13 Surefire Tips To Kill It At Your Garage Sale

It’s springtime. Time to clear out your crap and turn it into cash. If you are like the rest of us, there’s a whole bunch of stuff you don’t use clogging up your house. It needs to go. But it won’t happen if you handle your sale like an amateur. Not to worry. I can help you. I’m a pro at this. Here are my 13 surefire tips to kill it at your garage sale.

1 ) Do It Like A Pro

This is a retail sales event, so do what good retail merchandisers do. Advertise, price, display, negotiate and service with a little style and panache. You need a certain amount of organization to attract people, and a strategy to entice and cajole your customers to pay you to cart off your crap.

A sloppy garage sale is less work on the front end, but it will net less cash and create more work on the back-end. Do the advance work. You really don’t want to be moving your crap back into the house at the end of a long day.

2) Strategic Signage

You need massive traffic. So guide people from the off ramp right to your door. A Craigslist or GarageSale.com posting is a good start, but you’ll double your traffic if you lure the folks passing by to stop. Start at the freeway off ramp you take to get home, and have a sign pointing the way from every intersection from there to your garage.

No room for sloppiness here. Either print large text on your printer and paste it up on cardboard, or go creative and colorful with fun hand-painted signs. The nicer your signage and the more strategic your placement, the better your clientele.

One year we accidentally siphoned off dozens of customers from a large, multi-family garage sale set up by a real estate agent. Her ad said to follow the signs from the freeway off ramp. Turns out they followed our signs.

I took their cash and loaded them up with our old stuff. Then politely re-directed them to the hood they thought they were going to.      Cha Ching!

3) Pricing 

Remember, this is crap you’re selling. People can buy this all over town for cheap. So don’t push people away with dumb pricing. Price it to move.

You don’t need an individual price tag for every item, but people need to see some prices. I always price the large items, then have group pricing for items like books or clothes. Then I’ll set up shelves with a single price. $1 $2, $5 and $10 shelves work well.

4) Have Free Stuff for Kids

Kids always get something free from me, and I have an assortment of 10, 25, and 50 cent items just for them. Get the kids and you’ll win the parents.

5) Sell Bags 

One of our most successful techniques was bag-load pricing. We sold a small $5 and larger $10 bag that people could fill with anything they wanted. They loved it! This is how I collected $700 cash from pure crap last time, and closed my sale by noon on Saturday. Remember, the goal is to get people to pay you to remove your crap.

6) Negotiate

Half of your customers will expect to haggle with you. Let them. Not being racist here, but your Anglo-Americans will generally pay what you ask or walk away if it’s too high. Your ethnic folks will haggle. Drop your price to close the deal.

7) Stay Firm But Give More

My most effective negotiating technique is to say I won’t drop my price on a certain item, but I’ll offer to throw in something else for free. Notice what they’re attracted to and offer them something in addition to the one thing they ask about. This works amazingly well, and the more you interact with your customers, the more crap they’ll haul away.

8) Sell Anything

You won’t believe the things people have paid me for. Locks without keys (to a locksmith), old Mason jars (to a jam maker), broken glass (dude made mosaics), a bag full of unmatched socks (large woman concerned with comfort not fashion).

If you were going to throw it away, give someone a chance to pay you for it first. Old hangers, half-empty liquor bottles, even pebbles, I’ve sold it all. Put it out there and they will surprise you.

9) One Last Shot

If someone balks at a price, let them go, and just as they’re about out the door, call them back. Give them a story why it’s worth what you asked, then let them win.

10) Guard Against The Pros

At first light, the professionals will come through and low-ball you on anything they can quickly resell. You’ll know them because they’re always early, they know what they’re looking for, and they’ll often use technology on the spot to check your prices. Sell them a little, but don’t give away too much to them. They’ll clean out your best stock before the crowds come, and give you even fewer pennies on the dollar for it.

11) Have Fun 

This is where your Manic Impressiveness can shine. Make it fun for people, smile broadly and often, compliment them on their clothes and negotiating ploys, and be larger than life. You’ll meet your neighbors, spread some goodwill, and most of all, get people to pay you to haul off your junk. You can afford to be magnanimous.

12) Arrange for Pickup In Advance

Whatever you don’t sell should be out in front of your house for a pickup the following morning. Salvation Army, Goodwill, United Cancer Research and a half-dozen worthy organizations will schedule a pickup for you if you plan in advance. Your garbage provider will do the same. Most offer one free pickup a year for residential customers. So pick up the phone and schedule a charity and a garbage pickup in advance.

13) Don’t Do It

A good garage sale is a lot of work. Skip the whole thing and call the Salvation Army. They’ll be grateful and they’ll help a lot of needy folks with your old crap. You’ll get a tax write-off, and though it won’t be as much as the cash you could have made, you’ll save yourself a lot of work and aggravation.

Trust me. Not having a garage sale could be your smartest move.

6 thoughts on “13 Surefire Tips To Kill It At Your Garage Sale”

  1. Hey Aram!

    It sounds like there’s an upcoming garage sale at your house. Is it this weekend. Great tips here. I really like no. 9. Let them walk away and call them back with a story.

    Additionally, we’ve had garage sales where we offer coffee and do-nuts for sale. Many of these people skip breakfast to be the first at a sale that is well prepared for. They ran out the door without feeding their tummies.

    It’s nothing we would offer at http://www.wetalkhealthy.com, but we have made a lot of money brewing coffee and putting it in a carafe and sitting a sleeve of styrofoam cups next to it. $0.50 for coffee and $0.50 for a do-nut. Breakfast is a cinch at $1, but not the healthiest way to start your day.

    Umm-I want your mismatched bag of socks. How much?

    1. The mismatched bag of socks was a collection we called The Lonely Socks Club. It grossed $2.50 and a great story.

      The coffee and a donut is pure genius! Like adding a bake sale to your garage sale…

  2. Great advice Aram! Let me share a garage sale prank that I think you will enjoy.

    I once had fun by putting out a few pieces of very nice antique furniture that I knew would interest the professional dealers, who often show up early thinking they would be allowed to cherry-pick before the announced start time.

    I think it was 4 or 5 dealers who stayed at our sale instead of moving on because of those pieces, as the rest was usual household crap.
    Then we sat back, drank coffee, and amused ourselves by watching them drool for 10-15 minutes.
    As my watched clicked 9am and I declared the sale open, a couple friends immediately took those pieces back into the apartment as planned.

    Listening to the remarks of the dealers as they stomped away was quite entertaining…and several other shoppers also saw the humor in what had taken place 🙂

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