Monday, September 15, 2008

Will You Take A Nickel For This?

My mom and I held our annual rummage sale this weekend. I did very well again, considering I didn't think I even had enough to hold one this year. Before we moved out of our last house I thought I had narrowed things down to what it took to survive, but after having to move three times in the last year and looking at paying for a storage unit while I am house hunting, I was willing to get rid of just a little bit more.

So I thought I would share my rummage sale tips with you. Some of these suggestions might only apply to the local population and how they shop, but the general items should work for everyone.

1. Advertise

I place a three day ad in our local paper and also in another low budget paper that only charges about two dollars for an ad. Keep it brief, date of sale, address, abbreviate what you are selling, and offer something fun to get people there. Our last ad read like this:

Sat. 7 AM, (address), Furn., clothes, hshld, misc. and cookies!

You wouldn't believe how many people said they came to the sale just because of the cookies! Granted, there aren't a lot of sales in the Fall, but even with a light drizzle people were still out hunting for bargains. Riley looked so cute at his little table, his big blue eyes attracting buyers. He was sold out before eleven.

2. Signage

When you move as many times as I have, you start to accumulate some of those really nice real estate signs. I have covered them with large black plastic bags, then attached a plastic sale sign to them. They are horribly easing to stomp into the ground with your foot. If you aren't that "lucky", then just splurge and buy yourself some of the large plastic garage sale signs they sell at the hardware store. Don't buy the little 8 x 10 jobbies, what's the point? If you want to make money, you need to get people there. Staple or securely tape the signs to a yard stick or some other type of stick. Be sure to bring a good hammer with you for pounding it into the ground. Of course you must follow your city's ordinances for signage, in our town you can't post signs on utility poles anymore. Make sure you don't break the law. That's just tacky.

I post one sign at the end of the driveway, one at the end, or both ends in my case, of the street, and one a few blocks away, preferably on a busy street corner. You can add some balloons to the signs, and your mailbox, if you have the time and energy.

When you decide to close for the day, start at the farthest sign and work your way back to the house. One year I had a guy come to my door, after I had closed up and there was no evidence of human life in the garage or yard, and yell at me because I hadn't taken my sign down in the yard. And he wanted me to open back up for him. Um, no! I never advertise an end time for my sale, specifically so I don't have to commit to sitting around and wasting my time when no one shows up.

3. Price it right

Don't pretend like you have your own antique shop. If it's old and worth something, place a separate ad for it or visit your local antiques stores and see if they will buy it from you. You will very rarely get what something old is worth through a rummage sale. But if you don't care what you get, sell away.

I don't mark anything less than a quarter, it makes counting and change so much easier. I consider the retail price and age when deciding on a price, and I mark what I think a reasonable person would pay for it. The best indicator is if I would buy it for that price.

And mark everything! There is nothing worse than going to a sale where nothing is marked and you have to haggle for each item.

Also write on the tag the size, quantity, etc. "King Size Set" for a set of sheets, for example. "Set of 4" on some glasses. If something is NEW, don't be afraid to say it, just make sure it really is new. There's no crying in baseball and there shouldn't be any deception in rummage saling.

4. Placement

Have you ever been to a sale where there are blankets laid out all over the yard with stuff piled on them, and they put everything out the night before? And it rained?

Don't do that!

Folding tables are your best bet. Buy, beg, or borrow from friends. Maybe your boss will let you borrow some tables from the break room. I have also found that placing two sawhorses or stacked plastic totes with a large board, or even an old door across the top, makes an excellent table. Just make sure you watch for any sharp corners and cover them up. You will have a lot of kiddies coming through and not one of them needs to lose an eye.

Try to group similar items together; household items, Christmas decor, crafts, books. Of course after years of messing around with books I just started donating them to my library right away. And I donate any winter coats to the United Way coat drive each year. I was lucky enough to have nabbed a metal circular clothing rack from a stint I had in the clothing biz, but if you don't have such a thing then string some good wire in your garage to hang your clothes. Again, group them together, kids clothes, women's clothes, men's clothes, jackets and coats together; you get the picture. It's also nice to group within those groups; short sleeve, long sleeve, pants, etc.

Don't pile things on top of each other if you don't have to. Although, there is a challenge to having to dig through a box or pile for a treasure, so if you have to make piles that's okay too. Just be sure to make the rounds every half hour or so to tidy things up.

Yes, we are just a bit neurotic about how our sales look, but it's much better than the days when my mom and Grandma would wash and iron everything before they marked it. We have come a LONG way. We have received many compliments on how fun and organized our sales are, and many people look forward to them each year. People have even found me after I have moved multiple times. Hey, we're just selling some junk, but we can still do a good job of it!

Cover all your surfaces with some kind of tablecloth, be it a sheet or an old quilt, a plastic cover, whatever you have.

5. Ticketing

You can spend a fortune on those cute little stickers you buy at the office supply store. But here's what I do.

Take sheets of self-adhesive label paper (I use Avery 5160 address labels)and type in your price, you should be able to fit three on each label. Print them out, and cut down the middle of each section, making three stickers on each label. If you have a color printer you could print these in different colors, and different fonts, and each person who is part of your sale can have a different color for tallying things up later.

Watch your "customers". If they seem interested in something but put it down, you may want to mark it down after they leave. Or casually go up to them and ask what they would like to pay for it. It doesn't hurt to bargain. Towards the middle of your sale go through each item and mark down those things you are willing to sell for a song.

6. Get some change

I get the following cash, which I put in a cash box I splurged on, to have for giving change. I have paid for the box many times over, and it's well worth the price.

4 $20 bills
6 $10 bills
6 $5 bills
20 $1 bills
one roll of quarters

This equals $200. Mark in a notebook the starting cash you had so you can pay yourself back later. Then deposit it back into the bank with all the loot you make at the sale!

7. Teamwork

My mom saves just about every plastic bag she brings home from her shopping trips. Most of the year she just looks like a pack rat, but they sure come in handy when I say, "Hey, let's have a rummage sale!" She is usually the bagging lady, and I count up the tickets. I have an old wooden breakfast bar that I got for a song that we use to put the stickers on, but a card table or cookie sheet would work just as well. Put the stickers for the person you are checking out in the same area. Then add them up, give them their total, get their payment, give them change (and count the money back to them, it's just the right thing to do). When you have a few minutes in between the huge line of customers waiting to check out, add up the tickets for each person that sold things and write it under their name, which you have assigned to it's own page in your handy dandy notebook. Then when you are all done you can add up the totals and figure out what each of you made.

8. Know when to start

I have found that the best time to have a sale is on a payday weekend, starting on Friday morning, at 7 AM. You catch people who have cashed their checks, or are going to pick them up, and you catch people on their way to work.

There are always the "lurkers" who will camp out on your doorstep at 6 AM, somehow thinking that you will open early. I must admit, I have scared away a few of them by nicely going out and telling them that we do not open early, because it isn't fair to the other people who can't get there until 7. There have been many times when I have looked forward to a sale because of what they were advertising and arrived to find people already walking away with some awesome purchases. And I get their early too! But I am kind enough to sit in my car and wait, at least until they open the door!

9. Know when to quit

I was totally into giving people bargains at our last sale. If they wanted to dicker, I let them. I just wanted to see it gone, and if someone could enjoy an entertainment center and wanted to give me $10 for it, so be it. We sold everything so fast that we could have closed by noon. But my mom, the pack rat, is into committing to being open all day. Until of course it starts to rain, and she remembers she has been up since 3 AM. Then we go take naps. Or go to Target and buy fun things we deserve that we wouldn't have bought had we not had fresh cash in hand.

10. Give it away

Towards the end of the sale, or whenever the feeling moves me, I will ask a parent if it's okay to give their child something they are asking for. I will watch them ogling a cute little stuffed animal that Riley loved but didn't want anymore. And then I ask them if they would like to take it home. It's so much fun to see their little eyes light up. Of course I also give away things to adults, especially friends, but only if they are the only ones in the garage or I do it quietly, so that other people don't feel left out.

11. Security

Always post someone in the garage to watch people. If you must go inside for a quick break, take your cash box with you. It's up to you if you want to accept a check from someone, just make sure you get their phone number, and perhaps visit with them a little to get a feel for them, where they live, etc.

When you start accumulating a bunch of cash, take some of it in the house and hide it somewhere besides the kitchen counter or on your desk. The freezer is an awesome spot. Cold Hard Cash? Just tell someone in your group where you put it so you can find it later!

We used to let people into our house to try on clothing, "back in the day" when it was okay to do that, but we don't anymore. I don't like to not trust people, but you just never know what might happen. Best to be safe.

12. Spend it

You put a lot of hard work into your sale, get yourself something nice!

The first place my sale money goes is into my savings account. Okay, the first place it really goes is to Target to buy Legos for Riley, but then it goes into savings.

Okay, but only after I buy myself something pretty.

13. Don't sell it!

There are some things that just don't belong in a rummage sale:

Old underwear. You can sell new underwear if you truly never wore them, but be sure to mark NEW!! on the tag.

Anything that's broken, unless you mark it as such, and the person buying it knows it doesn't work and is willing to fix it. You may want to have an extension cord hooked up so that people can try out electrical items such as lamps. There is always some risk involved when you buy things at a rummage sale, but I don't believe in selling something unless it really works.

Dirty clothing, or dirty anything, unless it's a garden tool. Make an effort to clean your stuff up before you try to sell it. It just makes sense.

I don't always enjoy preparing for a rummage sale, but it's sure fun once it starts. The best time is when it's over, and you have a few boxes left to bring to Goodwill, and you feel so refreshed to have all the things you didn't really like anymore in someone else's hands. I guess that can be true for a lot of things in life!

1 comment:

Car For Sale Sign said...

Wow. I would say that you are a serious pro at this. I used to spent a lot of time going to yard sales with my mom ann reading this brought back lots of memories. I must admit however that I never thought about hiding cash in the freezer! Great Idea.