Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Garage Sale

"Sometimes the things you own end up owning you." - Tyler Durden

The garage sale was the last step in my self-guided "stuffectomy." After trying for five months to sell as many books, video tapes, and DVDs as I possibly could on Half, Amazon, and eBay, I finally pulled everything offline and out into my driveway. Along with the aforementioned media items I also carted out laserdiscs, records, CDs, cassette tapes, screenplays, a half dozen VCRs, two printers, a couch, three chairs, and other assorted items donated by my wife to the cause (quite a few serving dishes that looked nice but remained in their boxes since the day we got married).

There was so much junk that even a full day of trips up from my basement on Thursday just didn't get everything out into the open. I was still bringing up armfuls of junk as late as Saturday morning.

Unprepared? You bet! Especially for foul weather. I got three good bouts of rain over the weekend -- the first Thursday evening after I finally had all of my tables (and makeshift tables) in place. I nearly cried.

The strangest thing about the whole garage sale experience had to be the way that two people would show up wanting the same thing at the same time. The first time this happened was 8:30 AM the first day when I had two record collectors show up. The one arrived just a few minutes before the other and, in that time, negotiated a deal for all of my LPs and CDs. When the second one was told that all my music was gone, she got pissed and fairly belligerent; blaming me for selling everything (rather than the guy who bought everything). I wanted to say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know I needed to wait for your permission."

Shortly after that my driveway played host to the comedy stylings of two video collectors who I thought were a team at first. The one came armed with a scanner that told him how much things were going for on Amazon. He reminded me of a younger, slightly friendlier version of Harlan Ellison. As the other guy started piling DVDs onto my table "Harlan" started to tell me just how crazy I was to sell my DVDs for a dollar. "Do you know how much this is going for on Amazon?" he asked.

Yes, I knew. I'd been trying to sell everything for months. He just couldn't accept that I was letting things go so cheaply... or that this other guy was getting some really good titles. So, "Harlan" started taking discs out of the other guy's "to buy" pile and started hiding them around the periphery of my driveway to purchase in secret. Meanwhile, the other guy finally gave up on pulling out individual items and made me an offer for every video tape and DVD I had. He low balled me, of course, and we dickered for a while. Oddly, he could have had everything for only $80 more than he ended up paying for three tables worth of stuff. This still left three more tables of VHS tapes.

These tapes and my books sold slowly for the rest of Friday and into Saturday. By mid-afternoon Saturday I was done. Mentally checked out. Still sore from moving so many boxes on Thursday, sunburned from sitting out Friday, and exhausted from the lack of sleep over a few anxious nights; I started lowering prices to ridiculously low levels.

The odd competition came up again around that time when a guy came in and started buying some old magazines. I had eight boxes of old movie/TV magazines and put a handful out for sale. If they sold or if someone expressed interest, I was going to restock or offer more. This guy was totally into them -- kind of strange since he looked like a total "gangsta" (complete with grillz). "Hey, I've got tons more of these if you'd like to take them off my hands -- maybe for twenty bucks?" I offered. He bit and ran to his car to get some money. As soon as he was out of earshot an older lady started berating me.

"Those magazines are worth a lot more than what you're charging," she told me. Rather than telling her to put her money where her mouth I said, "Okay, tell you what, I won't sell him every box but I'll sell you one or two. What will you give me?" Her top offer? Two dollars. Rather than make $20, I went ahead and made $22 and sold six boxes to the guy and two boxes to the lady. Again, no one had expressed any interest in those magazines but suddenly I was caught between two people that wanted them at the same time.

The most extreme instance of this phenomenon occurred Sunday morning when I posted to Craigslist that everything remaining had to go. Come and get it.

One lady showed up and started combing carefully through my remaining video tapes, meticulously looking at each box and the tape inside, telling me all about her family and their tastes in movies. She had a husband into war movies and comedies while her son loves Jackie Chan. She wanted movies from the '70s and '80s. After about an hour of going through my tapes four or five times and picking out two dozen titles a rather boisterous dude showed up and started asking about the prices (or lack thereof) for everything. When I told him that the videos were free he started grabbing handfuls of tapes. This then spurred the lady to do the same. She went from a rather pleasant, discerning movie fan to a wild animal when her territory was threatened. It was like a video feeding frenzy as both removed armfuls of tapes, depositing them in their stockpiles. Gone was the careful combing -- she took anything she could get her hands on.

Shortly after this, another woman showed up to go through my remaining books. She was asking about nearly every title as if I had to "sell" her on them. After a while I said, "Hey, everything is free, if you don't like it you can donate it to a library." She still wouldn't take more than a few titles until a guy showed up who was willing to clean off the book table to donate everything to his company's free reading program. This sure put spurs to her flanks as she began grabbing handfuls of things. It's amazing how greedy people get when their free things might get taken by someone else.

When everything was over I realized that I probably should have had a few confederates helping me out, going after whatever anyone else had their eye on. This may have made for some fisticuffs but I certainly would have made some more money throughout the weekend.

When the dust settled, the tables were clean, everything was gone, and I had $800 back from all the money I'd spent amassing so much stuff. I can't call any of this profit (specifically as I'd spent $100 on classified ads and signs) but it was a small recuperation of cash. Here's hoping that I've learned my lesson and stop hoarding.

Getting stuff together on the driveway. Makeshift tables galore.

1 comment:

Nick Ramsey said...

This is hilarious.

My dad would always close our garage sales by offering a "buck a bag" deal: whatever you could cram in your bag for one dollar. Some carefully pawed through what was left; others left with partially filled bags even though they expressed interest in other items before deciding to pass; a few seemed genuinely offended by the concept, as if my dad had ruined their chance of haggling or finding a bargain (?). There are a lot of characters out there.

Post a Comment