Yard Sales: The Most American Thing

In the United States, as soon as winter gives way to spring, the birds start singing, the flowers begin to bloom, and every town, village, and city finds itself littered with price-tagged used belongings of its citizens who are in the throes of “Spring Cleaning Madness.” After the spring rush, the yard sales continue for various reasons: moving, destitution, punishment, masochism, and so on. Families are torn apart as they decide what items no longer hold any value, sentimental or otherwise, and then they come back together as they brave the onslaught of bargain hunting strangers who like to snoop and swindle. The yard sale is sometimes a garage sale, and sometimes it is a rummage sale. Some towns organize one big event for everyone to participate in because they prefer the chaos to be concentrated and overwhelming.

I should probably be less enthusiastic about this, but I really enjoy a good yard sale. A lot. I’m not exactly sure why, though. Perhaps it stems from the lurid fascination of rummaging through strange people’s twenty year-old collection of dust-encrusted junk that no one on Earth would ever want to purchase outside of such an event. And while virtually everything in yard sales is total and absolute shit, I simply cannot get enough of it. Besides, I honestly don’t know where you could ever have the chance to purchase used dentures for 10 cents anywhere else but a yard sale.

Because of this rabid fascination of mine, I have decided to help any of you out there who may be interested in festooning your lawn with all of your worthless junk. So let us enjoy a brief excursion into the world of American yard selling tactics in an effort to make our future yard selling efforts − no matter how few they may be − all that much better.

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Chapter 1: The Yard Sale Species

There are all types of people who will come to your yard sale, so it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with them first in an effort to know when to duck into your bathroom and hide.

 

Hard-core Yard Seller:

If you’re unaware of the hard-core yard seller, then I’ll explain in hopes of making this article longer with useless explanations. Let’s see what the “official definition of the Hard-core Yard Seller” is from the “official yard sale tip manual” (yes, there is such a thing):

“No matter what time you have clearly published that your yard sale will begin, there will usually be someone at your door an hour or two before that time. This person is called an ‘early bird’ (from the phrase ‘The early bird catches the worm’). An early bird is trying to get the advantage over others by seeing your stuff before the general public does. This way, if you have a hot item, they can have the first chance to buy it.”

This is basically an overly nice way of calling these people huge losers with all but no life. In short, a hard-core yard seller is someone who gets up at three o’clock in the morning, screaming with ecstatic glee after realizing that it is, in fact, yard sale day (which, to a hard-core yard seller, is usually every day of the week). Hard-core Yard Seller then springs into action by furiously putting on his clothes in any way possible, then jumping through the nearest window, heading straight for his yard sale-mobile. You will be able to easily recognize his vehicle, as it will be a pickup truck with an entirely unsafe amount of junk strapped to the back of it, while also looking as if it has been set on fire at least five times at some point.

Hard-core yard seller then scurries off to any promising yard sales to stalk until the time the owner actually sets them out. You see, getting there early is important to the hard-core yard seller, because everyone knows that the best stuff goes first. Like the owner’s collection of vintage diaphragms, or the even more valuable non-working eight track tape set. Once the yard sale is finally set out and open for business, hard-core yard seller screams his feudal war cry as he lurches forth out of his vehicle, trying desperately to be the first one there. The other hard-core yard sellers are also competing for first, and will often resort to any means necessary to stop other hard-core yard sellers from reaching their goal. Examples of such tactics would be hollering in an incoherent manner, threatening them with a very long story about fishing, or just kneeling down in the street and vomiting up the previous night’s dinner of a bottle of whiskey. Once at the yard sale though, Hard-core Yard Seller will begin buying anything he can see that may be of some value before he passes out from the blinding pain that is his life.

 

The Miser:

The Miser is usually an older lady, around the age of 80 to 300, and can best be identified as the person who will stand and look at any one thing in your yard sale for at least forty minutes. Then look at the price tag, while frowning in disgust that you are charging the outrageous fee of 25 cents for a t-shirt. If the Miser is still of the living world while visiting your yard sale, she may eventually buy the lowest-priced thing you have, while endlessly lecturing you on the past 90 or so years of her life. If you are lucky, however, she will have changed into an undead creature at some point while browsing your collection of family toothbrushes, and will actively be searching for your brain to eat.

 

Bargain Man:

Bargain Man wants to make a bargain with you, ANY bargain. You see, Bargain man (or woman) does not care what the price on something is, all they are interested in is talking you down on it. It doesn’t matter what price you have on it, because Bargain Man will want it cheaper. I guess he/she does this in an incredibly sad attempt to assert himself as an amazing business man, but usually just ends up paying the extra 10 cents anyway…

Bargain Man: How much are these blank cassette tapes?
Me: 50 cents for three of them.
Bargain Man: I’ll give you 25 cents…
Me: 50 cents for three of them.
Bargain Man: *in deep thought* Well… I s’pose I could settle for 40 cents…
Me: 50 cents for three of them.
Bargain Man: Sold.

You would think that a 15 cent difference in price would be futile to argue over, but not to Bargain Man. Bargain Man will act as if his purchase of 30 cent bright yellow flip-flops is on the same level as a three-year financing deal for a new car.

 

Large Family:

When you see a van the size of an aircraft carrier pull into your driveway, and then nine or so screaming kids instantly fly out in all directions, you know it’s time to deal with the Large Family. The Large Family is easily recognized by the following people that they will bring into your yard sale:

Dad: This is the man of the family, and is usually looking as if he is a man on a mission. It is obvious he is a power shopper, and that he means business, as he is usually running through your yard sale like a deer shot up with speed, all the while beating his children with anything he can find should they get within ten feet of him. He will also never listen to anything you say to him, and will demonstrate this by pointing at prices and spitting on your lawn.

Children: At least six of them, all wanting to dig up your yard and stab each other with their action figures’ heads.

Mom: The mother usually has two children strapped to her, and will also be pregnant with several more. She usually stays quiet, letting her husband do most of the work. At times she will make the mistake of actually picking up something you are selling, which quickly calls for the husband to begin yelling at her, and offering nonstop demeaning banter for her the rest of the time they are at your yard sale. Any attempts to pity her will be futile, as you will be too busy seething in anger as she watches on while her demon spawn do everything possible to lower your property value.

Those are just a few of the people who will regularly visit your yard sale. There are of course many more, but I’ll let you discover the rest for yourself. This concludes this chapter, so let’s move onto the next chapter, which is conveniently located just below this one.

 

Chapter 2: Pricing

Pricing is a very important facet in your yard sale. For instance, a rookie yard seller might think that his belongings might actually be profitable, and might even do something so ludicrous as to put a price of four dollars on something. This is a huge mistake on the seller’s part, and could quickly constitute a small riot in your yard should a buyer actually notice it. You must understand that a yard sale is not about making money. What a yard sale IS about though, is trying to see how little you can cry when some guy walks off with a stereo you bought a year ago for $150, that he just now haggled you down and purchased for $1.50. But even so, pricing can be a bit confusing for most people, so let’s take a look at a small chart to see what kind of prices you should charge:

T-shirt: $.25
Pants: $.25
CD Player: $.25
Antique Cabinet: $.25
2002 Dodge Viper: $.25
Giant Indestructible Robot: $.35 (that may be going a bit high though)

You see, you will quickly learn that anything you have of value has of absolutely no value in a yard sale. In fact, if you put up those kinds of hefty prices mentioned above, expect to be haggled by many people to bring the price down the entire day. The yard sale tip manual also offers another way:

“In general, a used item for sale in decent condition at a yard sale should be priced at around 30% of its new price. Items that are actually new and look new can get a higher price. “

This, as usual, is not accurate at all. It would be accurate however, if you replaced “30%” with “less than you would ever imagine pricing something.” A good way to know if you have achieved pricing perfection, is if you feel physically ill when you put the price tag on your merchandise.

Once you are comfortable with your prices, it’s time to move on to the next phase of your yard sale: setting it up.

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Chapter 3: Setting Everything Up

You’ve staved off depression long enough to price everything, so now it’s time to get everything set up. Again, let’s consult our good friend, the yard sale tip manual:

“Laying out your items for sale in an organized fashion will increase the success of your sale. Group similar items together so that someone looking for a particular type of item will be sure to see everything you have. Hang clothing up, if possible. It will catch your customer’s eyes from a distance, especially if it is in good condition.”

Again, not so accurate in the real world setting. The best way to set up your yard sale is to go to your local surgeon, and have him surgically remove the part of your brain that controls any rational organization skills you may have. Why would you do this? Simply because a yard sale is supposed to be the most unorganized event on the planet. You want people to hunt for those bargains. And if that means making people dig through a pile of old underwear to get to the best stuff underneath, then so be it. At a base level, you want your yard sale to resemble a game of Double Dare (bonus points if you can get Marc Summers to host your yard sale). If however, you need help in setting things up for a first time, or simply cannot afford costly brain surgery, we’re here to help. So let’s get started!

Step 1: Gather everything you are selling and put it into a huge pile in your garage. This will help you organize what you have to put out.

Step 2: Find some type of horribly rickety table that can barely stand under its own power, and would crumble into dust if you so much as rubbed up against it. This is the table you will be using to put your stuff on outside.You may need more than one, depending on how many times the table ejects a massive splinter into the eye of whoever tries to pick something up off of it.

Step 3: The morning of the yard sale, be sure to wake up at, or close to, 1:30am. Once you have dragged your corpse from the bed, go outside and move your table(s) to the most cramped section of your yard. This part of your yard should be able to hold a maximum of one and a half human bodies before the fire department arrives and has to begin using the jaws of life to pry unfortunate souls out of your fence.

Step 4: Put all of your belongings you are selling on one table. If the table breaks, replace it by swearing at it and drinking alcohol. The rest of the stuff you can’t fit on the table should be thrown into piles on the grass or dirt with signs listing what may or may not be in them. If you have any larger objects, be sure to disassemble them into the most parts possible, throw them into another pile, and then be sure to kick that pile each time you walk by. By the end of the day, if someone wants to purchase it, you can gladly take their dollar bill and then send them on the most heroic scavenger hunt your front lawn has ever seen. Remember, just because they may buy your dignity, it doesn’t mean you can’t take a little of theirs in the process.

 

Chapter 4: The Big Day

Can you feel the excitement? If you can, you should stop immediately, because there is no excitement at all to be found in a yard sale. You will spend the majority of the day sitting in a lawn chair, drinking beer, and possibly scratching yourself in front of elderly women depending on how drunk you are. You will also hear countless people belittle your once proud purchases by saying things such as, “How could anyone on Earth like this color?!” or, “This person must be a total and complete asshole! Who could EVER ask forty cents for an entire dinnerware set!” You will also have people haggling you constantly, trying to make their thirty cent purchase even more demeaning for you.

In fact, if you have any type of joy during the day of your yard sale, then you are doing something horribly wrong. Is there a woman on top of you? Because you may have accidentally mixed up your yard sale with having sex, which can happen a lot to rookie yard sellers. Other than that, you should probably settle in for about six hours of sitting in extremely hot weather (it MUST be extremely hot weather, or immediately close down the yard sale and wait for a hotter day), and enough moronic people to fill an entire complex of warehouses. This is probably the easiest chapter, as it requires almost no work from you. You are simply overseeing the madness that is taking place in front of you. It’s kind of like bearing witness to a car wreck that takes slowly happens over the course of an entire day. There’s nothing you can do but hope at some point something hits you hard enough to knock you out until sunset.

 

Chapter 5: Closing Shop

Well, it’s close to dusk, no one is coming around anymore, and 90% of your body is covered with third degree sunburns, so it’s probably about time to close down your yard sale. It’s been a long, rewarding day, and you even made a total profit of $2.65 and a small bean that a man talked you down to for your exercise equipment. But it’s all over now, and it’s time to pack things up in storage for next year’s yard sale. That’s right, the yard sale that certainly will not be happening next year because you are going to set fire to everything you didn’t sell so that you never have to go through this again.

And there you have it, the definitive guide on how to have a yard sale in your very own yard. It may be a lot of work, and not rewarding in the least, but it’s really one of America’s greatest pastimes. Even if it is not technically a pastime at all. So enjoy your right as an American to put all your shit on your lawn, and charge people money to own it. Because everyone knows how much we as Americans love each other’s shit, and would like to buy that shit for ourselves at ridiculously low prices while demeaning the seller in every way possible in the process!

GO USA!

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