Garage Sale Etiquette – How to avoid a punch in the face next time I invite you into my garage!

Garage sale etiquette – I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing so I’m about to invent it!!

As someone who has just survived a two day garage sale this past weekend (really 1 & 1/2 days as I abandoned the second about 10am today!) and a single Sunday effort 4 weeks ago I feel qualified to write the book on the essential things everyone needs to know about garage sale etiquette.

You may feel this is negative information, but actually these are awesomely helpful tips and insights for you to take on board next time you have the urge to trawl through someone’s worldly possessions in their garage!!  It just may save your life!

  1. Resist the urge to tell someone their stuff is all junk.  None of it is actually junk and in my case a good percentage of it was either a) used but stored in it’s original packaging or b) never even opened and still with the prices on.  At some point these were “must-have” items that I or the family couldn’t live without and they are now attempting to become your treasures!  You and I both know you are buying them to resell later at the local markets.  When I see you there I’ll be sure to say hi!
  2. Bargain but be fair.  Does anyone really think it’s OK to hold up 3 items and offer me $5, then once I agree to this outrageously cheap amount tell me you want to add another 2 items but the price is still $5?  No.  It’s not cool.  And even though I will take the $5 with a big fat smile on my face and cheerily wish you a great weekend – I’ll be dying on the inside.  Do you want this on your conscience?  Really.  Do you?
  3. When you’ve unwrapped brand new items out of their little packets and decided you don’t want them, be aware that I’m watching you as you THROW them back onto the table.  OK – so you are surprised that the item inside the box looks exactly the same as what is printed on the outside (shocking, I know!) but please if you’re not going to put it back in the box, at least don’t fling it down like you’re practicing for the next dwarf-throwing olympics.  I am watching you and I KNOW you just did that!  If you’re the eighth person today to throw that peeler that peels both sides of a carrot at the same time I may well want to punch you in the face.  Do not be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  When I go off, you want to be a LONG way away from the action.  You have been warned.
  4. Stop your 3 year old from flogging my stuff.  I know you’re not shopping in a fancy department store and there are no security cameras.  But taking my stuff without paying still makes your kid a thief.  Once again I will wish you a great weekend as you waltz down my driveway with your ill-gotten gains.  Your kid will repay you when they are 14 and get caught stealing from your local discount chain store.  The police will not wish you a great weekend.  Hopefully they’ll lock your kid up for at least an hour or two and scare the crap out of them!  I wanted to call them today and get you an early start.
  5. If you want something, buy it now.  When you come back 4 hours from now don’t moan that I sold the item you labelled as “junk” to someone else for the princely sum of $10!  If you wanted it, you should have taken it when the life-changing opportunity was before you.  You and I both know that you’re coming back now to try to get it for 50 cents.  Epic fail on your part.  Major success for me!!
  6. Practice your rounding.  Let me explain basic math to you so we can both stop this game.  When there are 4 DVD’s and they are $5 each (Yes – just $5 for $40 DVD’s people – surely you can afford 5 bucks??) it’s fine to bargain me down to $4 each.  In fact I expect it (and would take $3 – that’s why they are priced at $5!!).  4 DVD’s @ $4 each is $16.  Do not then offer me $15!!  Your rounding theory is way off!  You don’t get to knock each item down individually and then round down a bit more at the end of the transaction!  I have kids to feed buddy.  This money is going toward visiting the Eiffel Tower and riding an elephant in Thailand.  Do you know what that dollar will get me in Thailand?  I may even donate it to a local orphanage along will a few of my own dollars and change some children’s lives for the better.  Don’t you want to be part of that?
  7.  When the garage sale closes it’s a similar concept to when the grocery store closes.  Or when the petrol station closes.  If the door is shut and locked, that means the sale is closed.  It does not mean bang on the door until I drag myself off the couch dreading who you might be.  When I put on my fake smile and invite you into the garage 2 hours after I’ve shut the door I do not want to!!  I’m being driven by greed and you should be the one to help me resist that deadly sin.  After a 5am start and a day of selling $300 items for $40 I am exhausted and need to be sent back to my couch to lie down.  Help me out.  Stay away from my house after hours.  Or if you have a desperate need to shop, go knock on the door of the closed petrol station and see if anyone rushes out to sell you their items for $1.50.
  8. Closely related to point 7 is this final gem.  Do not come at the end of a long weekend and offer to take the rest of my treasured belongings off my hands for free.  You are not doing me a service, you are just pissing me off!  I will happily spend the next 2 weeks putting my leftovers on eBay and shopping the 1/2 decent stuff to the local cash converters store.  I will willingly take the remainder to the local goodwill store.  In fact I would walk to the local goodwill with the items on my back before I will give them to you for free!  Especially since you tossed that bloody carrot peeler onto the floor when you were here 6 hours ago!!!!  You should have tried offerring me $100 for the stuff that was left – I would have helped you load your trailer.  Yes, your trailer – I saw you park up the road hoping I wouldn’t know how confident you were that I would fall at your feet and thank you for taking my items off my hands.  You have zero chance of winning this one!  I am very stubborn.

So there you have it.  8 Great tips that just might save your life.  Or at least stop me from punching you in the face after I was so kind to invite you in!!

Feel free to leave me a list of anything I’ve missed in the comments section.  I’ll be sure to mention you when I receive my prize-winning book deal for the most helpful list ever published about garage sale etiquette!!

UPDATE:  If you liked this post please check out the Garage Sale Etiquette book I’ve released on Amazon.  I figured with all this useful info inside me, a book was the obvious way to get all my knowledge out there.  While maybe not as funny as this post it is full of useful information to help you declutter your own garage easily.  Just click the bookcover image below and you’ll be taken to Amazon to make your purchase.  At just $1.99 it’s almost as much of a steal as that three year old got from pilfering my bracelets at my garage sale!


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Garage Sale Etiquette – How to avoid a punch in the face next time I invite you into my garage! — 13 Comments

  1. I should have added “Don’t text me the morning after and offer to buy the left over DVD’s for 50 cents”. Yep – that’s right guys 6.50am the text came!!! I cheerily sent a text back that they were all sold – even though they weren’t!!

  2. Hilarious. And so true. I started going to garage sales with my grandfather when I was a tiny kid, and he would hold a massive sale once a year. I’ve seen all those behaviors and then some. I’ve been amassing a pile of junk (and by that I mean, of course, awesome stuff I don’t need anymore) for our own upcoming yard sale and I’m already dreading all the stuff you mention. But did you make some $$ at least? Was it worth it?
    Paige recently posted..DC’s Hidden Gems: The Woodrow Wilson HouseMy Profile

    • Ooohh, maybe I need to buy some of your awesome stuff *slaps self*!! Don’t be deceived Paige. It was definitely worth it. We made around $900 at the first one plus a heap of tools that I sold at work and were picked up on the day. At this one we made $600 on the Saturday and a whole $50 on the Sunday (we discovered when we took the signs down that 5 of the 7 had some prior help and were on the ground. Explains the lack of people!) Just make sure to advertise and put a heap of signs up. We also were not aware that Saturday is the more popular day in Brisbane for garage sales. On the Saturday there were so many people at one stage they started chatting to each other as they stood shoulder to shoulder! On Sunday we could have played ping pong in the garage and not hit anyone!! My best piece of advice is don’t price your things too low. Leave yourself plenty of room to negotiate. Otherwise once the rounding down theory is applied you’ll be parting with some of your awesome stuff for free!!! Good Luck! Let me know how you go.

  3. OMG LOL!!! I almost peed- how good is this post! I remember our two dreaded garage sales. they were both exhausting, degrading, and downright humiliating. of course i was exhausted just from making (because i refused to buy) all those signs and from going around town hammering in the signs everywhere and from trying to get all the arrows to point the right way so that you could find it.

    Shared garage sale with a relative (let’s leave it at that). He picked at my brain with his incessant babble and life-philosophies ALL DAY, even though i pretended to be reading all day. And the first customer that came, he told him $80 for a ten year old vacuum cleaner. Customer did a 360, and then i had to listen for another hour all the justifications for the pricing. oh.

    And, by the way, we made almost no money. I hope you made some money.

    • LOL!! Yes – the arrows facing the right way is a major issue!! Lucky for me, brittney and Kate made and put up all the signage! I just had to drive them around at the end of the day to take them down. I’ll admit to being really grumpy on the second day after 5am starts. I can’t imagine doing this with someone chattering inanely in my ear!!!! We made around $1600 over 2 separate weekends so I’m pretty happy with the result. Someone told me I should have had a sausage sizzle and sold sausages in bread to get people in! How would I have cooked the BBQ, served people, made sure little fingers didn’t get burnt AND done the garage sale and still stayed sane??? lol

  4. I would happily have punched the guy this morning that wanted a $100 train set, boxed, perfect, for $5. He thought he was doing me a favour to “take it off my hands”. Mate, I’d rather take it to the tip than give you stuff for nothing! But no, we had a good morning today. My best tip, don’t advertise and avoid Saturdays, you get genuine buyers then, not vultures.
    Alyson recently posted..Travelling Without Dad.My Profile

    • Bahahahaha! What’s with the ‘take it off your hands’ crew? You bought all the crap you were given. It didn’t arrive by stork into your cupboards and garage! I’m with you that I would take the stuff to the tip before I’d flog it for nix! Not long to go now for your trip!! Excited?

  5. I was about to write a garage sale etiquette post myself, when I decided to search for one. I’m glad I ran across yours. The only thing I would add is….”We are not a bank and we don’t have endless change. Don’t hand me a $100 bill expecting me to make change for your $2.25 worth of merchandise!” Hand me a $100 if you’re planning to buy $90 worth of “junk.”

    • Oh my gosh – yes!!!! The bloody people who go to the ATM and then hand you 50’s all morning!!!! I could smack them! Thanks for the reminder!

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