Friday, August 28, 2015

Yard sales ... from the other side

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

And so it's time to empty out my Mum's house of a lifetime's worth of stuff.  But wait!  My brother and I want to downsize, too.  So we've been heaping our stuff over in our mother's garage for weeks.  And sale time had arrived.

It took weeks to clean and sort and price everything.  WEEKS.  Working at it EVERY DAY.  So it was with a bit of nerves that I approached sale day.  Except ... my brother went off on a long-planned vacation.  I decided to go forward with it because we knew we were going to have more than one sale simply because we needed to clear out the house so we could clear out the basement.  (I see more WEEKS of work ahead of me.)

Since I go to yard sales every week, my brother decided that I should price everything but the tools.  (I think he did that just to get out of some work.)  I thought I priced things fairly, because I know what I would pay if I were going to a yard sale.  (Some people want the MOON for their stuff.)

I put an ad up on Craigslist, we put out signs, and the sale started.

I couldn't believe it when four cars showed up at EXACTLY 9 am. One piece of good luck; one of the neighbors decided to hold a yard sale, too.  That meant we were getting double coverage.  YAY!

Most of my customers were very nice.  (Women, of course.)  I understand that it's part of the game to haggle, but some people were truly obnoxious (and most of them were men). The worst are the dealers. Who else would come to a sale within 15 minutes of opening and insult you by demanding less than half of what you have priced an item for?  Mind you, I was a dealer for 12 years, but I never came to a sale and tried to bully anyone to lower a price.  If I didn't like the price, I walked away (and I still do. That could be why I wasn't exactly successful as a dealer, but I never felt bad about it, either).  My brother would have given them what they wanted, but then my neighbor Amy says her husband would do the same thing. ("A bird in the hand" and all that.)  Since my brother had priced the tools, he told me certain prices should be firm.  He said I could do what I wanted about them ON THE SECOND DAY (not the first hour).

One man wanted some big wood clamps. My brother had marked them $5 each.  This man decided he wanted to pay $6 for both of them -- DURING THE FIRST HOUR of the sale.  So, he holds the clamps in one hand and shoves $6 in my face.  "I want these for $6."  Since they weren't a "FIRM" item, I said, "I'll sell them to you for $8."  He said, "No, I want them for $6." I said, "$8."  He started getting louder and louder and then said, "Honey, you don't know how these things work," then he turned around slammed them back against the bench and left.

I felt like sticking my tongue out at him.

It was later that I wondered if I should have stuck to my guns--because I got to thinking ABOUT guns, and how childish and unreasonable people can be when they don't get their way.  And that there have been some yard sale robberies in my town this summer.  But that man was being unreasonable.  And many other people who visited the sale remarked about how fair the prices were.

I know we have one more sale ahead of us, and then we'll be doing Craigslist and eBay for the rest. I can't say I'm looking forward to it.  A couple of friends have suggested I just pack everything up and give it to charity, and take a BIG deduction. But it's not just about money.  It's seeing my mother's treasures find new (and loving) homes. Parting with things was always hard for her, and it's just as hard for me to part with her things. I see her clothes on the rack and think about how she always looked nice in that shirt or sweater. It makes me sad. But she's beyond using the item, and it doesn't fit me. It needs to go.

I'll be glad when the house is empty and it's no longer my responsibility to take care of it and her things. But I will be infinitely sad, too.

If you've been in the same position, how did you handle these things?