Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Etiquette of Yard Sales

The warm spring weather brings with it the beginning of yard sales for 2011. We've already had a couple here in Saint Andrews, with more and more sprouting up as the weekends roll by. The first yard sale I ever went to was the town-wide sale here in 1997. This annual event will include over 40 different households and storefronts which set up tables in front of their houses and all along the front street with anything and everything for sale. Cleverly and ironically my first purchase was a shopping cart. Even though it was clear where this cart had originated, since I was buying it at the courthouse, I figured I was safe - and I was.

This purchase proved to be most useful. Luckily for me I was accompanied by a great yard sale enthusiast and in no time I had picked up a number of helpful tips, not the least of which was "keep moving". There are some guidelines for shopping at yard sales which will enhance your shopping pleasure. The number one pet peeve I hear from those people who set up their tables and yards is that potential customers arrive far too early. Just because the sign is up, doesn't mean they are open for business prior to the posted time. If it says 9 to 3, that's what it means. Arriving early and rummaging through bins and piles of household goods and clothing only frustrates and irritates the seller. I know people don't want to miss out on the star items for sale, but respect for the seller and his or her private property must be regarded.

If you are a smoker, do not flick your spent butt on the lawn or even on the street in front of the house or shop. That rule of course applies everyday, but one can imagine that during a yard sale the sheer volume of cigarette butts to pick up at the end of the day can be overwhelming and disgusting. Ask if there is someplace to deposit your cigarette. If there is not then put it in your pocket. That's just one of the hazards of smoking.

If you bring your small children along for the adventure, which I encourage, be sure they are never out of your eye sight. Explain to them that if they pick something up and they drop it or break it, they must be responsible for any damages and must fess up to the owner. Ultimately a dropped and broken item by you or your offspring is your liability. A yard sale is no different than a shop in this regard. Most of the time, accidents are forgiven, however, one should always offer, if not insist, on paying for the item. To avoid such embarrassment and expense, be very careful about handling items. If you are concerned about the fragility of something that catches your eye, or if you are not sure how something works, don't pick it up. Ask the seller to show it to you. If they say help yourself, then you're off the hook!

Usually everything at a yard sale has a price on it. Seasoned sellers are quite used to bargaining. If you want to offer a lower price, do so. This is part of the whole yard sale process. However, do not be insulting by offering too low a price. Also, do not berate the seller by indicating the price is "highway robbery". Once you come to an agreed upon price, do not gloat about what a steal you've just gotten until you've left the sale area. Gloating is a form of bullying and is rude and unbecoming. Finding a bargain is a time for gratitude and not for uncivil behavior.

If you are on the hunt for a particular item, ask the seller if they have such a thing. Just because something is not in plain view does not mean it isn't hidden away somewhere. Engaging people in conversation and discussing the kinds of things you enjoy collecting are ways to further enhance your browsing pleasure. People enjoy swapping stories about yard sale experiences as much as they do sharing a fishing story, and usually with the same stretch of the imagination.

Have your cash for purchases at the ready. That is the preferred and usually the only form of payment accepted. If you are known to the seller, perhaps a personal check would be okay. Having exact change is helpful. Too many times small bills and quarters become scarce. You will definitely be a hit and speed up the transaction at the same time if you are prepared in advance.
Respect your fellow shoppers. If they are examining an item, don't think that it is okay to grab the item until the person has put it down. Remember that there are very few truly unique and irreplaceable things in the world and that the next yard sale is just a week away. A yard sale is after all only about things!