Because life is a series of edits

On the Yard Sale

In Family, Humanity, Places, Places & Spaces, Thought, Young Ones on June 27, 2010 at 8:30 pm

IMG_5523So we had a yard sale this past Saturday. Apart from the 95-degree temperature and the 100% humidity, it was good: we got rid of some stuff, made some money, and had a very good reason at the end of the day to collectively hit the sack at 9:30 p.m.

Personally, yard sales are too intimate an experience for me to really enjoy; there’s just something awkward about strangers publicly evaluating what you once thought you wanted. Maybe I just felt self-conscious about all the old Stephen King novels I was getting rid of (would you want to know that YOUR neighbor has read a majority of the man’s books?), but the whole process seems a huge invasion of privacy.

As I was enduring the invasion, I took some mental notes on the variety of yard-salers we encountered during the day. I don’t pretend that this list is exhaustive (and feel free to add your own set of usual suspects in the comments below), but generally speaking, here’s who I did business with during our particular sale on Saturday:

The Early Bird: This person pays no attention to any printed given times as to when the yard sale officially begins; if the sign says 8 a.m., then 7:30 it is. Thankfully, she doesn’t talk much and rarely gets offended if and when you have to ask her to move so you can set up another table of items you’re trying to sell, so it’s usually best to just let this one be.

The Snob: This person parks right in front of and as close as possible to your yard, gets out of her still-running car with her nose stuck up in the air to pick up your sale’s “scent,” and surveys what she already knows you have – nothing she would ever want. Having convinced herself of this truth, she gets back in the car and drives off, grateful once again that she did not waste her time on your junk (and, honestly, good riddance).

The Critic: This person is a distant cousin to The Snob, the difference being that he actually gets out of the car to look through your stuff. Unfortunately, while The Snob communicates her disdain for your offerings from a driving-off distance, The Critic chooses to verbalize his disgust on-site instead, particularly if he feels you have overpriced anything (and especially if he secretly wants to buy it).

The Cheapskate: This person looks through everything – and I mean everything – you have in your yard, taking his time to muse over what its value must have been to you at some point and wondering what must have happened that you would put it up for sale now. Having so cheaply entertained himself with various and sundry scenarios and plots, he finally picks one item priced at fifty cents and asks if you would take forty for it (after all, one’s man’s memories are another man’s bargains).

The Haggler: While often confused with The Cheapskate, The Haggler is actually willing to spend money for what she wants…so long as the sale price is below the amount that’s currently listed. Hers is not a campaign motivated by finances but by victory, as every piece she has ever purchased at a yard sale comes with a complete oral tradition of how much it was, how much she ended up talking the owner down, and why the difference between the two prices makes her superior to the rest of humanity.

The Scanner: This person is usually drinking Starbucks and shows up with his own hand-held bar code scanner, which he uses to check resell value on anything with a bar code. Never mind what the item actually is or what the book in his hand might be about, all this guy cares about is what it’s currently going for on Ebay or Amazon, as this will determine his purchase decision. This was a new one for me.

The Road Trip: This person is not really a person but multiple persons all crammed into one vehicle out hitting yard sales en masse. The goal (I assume) is to have fun going to yard sales together (which seems incredibly flawed thinking in itself); the reality is that with so many people in the car, there’s no room for what one might want to buy, especially if it’s a bigger item. Tip: Be sure to get their money before you promise to hold something for them while they go and get another vehicle (no sense losing a possible sale if they happen to get in an accident joy-riding).

The Buzzard: This person shows up toward the end of the sale and, since she missed all your good stuff, somehow feels entitled to a much lower price than the one listed before she will even think about buying your pathetic leftovers. Sadly, though you’d like to ask her as a matter of principle where she gets off imposing her discount assumption on you, you know she has you, as you really don’t want to haul your stuff back in the house; thus, you end up (grudgingly) caving to her demands.

I’m sure there were plenty of others I could list if I really wanted to get mean, but I’ll stop for now (I do wonder if different geographic areas of the country sport different
yard-saler species or if they’re just variations of the ones above). Of course, there were plenty of really nice people – friends, neighbors, people we’d never met before – who stopped by as well, bought some lemonade or stuff, and just talked a while, which was nice.

All in all, it was a good day and I’m glad we did it, though as with every yard sale, I’m always glad when it’s over and am in no hurry to do one again anytime soon.

  1. you are making me rethink my plans for a yard sale this coming weekend.

  2. Let it not be, Fr! I’m depending on your research to confirm/negate my findings here. None of these species are particularly harmful, especially if you offer lemonade and cookies (which we did, at fifty cents a pop, clearing $40 on that little enterprise alone). Be brave, little soldier. You can do this.

  3. Because you only had a one-day sale, you missed out on this species: The Friday Flea-Marketer. This is a combination of the Early Bird and the Bulk Shopper. The Friday Flea-Marketer shows up EARLY, quickly grabs as much stuff as she can, and then says “Fifty bucks for everything?” After some haggling, nearly always in Spanish, she shoves everything in her overstuffed El Camino and heads off to the next sale. Then she hauls it all to the Flea Market on Saturday where she attempts to resell it at a profit.
    We’re doing a yard sale at a friend’s house in two weeks. I’ll let you know what other species we discover. Last year, sadly, we encountered The Counterfeiter. This year we have a bill scanner.

  4. We don’t do multi-day yard sales (I’d just as soon give myself paper cuts and pour lemon juice on them). Counterfeiter? It must be a tougher hood down there in Tejas.

  5. The Avett Brothers have a great song called Yard Sale. They sure are interesting places to watch people.
    I wonder if this blade ran through someone’s side
    The blood wiped away to hide
    How evil you grandfather was ‘fore he died
    But war can make monsters out of us all
    I’m sure I’d become one if I was called
    And then it would be my blade
    Here at this yardsale
    The guitar I am holding is way out of tune
    The neck it is warped and the saddle is through
    I wonder if sweet music ever was played
    From the hands of a boy to a girl in the shade
    From this rickety ghost of a song
    Here at this yardsale
    A dollar for anything here on this quilt
    A price tag for hands from which all things are built
    A blanket of voices speak pleasure in shame
    Flowers of plastic and fruit of the same
    A basket of nothing at all
    Here at this yardsale
    So if I had the money I’d buy everything
    And cover the whole lot with good gasoline
    And burn it for all that I care for the past
    And rid mother earth of what never should last
    And give her the present of ash
    Made of a yardsale
    –Yard Sale, The Avett Brothers

  6. Don’t forget The Critic’s brother, The Scoffer. He’s the one muttering just loud enough that he intends for you to hear but directs his comments to others around him. “They’ll never sell this at that price.” or “I think this must be their first yard sale. Hmmph.” But my favorite is Mr. You-Don’t-Have, as in, you don’t have any antiques? You don’t have any Beanie Babies? You don’t have any CDs?

  7. What album is that from, Jake? I don’t recognize the song (we have their two most recent albums, so it may not be on those).
    Katie, I was thinking Critic/Scoffer were one and the same, but You-Don’t-Have is definitely his own character.

  8. It’s from their album “The Gleam,” a short EP they put out a couple of years ago.

  9. Alas, you avoided my personal favorite: Mr. I-only-want-one-of-the-pair. I had six panels of curtains; he wanted two. I had cross country skis; he only wanted one. ( And no, there was no artificial limb) The set of Kid’s Playhouse books 1-10? ( He wanted 4 and 7). The case, but not the camera.
    We haven’t had a garage sale in years, but he was a bit unforgettable.

  10. loved this:) recognized most of the characters from garage sales we have had. we tend to do our sales on fridays with no more than 1/2 day on sat. the turn out is higher on fri. with serious garage salers then… are on budgets, often housewives, retirees, etc. we also get traffic from parents from the nearby elementary school. it is nice to be done with it by noon on sat.:)

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