘em
This shrewd bargaining is all because of the practice and the training they have received. Our special time is not only good mommy/me time, but it’s also an opportunity to teach them the value of money and the psychology of the deal.
“Now boys, watch, listen and learn.” I whispered to my little students. I picked up a stack of used DVD’s, each marked six dollars. “This seems a bit high,” I mentioned to the woman running the show. “They sell new ones at Blockbuster for five.
“Well those are my neighbors and that’s what they’re priced at.”
Now this kind of logic is the perfect segue into a life lesson for the children. I waited until we returned to the car and squeezed in, carefully avoiding the pogo stick and the stilts.
“This sale is going to end soon and that poor inexperienced woman will still have her DVD’s. No one will buy them for six dollars. Not even five or four. See, we don’t even know they work and you can buy new ones for not much more.”
“What’s a fair price,” my little bargainers asked.
“Well, DVD’s can be rented for a dollar at the red box at Walgreens and how many times can you realistically watch the same one.” I thought about it. “I’d offer a dollar for one, five for the whole lot.”
“Hmm,” they replied, and I could tell they took my advice seriously. Not only was I proud, but I realized these are the times that warm a mother’s heart.
I can’t help myself but I need to share some of the items we purchased that day. I guess part of the joy that comes, alongside the value, is being able to let others know that you now own something they don’t. My best buy came at the end of the day as the sellers were closing up.
We were packed into the car, lifejackets and books piled on laps, and the joy from earlier had turned to ugliness. There had been an out-and-out fistfight over the pogo stick and the woman at the last house had been unwilling to bargain over the four-foot tall armored Knight. No one was happy.
I left the boys in the car and walked up the drive. I found a bunch of books for my dad (no big deal) but when I spied the new wheelchair in the corner, I just couldn’t help myself. I asked how much.
“I was asking fifty,” she told me, “but I’ll take twenty-five.”
I have no need for a wheelchair and I don’t know of anyone who is presently sick, but I hesitated. Twenty-five bucks was a pretty good deal.
The hesitation did it.
“Okay, ten. Give me ten dollars and I’ll throw in the walker. I just want to get rid of it.” I glanced over and sitting against the wall was a shiny new walker. It even had the split tennis balls already attached to the front legs. I couldn’t believe my luck! Ten bucks for a new wheelchair and a walker! I accepted and we shook hands to seal the deal.
Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. My parents would be so proud.