Picture this. A garage is packed with stuff for a “huge” sale. Across the tables, you spot IT (that is it with a capital I and a capital T!). You want it, even though you do not need it. You race to the piece, with palpable excitement. Your face is beaming. You are smiling from ear to ear, flashing those pearly whites. You check the tag for a price. Immediately, you take a step backwards, nearly losing your balance, vacillating between surprise, disbelief and disappointment. You laugh out loud (the laugh your garage sale examiner has dubbed “the sticker-snicker”). You have experienced garage sale sticker shock.
Sticker shock is not limited to cars, boats or airplanes. It often affects real estate, appliances, furniture or new technological gadgets (such as the highest end Apple watch). It is not restricted to items that millionaires or movie stars wear, use or don. It happens anytime and any where a shopper, a would-be buyer, learns that the price of merchandise offered for sale is too dear, too costly or expensive for that shopper’s proverbial pocketbook. Yes, it occurs at garage sales, and it happens more often than you might think.
Shopping at a garage sale (or a thrift store for that matter) is not retail shopping. The differences in the shopping venue and culture far exceed any similarities with retail. (Most notably, and without belaboring the point, the stuff is usually used and not returnable.) Prices at a yard sale should align with other driveway events, not with “Big Box” stores, major chain stores or national discounters. With marked exceptions, a garage sale shopper carries twenty bucks or so, anticipating filling a shopping bag for that sum. Garage sale shoppers expect stuff to bear a price commensurate with “trash” rather than “treasure.”
When a shopper gets sticker shock, a predictable result occurs. That shopper is “one and done” (if you will pardon the basketball reference and analogy). He or she presumes that all, or almost all, of the stuff at the sale is over-priced and leaves the premises, buying nothing. Talking with their feet may get even worse, as the shopper voices concern aloud. Muttering about prices to the seller or to other customers, in person or on social media, will hurt the seller even further.
If a seller has items for sale that are priced above garage sale norms or standards, alternatives are available.
- Segregate the higher priced stuff. Place the valuables in an area where their value can be recognized, as different. Mark them for a boutique or showcase, designating them as rare, unique or extraordinary (and they better be exceptional or a credibility problem will follow). The unique pricy stuff should not be positioned as the first item viewed, so a buyer can appreciate the differentiation drawn and not draw the conclusion that all the stuff is too expensive.
- Sell the higher priced items elsewhere, through or in a venue where folks are okay with pricier items. Think Ebay, Etsy, indoor antique malls and flea markets. Consider a consignment store or sale. Offer the items for sale on Craigslist or the paper, with careful regard for your security.
- Hire someone to value your valuables. Then you will know with greater certainty if your price is in or out of line. Retain an individual or company to sell the real treasure for you (e.g., appraisers and/or estate sale companies)
- Re-analyze your price and make adjustments to it as applicable. Remember there are few out of pocket and carrying costs (including shipping) if you sell it at a garage sale.
You can avoid sticker shock and head to an indoor garage sale this weekend. Bargains await at Shawnee Mission East this Saturday. It is one day only sale, starting at 10 a.m. (yes that is a later than normal starting time.) It is being held in coordination with Earth Day festivities, and organized by the SHARE group at the high school. Tons of clothes, shoes, household items and miscellaneous stuff (that teens and their parents like) are available for purchase. The school is located at 75th and Mission Streets.
Share your best sticker shock story with your garage sale examiner. Tweets received @agaragesale, because where else would a garage sale fanatic be!