We said “never again”. Then three years ago, we did it again. Then we said “ok, really, no more.” Then last weekend, we did it again.
We held a Tag Sale. Or a Yard Sale or a Garage Sale, depending on where you live.
Why? Because, just like the previous sales, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Until we once again experienced the coordinating, planning and preparation – all for, sadly, minimal results. We let ourselves get duped by the fact that the last sale we held a few years ago was miraculously successful. We made enough money to help pay for our vacation that summer, and we cleared out a lot of stuff. Then this year, due to a storage unit full of items left behind by my brother who passed away six months ago, and another few years of junk accumulation in our house, we decided what the heck, let’s have a sale. It was kind of like the angel and devil sitting on our shoulders, but in the form of tag sale gremlins. “Don’t do it, you know it is a major pain in the ass, you don’t have the time to devote to clean out, sorting and pricing” vs. “aww, come on, you’ll get rid of stuff, make some money, and it will be FUN!”
There are some folks out there who have tag sales annually, if not several times each summer. They are Pro Taggers. OR, they are very casual and haphazardly toss stuff out on their lawn and hope someone comes along wanting to sort through junk and barter some prices. But me, the classic R.W., has to treat it like an event, with far too much planning. My husband and son groan and shudder as I start pawing through closets and the basement, gathering things in piles. And everything must be priced. A classified ad promoting the sale must be placed in the local weekly newspaper, online, and on Facebook. Then in the early morning pre-sale set-up, things should be categorized and merchandised – Christmas décor together on one table, kitchen ware on another, and so on. This year we even had a cooler filled with beverages for $1 each.
Sadly, though, no amount of event planning can guarantee a crowd. Too many other factors are at play, like weather, heat, conflicting activities in the area, other tag sales, signage placed in the right places in the neighborhood, and just overall energy and interest by those who might have any desire to stop and shop.
The day of the Sale itself can either be entertaining or very dull. It is one day that you will spend more time in your garage, driveway, and front yard than any other day. It is more fun if you have a friend or neighbor who joins in on the sale and can help work the “event” to help with that whole boredom factor, OR to help handle customers.
While sitting or standing among junk – err, I mean treasures – and doing my best to send mental telepathy to passing cars to encourage them to stop and buy, I was at least entertained by the people who did pay us a visit. I noticed some similarities and shopper habits. First of all, the shoppers generally represent an older demographic. Which is in some ways was a shame, because we had lots of stuff that would have been great for a young person with a new apartment to fill. Then again, I suppose most Gen Y’s and Z’s have no interest in older used furniture and accessories. They don’t embrace the Eclectic Variety of Hand-Me-Downs Style that I enjoyed in my young adulthood. We did have a couple young moms come by to get some great deals, which is brilliant. Of course they are brilliant. They are young RW’s.
- The Sale Ninja. Usually a solo shopper, this bargain shopper slips in quietly, making no eye contact and not speaking. They appear to be looking for specific items, but don’t want to ask. They rarely buy anything unless one small item catches their eye, in which case they will reluctantly approach, and give exact change from their fanny pack. Most often, however, they don’t dawdle, and ninja-slink back down the driveway. They want no interaction as if we might threaten to physically force them to buy something they don’t want or don’t need. Personally, I take great glee in tossing out a hearty “Good morning!” and “Thanks for stopping by!” to watch them cringe and seek the shelter of their car.
- The Socialites. The opposite of the Ninja, the socialites often come as a couple. If there’s a man, he does a quick browse to look for something interesting like an antique tool, then gets chatty to beat back his boredom while his wife shops. OR, it could just be a happy shopper who enjoys striking up conversations. These folks also rarely purchase anything. We had one man who after a brief browse, spent most of his visit playing with, and discussing, our puppy. He came back half an hour later to show us photos of his dog. (We are dog people. It happens.) Another woman who stopped towards the end of the day proceeded to tell us basically her life history. That’s ok. We had time on our hands.
- Serious Deal Shoppers. These taggers often travel in groups, either with family members or friends. They know and love the Tag Sale drill and the thrill of the hunt. They have done their research to map out their route to various sales, and are making a day (or at least morning) of it. They are in no rush because they are having fun. These are the best customers, because they chit-chat, joke around, ask questions, and usually buy. We had one woman and her adult daughter who asked how to use a bread slicer I had available, because it was the second one they’d seen that weekend, and she was so fascinated to know how to use it that she had to have it. Another woman was excited to buy a steamer to cook the beans she had just picked at a local farm. And one of the young moms told us about her five kids, and how she’d gone out with friends the night before for a mom’s night out and was still dealing with the hangover. It didn’t impair her judgement, she found some good deals and discussed kitchen gadgets.
Ironically, I don’t go to a lot of other people’s tag sales. I enjoy them, but either my weekends get too busy, or I just don’t need more stuff that I’ll have to find room for in my house. Perhaps going in to this long weekend, I’ll stop if I see an interesting opportunity. I like to think that when I DO stop in to someone else’s event, I’m among that third category of shopper. However, I do admit I have in the past slid into the Ninja variety. Avert your eyes and move on.
At the end of the day of our sale, we were sweaty and tired, filled my husband’s van with everything left over to go to Goodwill, had made enough money for a couple dinners out, and had met some interesting people. It wasn’t a horrible day. But as we finished putting everything away and sat and counted out our meager earnings, we looked at each other and said “Never again. We mean it this time.” I give us about 4 years to forget our pledge.